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D&D Burgoo (4.0): Room Search Free-for-all
Posted By Troy E. Taylor On September 2, 2008 @ 5:05 am In GMing Advice,Specific RPGs | 9 Comments
Aegon is playing D&D 4E and he stirred the Suggestion Pot with this question:
“There is something about investigation, I am having difficulty putting my finger on it., part of it is that investigation seems to break up the group, one person wants to run up, pull the funny bookm off the shelf while another wants the rogue to take a look at it for traps. This ends up with the first person frustrated that they have to wait to do what they want … also investigation has led everyone talking at once …”
Aegon’s dealing with another D&D paradox: It’s a roleplaying game whose combat is orderly but character interaction is chaotic, to say the least. And he’s hit upon a classic problem, namely, once the battle is done, it’s a free-for-all to search the room. In fact, some DMs would rather run epic combat involving 20 blue dragons and a party of munchkinized PCs that deal with the post-combat mayhem of searching a room.
And it’s a tricky thing, because everyone wants their share of the spoils. I’m sure there are horror stories out there about actual fights starting or groups that have broken up because of disagreements over how to search a room, and subsequently, how to divvy up the treasure.
Before I offer my advice, though, let me say this. The post-combat free-for-all is probably a tradition in many groups. I mean, during the course of a dungeon crawl, it’s the one moment when PCs get to enchage in a little character roleplay and have a chance to blow off steam after a heated battle. It’s a game, and it’s all simulated, of course, but sometimes there needs to be that moment where adrenelin and excitement carry over. And without the restraint of initiative order, most folk feel free to let loose. So here’s a cautionary note, don’t be hasty about trying to “fix” this “problem.” You might be content to let the post-combat free-for-all be “part of the game.”
The full text of Aegon’s suggestions indicated, however, that some players were disengaging during these free-for-alls. And he’s right to be concerned. His suggestion to use skill challenges as a means of resolving these issues also means he’s ready to take his game to another level. Good for him.
Here are some options:
The good part of non-combat initiative is that it avoids the problem of the “fast-talker” being the “fast actor.” (for example: “What do you mean the guy across the room gets to grab the book before me, just because he said he’s doing it? I’m standing right next to the book.”) Like tactical combat, if you’re in a position to do something, and it’s your turn, you do it.
Thie downside is the loss of sponteneity. People have free actions to talk out of turn, of course, but you have to decide: Is it really fun to have all actions in a D&D session dictated by initiative?
That said, there are downsides to this approach. First, it increases the DM’s prep time. At the least,. you have to formulate the standards of success for the most interesting items to be found in the room. Secondly, it might be introducing a time-consuming mechanic where none is needed. Thirdly, skill challenges can be layered into a combat encounter. Are you ready to put that into play, adding to the complexity of the encounter?
Perhaps our Gnome Stew community has some suggestions to offer, as well.
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