Monday, December 14, 2015

5e and Me Part II: Cutting Words

Earlier this morning, I posted a rant about last night's 5e session. The rant was angry and kind of mean, so I pulled it. (I have players who read this blog) Let me boil it down:

Bards in 5e have an ability called "Cutting Words," a reaction ability that lets a bard reduce an opponent's attack roll. When I ruled that "cutting words" would have no effect on an opponent with no ability to comprehend said words, one of the players got upset. She quoted the rulebook at me and I said "I give zero fucks what the book says."  I could've been more adult about it, but arguing with players over the minutiae of spells and abilities grinds my patience down very, very quickly.

With 5e, there's a lot of minutiae. It's not as bad as 4e, and it doesn't seem to be as bad as I remember 3.5, but nonetheless, the mechanics have prompted more arguments and negotiations than any of the older editions I've played.

5e is functional and I have a ready supply of players. It isn't horrible the way 4e was horrible and it aggravates me less than 3.5 or 3.0...

...but I know now that it will never take the place of the older editions for me. This edition is one that I can live with, but that's about as far as it's going for me.




18 comments:

  1. Yet another thing that makes me advocate for the Basic PDFs as the best ruleset for 5E. No bards = no Cutting Words. Four classes are enough!

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    1. I advocate for the Basic PDFs as well... Holmes Basic or Moldvay Basic...

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  2. I can totally understand the dislike of "minutiae". 5E is definitely better than 3.0/3.5, but I still see it as well. As for the situation, While you might have been a bit heavy handed. I think the player is/was being whiny. Not a cut on them or you. We're all guilty of it now and again. If you want to get real rules lawyer about the whole thing. The last sentence of the Cutting Words description, "The creature is immune if it can't hear you or if it's immune to being charmed."

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    1. Oh trust me, Sammy...a player straight read that rule out loud to me.

      I'm tempted to just hand wave it and save myself the headache, but then we're going to have people distracting gelatinous cubes and whatnot.

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    2. Sorry I misunderstood. I also would agree that it would not effect a creature that can not comprehend what it is hearing. Such as a gelatinous Cube.

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    3. Well, in this case the comprehension issue had to do with language. Gnolls only speak gnoll, and our poor bard doesn't speak gnoll.

      Still, it opens up a can of worms... can skeletons hear? Can gelatinous cubes? If a monster can't hear, do I have to roll Dexterity (Stealth) to sneak up on it?
      Etc, etc, etc.

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    4. Well, in this case the comprehension issue had to do with language. Gnolls only speak gnoll, and our poor bard doesn't speak gnoll.

      Still, it opens up a can of worms... can skeletons hear? Can gelatinous cubes? If a monster can't hear, do I have to roll Dexterity (Stealth) to sneak up on it?
      Etc, etc, etc.

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  3. "Can you hear the words coming out of my mouth?"
    ; )

    Interesting mechanic. I suppose it behooves the bard to stock up on languages to use abilities like this and the Vicious Remarks cantrip. Of course, she can gain the ability to cast Tongues on herself starting at level 5.

    Hmm...if a bard was using the 1st level spell Speak with Animals, could she drive a bear to distraction? Could she make a yellow musk creeper feel self-conscious with a Speak with Plants spell?

    The Bard: single-handedly putting the whimsy back into fantasy.

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    1. In a good, cleansing type of way, or a bad, crushing way?

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  4. That still sounds to me as a mentality problem, not a system problem. 5E really empowers the DM to make such calls, as opposed to 4E or 3.5.

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  5. I have two thoughts at the moment. First, this exemplifies why I prefer rules lite systems. Second, seems to me that there always needs to be an expectation at the table that the DM will give a ruling at the table, the player will have the opportunity to make a quick argument if they disagree, the DM will make a final decision. If there is further disagreement it should be shelved for after the session. Role Playing should be about fun, not arguing over rules. Sure, there will be times the DM makes a bad call, but these conversations should not be allowed to bog down the game play. Third, I miss hearing you say "I give zero fucks." Finally, I appear to have failed my counting dice role.

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    1. Yes, perhaps I need to establish that as a routine, because the arguments leave me with a bad taste in my mouth and I'm definitely not on my A game after that.

      I also miss our banter. I miss that AD&D game. I can't believe it was nearly 7 years ago.

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  6. If a DM told me "I could give zero fucks what the book says" that's the point where as a player I would get up and go.

    The DM is not a god; D&D is a cooperative game. The DM adjudicates but players need to be able to expect that the rules will be consistent and that their characters' abilities will work the same way every week. Modifying them on-the-fly would give me pause enough to not play.

    There are plenty of places in the book where it specifically says that comprehension of language is required; this ability isn't one of them. It's partly magical; magic covers a lot of logical inconsistencies.

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  7. My adjudications go both ways; here are times when I've ruled in favor of players doing things that their abilities don't technically do. My players generally trust my adjudications or they probably would've quit. I've never had a player quit over my rule calls. And if they do? There are plenty of other DMs.

    That being said, I do see both your and the player's argument. I let the player use Cutting Words as written in this particular instance.

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