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Makeshift Detect Evil (Pathfinder)

 
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DeepShadow
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:45 am    Post subject: Makeshift Detect Evil (Pathfinder) Reply with quote

One of my players is playing an Aasimar bard with the Halo ability, giving the PC a +2 to Intimidate checks against evil creatures while the halo is active. The question has come up as to whether the player could sense whether someone is evil by their reaction to the halo. I'm a big fan of "Don't say no; determine difficulty," but I'm not sure what's an appropriate difficulty. On the one hand, this ability is far less powerful than the paladin ability to detect evil, as it cannot detect other types of evil auras, nor can it detect the strength of the aura. On the other hand, this ability is nonmagical and could theoretically penetrate magical alignment shielding.

To start with, I think it's reasonable that evilly-aligned creatures might flinch a little when the halo appears unexpectedly, so a simple Sense Motive might catch this if the character knows what to look for.

OTOH, I might require the PC make a Bluff check as the halo appears, something that might sound threatening under different circumstances, to see if the character takes it as an attempt to intimidate.

What do you all think? What's an appropriate skill check and DC for using a halo this way?
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SirXaris
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 02, 2013 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's an interesting side effect of the halo special ability, DeepShadow. I like your idea of allowing the Aasimar PC to make an immediate Sense Motive check countered by the NPC's Bluff check, but that means that you'll have to have the PC make such a check every time s/he uses the halo ability or the player will automatically know which NPCs are evil.

Alternatively, you could simply allow the PC to make a Perception check at a DC you think appropriate (eg. DC 25+ the NPC's level) to detect a slight flinch, etc. It needs to be high enough that it only rarely works to detect evil since, as you mentioned, it isn't nearly as powerful as the actual spell or a Paladin's special ability. Either check should only be made if and when the player remembers to specifically ask for such a check.

SirXaris
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Cebrion
Black Hand of Oblivion
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Manifesting a Halo effect might make anybody flinch/gape/react in some other way when they were being Intimidated.

If a character has some sort of hatred, such that they have some sort of bonus/penalty when interacting with their hated thing in a particular way, and such a thing is disguised/unknown, they are not going to be all "Even though you are not that thing I hate, I still hate you...for some reason." Halo is one of these things. Besides, players simply should not know how well any sort of interaction checks work, because some targets (evil or not) who the character might be able to Intimidate, but that may not have been intimidate, might simply be wily enough to play along and allow the Bard to think they have been Intimidated. Then they vindictively give the Bard false information that leads them into a conflict/trap, lets them do something that will ultimately backfire on them, etc.

A player has no right to be able to figure out anything about a target's alignment by the use of the Halo ability, let alone what the Intimate result was close enough to do, and why. Besides, if the Halo ability was intended to detect evil, it would say it in its description, which it obviously doesn't. Other than the Bard being unable to read the target's mind as to why they would react to anything in any particular way, that should be your biggest clue right there.
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SirXaris
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 03, 2013 5:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cebrion wrote:
...Besides, if the Halo ability was intended to detect evil, it would say it in its description, which it obviously doesn't.


This is true.

However, Deepshadow's player is obviously trying to use the ability in a creative manner. I doubt the authors of the 1st level Command spell intended for it to be deadly to Magic-Users of 5th-7th level, but your own player used it to cause such a powerful adversary to 'jump' to his death from a tower parapet.

Deepshadow admitted that it shouldn't be as powerful as the actual Detect Evil spell or special ability, but wanted suggestions on how to give it a minor possibility of success when used for that creative purpose.

SirXaris
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Cebrion
Black Hand of Oblivion
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 05, 2013 2:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SirXaris wrote:
Cebrion wrote:
...Besides, if the Halo ability was intended to detect evil, it would say it in its description, which it obviously doesn't.

This is true.

However, Deepshadow's player is obviously trying to use the ability in a creative manner.

No, they are not. They are trying to argue that a character, and thus the player, should know information that only the DM should be privy to. Next you will tell me that a ranger that hates orcs should be able to tell when he is getting a reaction penalty when he is dealing with a half-orc that is in disguise, such that he will then know he is dealing with a disguised half-orc. It works like this:

Player: My character should know when their reaction modifiers are at work.

DM: Um, no, they shouldn't, because your character is not an omniscient god that always knows what they are dealing with. If they ever become omniscient, such that they will always know what they are dealing with, then they will know.

SirXaris wrote:
I doubt the authors of the 1st level Command spell intended for it to be deadly to Magic-Users of 5th-7th level, but your own player used it to cause such a powerful adversary to 'jump' to his death from a tower parapet.

Actually, the authors intend all sorts of clever uses for spells, but they occur within the of the confines of defined effects/situations. What if you have wizard climbing a rope, and he is 80 feet up it when an evil cleric tells him to "Die!"? If he fails his save, yep, he is going to go go catatonic, fall like a stone, take 8d6 damage, and probably croak. Do you really think that the rules writers didn't intend that? That is totally within the confines of the spell's effect, and what the consequences of being affected by a command spell, in the worst of circumstances, can be. In my example, the PC cleric could have given the usual "Die!" command, and the suddenly catatonic 4th level wizard would have fallen to his death from the parapet anyways because he failed his saving throw. Net effect? The same. "Jump!" was just a bit more humorous, yet imminently suitable a command, considering the situation. No extra power added. It is just what the effect would be, given the situation, and the situation is everything with respect to creative use of anything. An evil 5th level wizard fireballs a group of PCs crossing a rope bridge over a 100 foot deep chasm. They survive the fireball, but OOPS!, the rope bridge did not, and so the PCs then fall 100 feet to the chasm floor and go SPLAT! Ah, but I highly doubt the rules writers intend for a fireball cast by a 5th level wizard to do up to 15d6 total damage. I could go on. In my case, I gave it to the player, as the net effect would be the same, and because I like to foster creative use of what is within the confines of the rules/situation to begin with.

There is no creative use/special situation in the case of the Halo ability. The player is asking for an unstated side-effect all of the time. That should be a big enough red flag for any DM.

SirXaris wrote:
Deepshadow admitted that it shouldn't be as powerful as the actual Detect Evil spell or special ability, but wanted suggestions on how to give it a minor possibility of success when used for that creative purpose.

It shouldn't have any power of this sort, because it does not have this effect. There is a reason not any modifier in the rules has the added tag phrase

"Benefits and penalties of reaction modifiers and similar things are easily noticed by characters, thus allowing then to know when they are dealing with a hated foe or creature they have an affinity with, even when such creatures are disguised or their identities are otherwise unknowable to the character. Similarly, it will be obvious to characters whether an enemy is getting an AC bonus from a Dexterity bonus or a ring of protection (or similar device), because the character can obviously tell whether the enemy is dodging ins some exceptional way, or not. Carry this idea over to any sort of modifiers that, for some reason, the DM doesn' think the characters should know- characters know everything."

I will provide further examples of "things characters should obviously know" upon request. Wink

This player's example is not "creative use", but blatant rules finagling. Sorry, but the Bard is going to have to use some legitimate way, like a detect evil spell, to find out if something is evil. If it is important enough, one would think that a player would not be adverse to investing in one of those very hard to come by, outrageously limited and valuable, 1st level spells. Laughing

An Intimidate roll can generate a variety of described results, and it is one skill check that the DM should roll, no the player, as the results are suppose to be unknown. Did the Intimidate check succeed, such that the character will be getting the desired result, or did it fail utterly, such that the a false result was achieved? Besides, even a non-evil character may very well flinch when the Bard goes all Gandalf "Bilbo Baggins! Do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks!" the Grey on somebody. Even Bilbo flinched and cowered from his friend, and Bilbo hadn't exactly been sacrificing virgins to Melkor at his hidden basement altar or anything...

I think this has more to do with

Player: But I don't wanna have to use a 1st level spell to detect evil.

DM: Well, too bad. That is why the detect evil spell even exists, and why it is a 1st level spell, meaning it is easily accessible. If you choose to not use it, that's your own fault. Oh, and don't come asking me for help building you that addition to your house, excepting that you don't want to have to use a hammer to do it because you think that the saw you have should be able to pound in nails well enough (though obviously to a lesser degree). Just shut up, and go buy a hammer. Wink

Last, but certainly not least, even a detect evil spell doesn't always detect something evil as being evil, yet the "Halo flinch" would be all revealing? Yep, I think the dial on the fudge meter has officially been turned up to 11.

Laughing
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DeepShadow
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow, Cebrion, I really appreciate your desire to protect me from a pushy player, but that's really not what's going on at all. I've been a DM for many, many years, and I've played with this player for over ten of those, and the player is fully familiar with how they won't always know what bonuses are added when. But in this case, I liked this idea, and even helped flesh it out. I'm just looking for the dice rolls to go with it.

That being said, I disagree with your interpretation that this ability is similar in any way to abilities based on hatred. As written, the Halo ability works based on whether the PC hates evil or not. With that in mind, I'm ruling that the halo's supernatural light is actually mildly offensive to the evilly-aligned, regardless of how the PC feels about the person. This is what opened the possibility of using the halo as a makeshift alignment tester.

With that interpretation, the questions I'm faced with are as follows:

* How powerful is this offensiveness? (I'm ruling that it's VERY mild, as it's only a +2 bonus to the roll)

* How hard is it for an evil creature to hide its reaction to seeing the light? (I'm ruling that it's very easy--they adjust within moments to its presence. Thus, it's only in the instant it appears that a reaction might be discernable)

* How hard is it to detect the reaction using Sense Motive? (That's the real question, IMHO)

This means that SirXaris's first alternative is moot--the PC would not get any clue upon just meeting people with the halo active. She would have to deliberately set up the situation to take someone by surprise. Sometimes this may require a Bluff check, much like a feint maneuver in combat. That's the first filter to keep this from being abused. I think that the second would be that the evil character would get a Will save to avoid any tell-tale sign. Finally, if there was such a sign, the bard would have to make a Sense Motive to spot it.

Of course, all of this means that Cebrion's final concern--that it would work more efficiently than the spell--is also moot. It has the advantage of not being fooled by magical non-detection, but this should be outweighed by the disadvantages of having to set up the situation, and the possibility of false positives/negatives. One of the villains of my game has already been manipulating this use of the halo.
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Dark_Lord_Galen
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 06, 2013 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Gents... I must say I have found the discussion rousing.... From SX to Big C.... & deepshadow... but for my two CP... this is just another case of a PC trying to find the grey in a "rule", Spell, Condition.. etc.... when there is an existing R,S,C already inplace....
IF.. it is a variant.. then it should be treated as such... depending on edition.. ie 1e,2e,3e etc.... maybe a level higher.. or an "improved halo"?

I think Big C makes a point here...
Quote:
There is no creative use/special situation in the case of the Halo ability. The player is asking for an unstated side-effect all of the time. That should be a big enough red flag for any DM.

If it is a offchance side effect, that is one thing,, if the PC is re-applying it over and over is another... no matter the edition, it is a modification.

IMO it opens up the possibilites for further deviation..... As DeepShadow has already concided, there would be chance for "false positives" etc... but that will lead to a PC /DM debate on the basis for that, etc etc,,, creating a cascade if not careful.. Slippery slopes are hard to climb back up... seems to me the PC cleric or paladin should be the one to take this task..... hence creating interaction and Group involvement.
*EDIT*
After revisting this and seeing it was in 3e forum... an alturnative could be to modify the DC based on the applicable ranks in other skills i.e. Sense Motive, Knowlege Arcana as a synergy maybe? See PHB3.5e p66 and having that as a basis, maybe make it a progressive based on concentration similar to detect magic... I.E. the longer held, the more information detailed....
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Cebrion
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 07, 2013 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I am not fan or rules finaglers, but it sounds like Deepshadow has things in hand well enough. Happy

I do think that setting up a system for this is simply an unnecessary thing. Now you have to decide if an evil character will have a reaction at all. There are other things in the game that represent this. Not only is detect evil one of them, but Sense Motive is another.

If your mind is set though, make the Bard have to take a Sense Motive check to see whether or not any reaction to the Halo effect (if there is a reaction) is based on anything to begin with. If the Bard doesn't have that skill, well, they are going suck a reading people, which is as it should be anyways if they don't have that skill. Halo shouldn't necessarily make things any easier in that regard.

The effect is such that not just evil characters are going to react to it, as, remember, the effect is being used in conjunction with *Intimidation*. This is not a Halo effect accompanied by the Bard saying, "Be at peace, brother, and let light of the Seven Heavens guide your hand to opening the door to the place that you are not supposed to let me enter.", but an intimidating manifestation of power intended to be a " BAM! May the light of the Heavens burn you to ASH should you not open this door for me RIGHT NOW!" sort of thing. Adding in this glow bug effect might seem like Intimidation accompanied by the Bard being ready to unleash magical death upon the target should they not cooperate. Anyone could have a reaction to that, evil or not. It is not like "An evil sneer will be the only reaction an evil character will have to being exposed to the Halo effect, and this may be noticed by the character using the Halo ability." Wink

I see this as stepping on toes of a spell and a skill, but if you still wish to use it, Sense Motive would seem to be the natural way to go about things. You may wish to apply a very high DC value (DC 25 or more; fail by 10 or more yields a misleading result) to the Sense Motive skill check though, as you certainly don't want this to be remotely as good as a detect evil spell. It is also of note that it takes a whole minute of observation to even be able to make a Sense Motive check, yet this ability will apparently be able to be used after what will usually be a split second reaction on the part of the target, meaning even this sort of poops all over the relevance of the Sense Motive skill itself, which just serves to further reinforce my opinion on the whole matter. There's one idea at least though.
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