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#1 popper

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 08:13 PM

I've found myself in a bit of a road block for the next campaign I plan on running. Most of the things I initially wanted to do I've done as a game master in the past six years. My solution to this is to do lists of things I'd like to see in a game. I've got six items so far, but I could definitely use more so if you have any please toss them out.

Things in a Campaign I would like to see:

1.) The Underdark being a horribly nasty and disturbing environment that not every single person in the world is aware of; let alone in possession of an intimate working knowledge of its inner political and environmental mechanics. Too often in games I've played in, and listened to, there is an unbelievable amount of players who have characters with an overflowing fountain of knowledge about an area of the world that is supposedly unknown to 99.99% of the world's above ground population.

2.) Drow being absolute bastards and not a single one being anything less than a vile, evil, murdering fuck. To hell with that I'm-really-just-a-misunderstood-yet-fundamentally-good-guy-who-is-sterotypically-not-like-the-rest-of-his-race-even-though-every-last-one-of-us-you-meet-is-saying-the-same-bullshit! In every game with a drow I have to pretend that these aberrations to the natural order are acceptable in the eyes of man and god.

No, they're not.

There is a reason why they worship a bastardized amalgamation between a woman and spider and it ain't because they like furry bunnies, unicorns, and children - unless we're talking about ingredients in a recipe here.

3.) Goblins being bad assed. I mean baby raping, cow molesting, child enslaving fucks. I want to actually hate the goblins; to be repulsed by the very idea of their existence. I want my players to hunt them down with a vengeance and mean it when they kill them. I don't want them be thought of as "oh, a goblin three more and they count as a challenge rate 1." I want, "Fuck! A goblin! Hack it! Slash it! Kill it! "

Tell me, honestly, when was the last time you thought of a goblin as a threat?

4.) Orks being orks. I'm not talking about the old run in and swing, scream rargh and die variety. I'm talking about the sort of wanton destruction of life and property that turns your stomach just thinking about it. The sort of unbelievably horrific acts that make you lie awake in your bed at night and just moan out, "My god, they have to be stopped," at three in the morning when you have to be at work at six. That's what I'm talking about when I say orks being orks.

5.) Treasure that matters - not you find 100 gold coins. I want to find magical items that change the very nature of your understanding of the world. That make the game more fun and don't just add a +2 bonus to your swing. I want Blackrazor, Whelm, and Wave. I want the Hand and Eye of Vecna. I want the old to be NEW. I want the game to feel special and I want the treasure to be memorable.

6.) Evil dragons that hate everyone and everything. I want evil dragons that fly overhead and the villagers are actually scared and start fleeing. I want their very presence to mean something to the players - something more than, "Guess who's making some dragon armor?"

I want dragons that are game changers and I don't want them be set pieces. I'm so damned tired of watching them used as a fill in the blank boss type that are so one dimensionally transparent even the game master can't work up the enthusiasm to come up with an inventive way to use them in combat.

Bite, 1, 2, 3, 4, Breath Attack, 2, 3, 4, Wing Attack, 3, 4, Breath Attack, 1, 2, 3, 4 Claw Attack, 2, 3, 4, Trample, 3, 4, Bite, 4, Breath Attack. Battle over.

They're dragons for Christ's sake! Do something that kills!

Round 1: Pin the Fighter to the ground
Round 2: Do a handstand. Whoops killed the fighter in the process.
Round 3: Catch the Cleric in your claws.
Round 4: Fly up 400ft, throw the cleric at the wizard. If you miss repeat the shot with a horse.
Round 5: Eat the rogue, floss your teeth with his rapier. Momma always said proper hygiene is important.
Round 6: Let the Barbarian use you as a mount, when he falls off you can use him as a jelly for you dinner roll.
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#2 Telemergion

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 08:58 PM

It's tough, and I share your pain. It's one of the things that makes me glad to be running with a couple guys who have never gamed before, and a few others who aren't particularly familiar with higher lvl stuff, which we're just now getting into. But I'll add some of the things I strive for in my games to your list.

7) Towns that feel like people actually live there

It's really easy to set up an inn/shop/church combo with a few NPCs scattered about for the players to get everything they technically need to go adventuring. This seems so flat to me, however, so I always try to populate the place with folks who have no business being there other than it's their home the PCs are wandering through. Whether this be a meaningless interaction between patrons in the tavern, gypsy children who swarm and pilfer coins, or a subtle relationship between the shopkeeper, his wife, and the courtesan on the street corner. I want the place to feel as if it actually continues to have events when the camera's focus is drawn away.

...actually that's all I can come up with right now. But I'll be back!

Also, PCs are insensitive jerks who don't often realize how much effort we put into these things.
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#3 popper

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Posted 18 March 2010 - 09:04 PM

Most definitely add to my list!

It is so very hard to create a world that feels real outside the immediate sphere of the players intimate relationships. But by god it is on my list now!
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#4 Balgin

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 04:08 AM

2.) Drow being absolute bastards and not a single one being anything less than a vile, evil, murdering fuck. To hell with that I'm-really-just-a-misunderstood-yet-fundamentally-good-guy-who-is-sterotypically-not-like-the-rest-of-his-race-even-though-every-last-one-of-us-you-meet-is-saying-the-same-bullshit! In every game with a drow I have to pretend that these aberrations to the natural order are acceptable in the eyes of man and god.

No, they're not.

There is a reason why they worship a bastardized amalgamation between a woman and spider and it ain't because they like furry bunnies, unicorns, and children - unless we're talking about ingredients in a recipe here.


I don't like it when GM's use drow. Apart from them feeling inherently naff, my favourite monster manual entry for them is the 1st edition one that says they don't exist (and then some imbecile went and made them up for the Fiend Folio, I prefer the monster manual version).

Then again, they were always in the very rare category. Very rare meant that 2% of encounters should be very rare. Soo drow shouldn't be encountered more than 2% of the time? Wrong. All the creatures in the very rare category put together (and there were a lot of them) should be encountered 2% of the time (with that measly little 2% split between them).

So why did so many dimwitted and unimaginative GM's use them frequently in the 1980's? "Oh, your village has been attacked by drow tonight". Excuse me. What? My village, out here on the surface got attacked by things that not only dislike visitting the surface but are so rare as to be virtualy nonexistent? I don't think so.

Especialy when they're supposed to basicaly sneak about with rediculosuly obscene stealth and shoot people with darts coated with sleeping poison. Not jump out waving two swords going "I'm a twat and I'm chaotic good. But I'm not. No really!" And then shouting "one, one one, one, one" over and over again and getting their head cut off for being so stupid!

Right. Well that was relaxing. I think with them it's worth emphasising their Shadow Elf/ unseen attacker traits over any silly "loads of spells and powerz" naffness. If they're slave taking hit squads use them as slave taking hit squads. Why are they nasty? They take peopls away and they don't even talk. According to the 1st ed Dungeon Survival Guide, the "language" of Undercommon is not a spoken language at all. It is a mixture of hand signals, clicks and body language. And it's the only language drow speak. Additionaly, being long lived and living so far below the surface, they apparently have no concept of time. Tales are told of them taking prisoners and honestly forgetting to feed them, or finding out that they've died of old age before getting around to questioning them.

Oh, the Dungeon Survival Guide and Wilderness Survival Guide (both 1st ed hardbacks) are great resources for dungeon or wilderness hazards when you're GMing. The DSG's slightly better (even 'though the WSG came out later) but they're probably both quite rare now.
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#5 Balgin

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 04:20 AM

On goblins: The last time I thought of goblins that way was when they were still using fiendishly sadistic traps back in the 80's. After that goblins sort of became boring stand up fighters and everyone started loving these new fangled little dogmen called kobolds (which didn't make sense) and which apparently did all the things goblins used to do.

There was a brief attempt to make goblins vicious and deadly by leaving signs of devastation in their wake (burned down villages, mollested cows impaled on goblin spears at the edge of the village) but this all sort of fell appart because that sort of dedvastation would feel a bit tacky and overdone if used constantly. It would lose it's impact and the players would just yawn and go "yeah more monsters".

Goblins tend to suffer from poor stat lines/stat blocks, abilities etc. And that's not a problem. They're not supposed to be orcs or ghouls or anything. But they work best as a pack, swarming and mobbing. And they know it.

Or do they? My best memories of goblins involve them skulking in the shadows and waiting for peopel to step on mantraps, fall down pits, trigger poisoned spikes that sprung into them, then moving in to drop rocks on the person in the pit, or jab at the man with a crushed and trapped leg with spears. The best way to make goblins nasty is to make them really vindictive. And sadistic too. They're weedy little shits so having them vindictively getting a kick in whenever they can, and taking advantage of any situation they can, really works to bring out your "inner goblin".

I mean hey, if a goblin's smeared it's dagger with it's own foeces would you want to get within arm's reach of it?
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#6 popper

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 07:09 PM

I don't like it when GM's use drow. Apart from them feeling inherently naff, my favourite monster manual entry for them is the 1st edition one that says they don't exist (and then some imbecile went and made them up for the Fiend Folio, I prefer the monster manual version).


Not real sure what naff means, but I'm thinking it means bullshit. In which case I completely agree. I'm not a big fan of Drow as villains or player characters, but this was a bit of a rant about them being used exclusively as villians and not misunderstood good guys that players can run about with.

Right. Well that was relaxing. I think with them it's worth emphasising their Shadow Elf/ unseen attacker traits over any silly "loads of spells and powerz" naffness. If they're slave taking hit squads use them as slave taking hit squads. Why are they nasty? They take peopls away and they don't even talk. According to the 1st ed Dungeon Survival Guide, the "language" of Undercommon is not a spoken language at all. It is a mixture of hand signals, clicks and body language. And it's the only language drow speak. Additionaly, being long lived and living so far below the surface, they apparently have no concept of time. Tales are told of them taking prisoners and honestly forgetting to feed them, or finding out that they've died of old age before getting around to questioning them.


Okay, I'm adding that entire last half into my permanent memory bank for future drow encounters. That's awesome in the take my breath away sense not in the hot dog sense.

Oh, the Dungeon Survival Guide and Wilderness Survival Guide (both 1st ed hardbacks) are great resources for dungeon or wilderness hazards when you're GMing. The DSG's slightly better (even 'though the WSG came out later) but they're probably both quite rare now.


Got them both actually at a used bookstore for six dollars. I'm working my way through them and the 1st ed DMG. It's a slog sometimes when the authors get a bit pedantic but still worth the read as they're fantastic.
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#7 popper

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 07:11 PM

Goblins tend to suffer from poor stat lines/stat blocks, abilities etc. And that's not a problem. They're not supposed to be orcs or ghouls or anything. But they work best as a pack, swarming and mobbing. And they know it.

Or do they? My best memories of goblins involve them skulking in the shadows and waiting for peopel to step on mantraps, fall down pits, trigger poisoned spikes that sprung into them, then moving in to drop rocks on the person in the pit, or jab at the man with a crushed and trapped leg with spears. The best way to make goblins nasty is to make them really vindictive. And sadistic too. They're weedy little shits so having them vindictively getting a kick in whenever they can, and taking advantage of any situation they can, really works to bring out your "inner goblin".

I mean hey, if a goblin's smeared it's dagger with it's own foeces would you want to get within arm's reach of it?


I think I love this quote about goblins more than any other I've ever read and almost as much as the picture of the charging goblin from the Book of Humanoids.
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#8 Ieqo

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Posted 19 March 2010 - 08:01 PM

I don't like it when GM's use drow. Apart from them feeling inherently naff, my favourite monster manual entry for them is the 1st edition one that says they don't exist (and then some imbecile went and made them up for the Fiend Folio, I prefer the monster manual version).


Said imbecile would, in fact, be Gary Gygax. The first time a drow appeared on stage was in G3, Hall of the Fire King, the end of which featured the PCs discovering that the mysterious force that was uniting the disparate giant bands and generally causing havoc and consternation were these dark-skinned elflike creatures. Which of course was our segue into the 'D'-series of modules. The Drow were never ever conceived as a playable (or even remotely sympathetic) race until Mister Salvatore came along, about midway through the Second Edition years. I blame him for all the angst-ridden, dual-wielding insults to my intelligence that were thusly spawned over the past 25 years.

And simply as a point of order, the 1stEd Monster Manual says that the drow are "only legend", which is not quite the same as saying 'they don't exist'. :) And the Fiend Folio entry (which is a near-verbatim reprint of the original writeup from G3) specifies that they...ahem...

...are able to speak the subterranean trade tongue common to most intelligent dwellers of the underworld, the common tongue, gnome, elven, and their own language...All of the Dark Elves also [my emphasis] have a silent language...


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#9 Balgin

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 02:43 AM

[quote name="Ieqo"]Gary Gygax[/quote]

Well everyone's allowed to change their mind once in a while although I still prefer his original monster manual note about them in the elf entry.

[quote]Mister Salvatore came along[/quote]

I would never be so foolish as to assume he created these monstrousities although I can see how many would make that assumption. He effectively created a public awareness, an image, and not a particularly pleasant one (but one that is apparently really poipular with unoriginal people).

[quote]...are able to speak the subterranean trade tongue common to most intelligent dwellers of the underworld, the common tongue, gnome, elven, and their own language...All of the Dark Elves also [my emphasis] have a silent language...[/quote][/quote]

Thankyou. I'd forgotten that. I reckon I never overlooked it but read it, then a few years later read the section on culture and languages in the Dungeon Survival Guide (which went on about how dark elves "speak" in undercommon which is an "unspoken language"). That's probably where the confusion came from.
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#10 Ieqo

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 06:38 AM

Mister Salvatore came along


I would never be so foolish as to assume he created these monstrousities although I can see how many would make that assumption. He effectively created a public awareness, an image, and not a particularly pleasant one (but one that is apparently really poipular with unoriginal people).


You could be so well-informed to accept that he invented the torn, misunderstood, chaotic-good drow hero that Popper was ranting against before we got off on our history argument. :) As stated (clearly I might add), the real Drow were invented by Gygax, in the late '70s. If you must bring splatbooks into the discussion (which I prefer not to do), the first writeup of drow with a eye toward them actually being a PC race was in the 1985 Unearthed Arcana, but they were nerfed and uninteresting, even then.

Reeling things back in to the original topic: drow: supposed to be evil vicious bastards. Yes. Conceived as evil, vicious bastards, written as evil, vicious bastards, firmly entrenched in the old-school gaming Zeitgeist as evil vicious bastards. The modern view of them is largely the aftereffect of an inexplicably popular (and copyrighted) non-canonical hero.
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#11 Balgin

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 12:01 PM

Here's one for you: a multicultural world.

I don't mean an elder scrolls kind of world where all the cultures are so integrated into each other, with every major settlement hosting members of most cultural groups. That actualy gets really bland where everywhere looks like everywhere else.

I mean a world where nations have established cultural differences and it doesn't feel like everywhere's the same but just with different place names. A world where the local farmer putting the party up for the night might say "I hear there's some Harsi travelling through down south. And you know what they say about those thieving bastards. If you ask me I don't know why they don't just piss off back to the desert where they came from. Let's 'ope there ain't no Acharians down that way or it could all kick off. You know how they don't get on with folk from Harsemia. Then again, nobody likes those Harsi. I mean they don't even stay put in the same place. Always travelling, like they're on the run from summat."
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#12 Snappyapple

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 02:46 PM

Just chiming in here briefly, but realistic multicultural world + all monstrous humanoids are vicious evil bastards don't always mix if you want to have a world where any of the montrous races have a remote chance of being civilized enough not to be wiped out. I'd love to create any number ideal fantasy worlds able to encompass those requirements, but that one ruled by an omnipotent all-seeing eye was already taken eh.
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#13 Balgin

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 02:54 PM

That depends on how you do it. I mean, in a campaign I ran a while back hobgoblins were essentialy mongols, riding in on ponies from the eastern steppes to raid and plunder. Bugbears were "norse goblinoids" (due to being vicious, sneaky and throwing maces & hammers and stuff like that). They lived in the frozen north and would venture down to raid.

To the south was a vast island archipelago (Acharia) where the Greek humand and Roman orcs were having the Acharian civil war (each nation claiming to be the true Acharia and refusing to admit the existance of the other as an independant country). Monsters can be integrated into a gritty realistic world as cultural groups if you think of them less as monsters and more as cultural groups (and try to avoid being racist about it but just going with a theme that feels right).
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#14 Snappyapple

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 03:17 PM

Of course it does, I realize that it's easier to establish the predominance of differences in creed and have a black & white view of hoomans versus the moonsters. However, is the conclusion to the question in the initial post that Popper's best bet is to stay with anthrocentric campaigns?
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#15 popper

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 03:53 PM

Of course it does, I realize that it's easier to establish the predominance of differences in creed and have a black & white view of hoomans versus the moonsters. However, is the conclusion to the question in the initial post that Popper's best bet is to stay with anthrocentric campaigns?


I will be honest, I'm not really sure what you mean here. Would you mind expanding it a bit?
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#16 Snappyapple

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 04:03 PM

Sorry, I may not be explaining things clearly.

In your first post Popper, you stated that there were elements that you would like to see in a campaign. As other posted, and you agreed to many of their sentiments, it seemed to me that two of the points: 1) having all monstrous humanoid remain totally vicious evil bastards, and 2) having a involved and realistic multicultural world, would be hard to achieve if you wanted a setting where there were any goblin/ork/drow society and civilization.

Balgin, after my post, suggested that depending on the focus of your campaign, it could be done. He posted some examples he's had.

Following that post, I replied again, implying that I realize it's not impossible, but it would be limited to anthrocentric settings focused human society and characters. Therefore, in my opinion, some of the points several people have been expanding are limiting the choice of settings you can have.

Since I didn't know if that would be okay with you, Popper, I should worded my last sentence better.
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#17 popper

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Posted 20 March 2010 - 04:35 PM

Sorry, I may not be explaining things clearly.

In your first post Popper, you stated that there were elements that you would like to see in a campaign. As other posted, and you agreed to many of their sentiments, it seemed to me that two of the points: 1) having all monstrous humanoid remain totally vicious evil bastards, and 2) having a involved and realistic multicultural world, would be hard to achieve if you wanted a setting where there were any goblin/ork/drow society and civilization.

Balgin, after my post, suggested that depending on the focus of your campaign, it could be done. He posted some examples he's had.

Following that post, I replied again, implying that I realize it's not impossible, but it would be limited to anthrocentric settings focused human society and characters. Therefore, in my opinion, some of the points several people have been expanding are limiting the choice of settings you can have.

Since I didn't know if that would be okay with you, Popper, I should worded my last sentence better.


Oh, it's perfectly okay. When I drink I tend to lose the ability to follow a complex line of thought. That said I don't believe that anyone has argued that all monstrous humanoids remain totally vicious - only drow, goblins, orks, and evil dragons. And the drow comment was more of an illusion to the pervasive dual wielding, angst ridden, omnipresent Salvatore rip-offs that have dominated D&D games since the late 80s early 90s. The goblins comment was directed toward the downfall of a dungeons and dragons icon that was once a feared creature for low-level parties and is now just a joke. To a certain extent so too was the ork comment.

To a world where the monstrous humanoids act as monsters, well, I like worlds where they exist. That's the sort of literature I like. Monsters are monsters and do terrible things that the good races of the world have to combat. Yeah, they have cultures and families and we don't give a flying fuck because they're all Nazis looking to rape, murder, and enslave our children. There are always exceptions to every rule of course and it is good to highlight them from time to time. But for me, in fantasy literature and in fantasy role play it is an incredibly satisfying idea that there are creatures out there who are good - and who are evil. I like having that clearly defined line between good and evil because unlike real life such a thing can exist in those areas.
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#18 ShadeOfRed

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 07:57 AM

Drow. Bleh.

Which is why I like the Night Below. An Underdark adventure where, if the players are unaware of the adventure, expect to meet Drow at every corner, mumble and complain about the Drow, but are going to meet the lesser known Kuo-toa and Aboleth's. There are unfortunately illithid. But thankfully the rest are less well known and thus allow the players to be knocked off guard. At least for a time.

Drow have been turned into the quintessential Underdark opponent. And so everything else is overlooked, besides Svirfneblin, and again because of their mention in certain books.

So make the Drow mean and evil. Just instead when the players are preparing their special spells and magic items to deal with Drow, make it actually something else from down there. Heck even Svirfneblin don't have to be good. (Aren't the neutral anyway? Which means they do evil acts as well) Maybe they are in a resource war and are running out and need to raid the above world for supplies, food, and steel. And some slaves to build defenses.

And also howza'bout this:

NEUTRAL IS NOT GOOD LITE.

I hate seeing this. I hate seeing the PC's always getting help from the kind but stern Druid. Or the Neutral King offering the PC's aid.

Make Neutral actually act like Neutral is supposed to act. Flip sides. Be evil. A Druid waging war against a community due to their clear cutting of forests for logging and overhunting can be scary. Wolves and such slaughtering the lumberjacks and their families in their sleep. All in defense of the forests.
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#19 Balgin

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 10:04 AM

I hate seeing the PC's always getting help from the kind but stern Druid. Or the Neutral King offering the PC's aid.


Or all those "True Neutral" characters who blatantly aren't (and only have it on their character sheet to claim immunity to all alignment based spells).
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#20 thad

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Posted 21 March 2010 - 10:07 AM

I hate seeing the PC's always getting help from the kind but stern Druid. Or the Neutral King offering the PC's aid.


Or all those "True Neutral" characters who blatantly aren't (and only have it on their character sheet to claim immunity to all alignment based spells).


Or in 4e: "I'm not evil, look it says Unaligned on my character sheet".
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