Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

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Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  ZamuelNow on Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:26 pm

More of a raw curiosity than outright discussion but due to being newer than some I was wondering, which utilities get used the least? There's probably any number of reasons why and it might have shifted some due to changes in the system but I wonder how playstyles go.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Hayatecooper on Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:33 pm

Sweet and Elite, I don't think I've heard people jump for joy over that one.
Hmm
personally?
Not a big fan of Speak with the dead(too situational), Howling Chains(Same reason really) and Travelers mantle
but I've played 1 game.. so I don't know.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Mind Gamer on Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:47 pm

I've had uses in my mind for Howling Chains, myself... But Leggo! certainly seems... More than a little situational. Why spend a Utility Talent for a plus 10 bonus on escaping physical restraints three different times per day, when you could get the same bonus from a spent Magic Point while having a different Utility? Unless you're in a campaign where you regularly are getting tied up... I'd argue for finding ways to avoid getting tied up in the first place.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  tygerburningbright on Sun Aug 18, 2013 10:54 pm

Dirty Look never seen it myself likely due to most npcs not actually making skill checks

Watching Like a Hawk never seen used

Pinkie Promise only good if there is that backstabby guy

Cloudsculpting just plain useless

Mirage way too long to make

at one point Dazzling Wings was much more common but with It is almost like flying less now

Thief’s Tool you almost need a lockpick to use it which may be hard to come by

Shapeshifter talents as a whole are rather uncommon for somereason
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Ramsus on Sun Aug 18, 2013 11:44 pm

I can't really speak for everyone as a whole here but, I've been in a few games and there are some I personally don't like to take. Anyway here's my list of things.

I don't think I've seen anyone ever take You’re All My Very Best Friends, Dirty Look, Cunning Disguise, Can't Hide From Me!, Watching Like A Hawk, Many Tongues (no GM seems to ever require it), Mirage (it takes way too long), Spectral Steeds (my guess is that this is because no matter how much duration on them you have left they vanish once combat starts and you can't get them back), Dream Stride, or any of the shapeshifting talents (my guess is because of their lack of daily uses).

He Did It! is rarely used due to how incredibly specific it is. Light Trap is similarly awkward and there are multiple better ways to blind people. Found It! and the related utilities have such a tiny tiny range I can't imagine how they're of much use at all (even with Finder's Keepers). Villainous Laughter is another too specific one. Speak with Dead takes too long and requires too much to be able to use even if it wasn't of situational usefulness. Howling Chains is one that's very campaign type specific, thus is gonna be useless in a large amount of campaigns and really good in a few. Heavy Weather is pretty pointless as you can replicate its effects by simply making a second skill check. Cloudsculpting would probably see a bit more love if it wasn't limited because then people could just use it for flavor reasons instead of an incredibly weird and specific situational use. I used to see Failsafe spell but, it seems like people realized that it's rather a waste of a utility since the only time you're not most likely wasting one of your uses for it is when you're using it for the +5 to dispel, which doesn't come up at all in plenty of games. True Sight is almost useless unless your GM practically tells you to use it due to it's incredibly tiny duration and the fact that by and large you have no way of knowing you need to use it until there's no point in doing so.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  SparkImpulse on Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:54 am

For thematic, as well as plausible roleplay reasons, I've taken two of the unpopular ones here. ... dirty look (well, you figure his cutie mark runs to persuasion as he's a former cop) and leggo! since, again thematically he was tortured and got really good at complaining about it. Although that one, I'll grant you, since this system has exactly zero crossover between combat and non-combat (which is getting weirder the longer I look at it) it's biggest uses in, say, traditional DnD wouldn't be so helpful here. Still, 3/day I don't need to spend a magic point just to be un-stuck.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Ramsus on Mon Aug 19, 2013 1:00 am

Similarly, I have a character with Cloudshaping right now, just because it fits the character (and I got to use a bunch of custom utilities that built off of it).
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Zarhon on Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:08 pm

Huh, I thought we made a thread for this already. Guess I forgot to make one. You should probably add racials to the list as well, since they're technically similar.

Here's my pickings.

Racials:
One with the Waves - Not very exciting, situational/rare use, and there are simpler alternatives (scuba gear, magic...). Even if it's a oceanic campaign bent on underwater adventures, you can still skip it (the DM probably wants you not to drown and can provide alternatives).

Call Out - Good in theory, impractical in practice. You'd alert baddies with this in either use (since you pretty much yell in both cases). Would be more useful if it had stealthy applications (ultra-frequency shriek only chosen allies can hear, for example), or had an extra "active" use (e.g. piercing, deafening howl).

Thunderbird - An alternative to thunderborn, but it's vague on whether the bonus can stack (giving a +5 to a single check daily). If it doesn't, it's rather tricky to use - you gotta know you'd need that +1 bonus before you make the roll. Thunderborn seems like a better choice due to being simpler to use.

Herd Mentality - Relies on allies actually assisting you to work (so entirely dependent on your allies to give you its benefit, which can be hard to determine if it will happen.

Scent Tracker - useful in its purpose, but it seems like it could have more "freedom" in it. Its description make its use rather rigid.

Hex - Similar to Dirty Look, hard to apply unless you plan on seeing a single NPC repeatedly. Usually conflicts involve combat rather than outright skill checks, and this isn't an interrupt, so you'd have to do it preemptively.

Words of Wisdom - This is very, very vague as to what would be allowed to use (rap, haiku, lyrical forms and rhyme. What else CAN you do to make it fit? Not much of a selection to choose from, unless "accents" count). It's likely to get old/boring/annoying as well if you repeatedly use the form of saying (unless you're especially creative, which for a live game is probably hard. In a PbP, it's probably a superweapon. In a live game... less.
Utilities:
Leggo! - "Flame on!" auto-succeeds in stopping restraint attempts, and sets things on fire. More uses, too.

You’re All My Very Best Friends - Considering what your allies pay for it, that +1 bonus probably isn't worth it. It's also rather reliant on you needing MP assistance. Can get the same effect from Instant Party, potentially granting a MP, rather than costing them one.

The Most Dependable of Ponies - There are better/stronger alternatives for a +1 bonus, like instant party.

Maddening Mockery - A bit redundant, considering entering combat is usually easy. You don't get a bonus to the roll either. Why not just insult the creature normally with normal persuasion, or just attack them yourself?

Dirty Look - Not an interrupt, so it needs a lot of foresight/clairvoyance to determine it would be needed. Seems more useful used against party members than NPCs.

He did it! - Good in theory, but hard to actually pull off. It really needs a "tailored" situation (plausible culprit, plausible lie, actually being responsible for the situation you did since you can't pin for a non-existent crime) to get its full effect, otherwise the roll will be terrible by default.

Nightwatch - Echolocation kinda trumps this (unless you need to see colors in the dark for some reason, or are somewhere sound can't move through).

Found It! - A bit impractical. You're probably better off with "Thattaway!", since it doesn't require range.

It Was Behind The Sofa All Along! / Finder’s Keepers - Utter waste of utility talents, in my opinion. You can do better than need to spend 2-3 utilities for an upgrade of a lackluster talent.

Watching Like a Hawk - Doesn't quite seem useful enough to justify the use of a Magic Point. Not to mention, Can't Hide From Me!, is effectively permanent and ignores obstructions.

Pinkie’s Interrogation - Most people just take Honesty, or Twitchy Tail, or Zone of Truth.

Pinkie Promise - Really situational and hard to use. More useful for "traitor" PCs than NPCs. Needs some freedom in use.

Many Tongues - Rarely needed, since everypony speaks "pony" in most campaigns and settings. Useful for non-pony creatures, but there are always-in-effect passives as well as alternatives.

Villainous Laughter - It's persuasion bonus is a bit "meh" compared to illusionary mask, and its "persuade of evil" bonus is a bit counter productive / unhelpful / outright detrimental in a lot of situations.

Speak with the dead - Incredibly impractical (needs a body, needs it able to talk, which is vague, needs an hour to do, needs a MP), for a rather underwhelming effect (1/3 of honesty element and a dead guy to chat to?).

Howling Chains - The "helpless" bit makes it a bit redundant for its purpose, unless it's your only option due to DM / NPC trickery, or you're trying to capture Discord. And it's still not fool-proof, since DM's can veto stuff anyway if they want to stop you, or get a good roll.

Heavy Weather / Thundercrash - These two are at odds with each other. Both are probably unneeded for most situations though, unless you're doing something really epic.

Cloudsculpting - Requires distance to work, so you're probably better off with other illusion utilities for a "decoy", and it's probably useless for anypony without flight/ponykinesis. Would probably be more useful if the decoys were less range-reliant.

Mirage - You need to focus, so you're exposed whilst doing the illusion. Hard to put into practice without some form of cover or invisibility or other way to hide yourself whilst channeling.

Failsafe - Needs a lot of investment (three utilities total)

Spectral Steed - For LL, it's okay. For Pony Tales, it's... awkward. Ponies riding... ponies?

Sunderblade - Requires a heavy investment in both arcana/athletics, costs a MP.

Eternal Flame - Kinda useless for anything other than a light source.

Arcane Alarm / Arcane Lock / Traveler's Mantle - Very situational.

Thief's Tool - Can't you just buy a lockpick?

Mind of it's own - Good, but it can come with some really REALLY bad consequences if used without care. Your allies won't like you if you're the reason they're wearing an eyepatch or prosthetic limb. This probably needs some clause on how "damage" works against the enchanted bodypart.

Dream Stride - Invites the "Decker problem", and pretty much you need to be put in a helpless state to use it. Risky.

True Sight - Good with the seer destiny, but VERY hard to use otherwise. If the campaign lacks magical illusions, useless. Regular disguises can still fool you.
Form of the Owl - A bit situational (night-time / dark areas). For just flying, there are better alternatives. Good disguise, though.
Form of Dolphin - Extremely situational unless the setting is fully oceanic.

Loyalty - Situational, potentially unhelpful depending on what "mind affecting" counts for.

Generosity - Requires a captive/hostage.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Ramsus on Mon Aug 19, 2013 3:22 pm

For racials, Terrify is 100% useless. It's 1/day and does half the effect of taking Cultural Knowledge for an FK in Intimidation & Something Else and costs twice as much.

And I almost never see anyone with Adept or Pack Mentality, most likely because they're overpriced.

Never seen anyone take Deceive the Senses. Nine Lives is kinda pointless in most games. Words of Wisdom really needs to be something like 1-6 points for 1-6 uses instead of always 6, forcing you to take nothing but it and a CM or such. Clever Tail is of questionable use. I agree with Zarhon about Call Out, Scent Tracker, and Hex.

Challenge Fate and Against the Gods are just bad abilities. They're almost impossible to use to any real effect in play by post and in any circumstance in any style of play that a player would want to use them they're likely to derail the campaign.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  ZamuelNow on Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:30 pm

Zarhon wrote:Huh, I thought we made a thread for this already.
All of the "Underpowered" threads were about combat mechanics. In fact, I was technically curious about raw unpopularity as opposed to strength but that often goes hand in hand. I'll wait a bit before I give a fuller response but I'll note that a few of these surprise me. The biggest ones are Challenge Fate/Against the Gods and Words of Wisdom. The former makes me curious about NPC design while the latter would feel like the default for a zebra. In a pbp campaign I'm running elsewhere it sorta is a superweapon but the preemptive nature and required creativity add a bit more thinking to the situation.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Mind Gamer on Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:39 pm

I'll admit, Challenge Fate and Against The Gods sound fantastic in theory... It gives me visions of a party hellbent on dethroning effective gods like Discord or Celestia, and using this skill to make them fail at the one point it's critical for their power to keep the PCs from having a chance. (shutting down the standard, "I have super magic, you are invalid" argument godlike entities tend to use.) In practice though, I don't see a lot of DMs who make their rolls for the players to see, unless its a direct skill challenge between an NPC and PC. Which leads to the thought process of "well, can't really use that one all the time. Not even sure what's appropriate for it. Hmm... Hey, Yee-Haw! looks easy to use!" And so on.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Zarhon on Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:56 pm

Well I used Challenge Fate once with one of my characters to stop a theft from an NPC. It has its uses against NPCs (who roll d20 skill checks), and whatever else the DM decides to pin against you (e.g. traps, random encounters), and yeah, generally opposing checks. It's basically a method of getting out of trouble, and it's fantastic for countering the DM's on nat20s (since you're not the only one who can crit succeed).

It's also usable as a power-tool against NPCs - It's basically a guarantee of success in a fight against an NPC. NPC spots you during stealth? Nope, he nat1'd. You want to stop that elephant from trampling you, by throwing a pebble at it? Make it roll a nat1 in endurance against the pebble - all you need to do it not crit-fail yourself.

Ramsus wrote:For racials, Terrify is 100% useless. It's 1/day and does half the effect of taking Cultural Knowledge for an FK in Intimidation & Something Else and costs twice as much.
Well, technically it can be OP if you use it right - it's intended purpose is to use it on a creature, and then lets everyone in your party gain the bonus for intimidation for that one minute (so 5-6 checks with +5 against that creature, or assists that get +5 bonuses for the confirmation roll).

The problem with this idea is that its not obvious (the talent hinted nothing at its intended use, it seems like its for solo purpose only), and that it requires full teamwork. If its used solo, or you're the only one intimidating, it's indeed rather useless. Terrify is similar in nature, but a solo, personal benefit, and lasting longer.  

And both are poor compared to illusionary mask, which just gives a passive bonus to any persuasion (including intimidate), for hours.

The mentality of most of the utility choices indeed appears to be brought to the following questions:
"Does it fit my character's playstyle/RP?"
"How often can I use it / at what cost?"
"How many theoretical situations can I use it in during a game?"
"Which of those situations are likely to happen, or achievable without special DM intervention?"
"Are there better options for doing the same thing?"
"Is it worth taking over anything else?"


Last edited by Zarhon on Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Xel Unknown on Mon Aug 19, 2013 4:57 pm

Also people don't realize that those talents can be used on "theorial skill checks" as well... Meaning events that if a PC were to do it, they'd roll a skill check.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Ramsus on Mon Aug 19, 2013 5:56 pm

In most games (especially play by post games) any roll the GM makes (which frankly is unlikely, as pbp GMs mostly won't make rolls at all 90% of the time) already has a result by the time you're seeing it. Every time you use it, you have to disruptively alter events. Before the GM moves on with the scene past the roll (which they are fairly likely to do in play by post format) and before another PC responds to the event you want to change. Additionally, the racial abilities don't let you force the GM to make a roll when they chose not to. So in practice, you can't actually change the result of what a god-like being will do because the GM simply has them do it and not roll for it at all. So you're left wasting uses of your expensive and limited abilities on minor issues.

That was just the usability issue on the player's side. On the GM's side, the problems are that if you do roll a lot for your NPCs and you do opt to let players change results of things you hadn't actually rolled for but, could have been, you end up derailing the campaign. Every major opposition to the players becomes a joke and you end up with plot rails that go nowhere and there being no point making new ones since the PCs will just derail that train too. Of the two sides of this, this is the larger problem. It means taking those abilities is more or less taking control of the game away from the GM.

So, in the end your only two options are having an ability that is almost completely useless or having the ability to cause the game to come to a grinding halt and make stories fall flat.

And lastly, there's just the fact that these abilities have absolutely nothing to do with your character. Unless you're playing the meta character, you have no excuse for how your character is using those abilities. The only other real explanation your character can have is that they're a Mary Sue.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  SparkImpulse on Mon Aug 19, 2013 6:06 pm

Ramsus wrote:So, in the end your only two options are having an ability that is almost completely useless or having the ability to cause the game to come to a grinding halt and make stories fall flat.
Sounds to me like you've had inexperienced DMs. flexibility is paramount to being a PH/DM, because if the player cant influence the world around them, they're not playing ... they're listening to a story the DM is telling to his captive audience.

I may not reach for the die, but I know when a skill check is happening. The moreso if I know my players can re-route me. And yes, I might reroute back onto the same rail but at least the players know they jostled the bad guys, which makes them feel much better about the rail they're stuck on.

Granted, it does slow play by post quite a bit if I put small updates in for the express purpose of letting my players enact utilities mid-conversation, and yes absolutely players should create coherent characters that make sense for their intended playing style ... but personally I worry a lot less about mary sue PCs. Half the point of roleplaying games is to be Gary Stu, saving the universe by hitting it with a hammer.

My $.02 on that half of things. Peace, out.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Ramsus on Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:10 pm

You can't have a system designed for ease of access and new players/GMs and have abilities that absolutely require experienced and reasonable GMs.

(And any truly experienced GM would likely just say no to such abilities in the first place as the clear end result of their usage is to arbitrarily have the PC upstage the big bad with no explanation at all.)

Edit: Yeaaaah no comment on your viewpoint as to what the point of rping is.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Hayatecooper on Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:15 pm

[quote="SparkImpulse"]
Ramsus wrote:Sounds to me like you've had inexperienced DMs. flexibility is paramount to being a PH/DM, because if the player cant influence the world around them, they're not playing ... they're listening to a story the DM is telling to his captive audience.
Sounds to me you haven't had invincible/over powered players running around much(And I'm talking World Breakers and actually "Ha I can't take damage I'm immune to everything" kinda guys, but I digress. (This is an inexperienced DM talking however)

Challenge Fate and Against The Gods and the other one.. are in all honesty kinda meh. I agree with Ramsus, no real good flavor reasons why you would have them, and really why are there even abilities that essentially tell the DM (No. I don't want that, change it), it's annoying and boring.

I disagree on stuff like Nightwatch though, nothing wrong with being able to see perfectly fine in the dark and it works really well thematically with characters, in some ways more then Echolocation does.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Mind Gamer on Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:26 pm

Can I just say that it's nice to have the idea of an ability to beat back poor DMs? Hayate, I can't say I've ever experienced the World Breaker in a campaign. And that's because in all the campaigns I've ever been in, the players are either nicely able to clash with the things around them, struggling and on occasion altering the fate of the world around them... Or, more commonly with the bad DMs, (which... I've had experience with) a world of things that you're not allowed to touch. "The ruling class? They have jet packs and rockets, you have shiny sticks. You're not overturning any unjust societies in THIS lifetime, you're doing my plot! Speaking of, that supremely evil being that's manipulating you? Of course you can't fight back! It's waaaaaaaaay more powerful than you! What's that? You try to run away? MIND CONTROL! Now you have to earn your freedom by completing these quests! Which are all in my plot! What's that? You say this is all terrible storytelling and I'm a bad DM for taking away control? Hey, don't shoot the messenger! I just tell you what happens in the world, you're just bad PCs!" (This last sentence outright told to me.)

Heck, I've gotten into miniature wars with the DM over something as simple as trying to buy property. And just once, being able to say, "No. We're not following your stupid plot rails, I have something I want to do, and you're NOT controlling MY character anymore!"...Sounds like a supremely satisfying thing to do with a Bad DM.

Of course, any smart Bad DM would immediately say, "No. That wasn't a skill check, so there's nothing to Nat 1. You die by Purple Lightning, sucker."

So yeah. I'm all for a rebellion skill that can level the playing field or give PCs a fighting chance in a world of bad DMs. But a skill that can, in of itself, be twisted to be avoided by the very bad DMs you want to use it on? That's a problem.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Ramsus on Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:32 pm

If you have a shitty GM, a mechanical feature of your character isn't going to help. If you want to convince a GM to do something different that what they're doing, talking to them is a better way to go about it than pissing them off by attempting to force them to do what you want.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Mind Gamer on Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:36 pm

I tried to talk. For weeks upon weeks of sessions. All I got while the railroading got worse and worse was "It's not my fault! I'm just describing the world as it changes! You're just bad PCs!"

Ramsus, I was agreeing that the function of the rebellion Utilities was wasted on already bad GMs, even though they're the people you want to use them on most. That doesn't change that it's a nice idea in theory... At least, if you can find a way to justify it. Which, given the Reality Warper nature of some characters, isn't impossible. I mean, how do you justify This Is Whining!?
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Ramsus on Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:51 pm

Well, it could easily be viewed as just another aspect of you being good at that skill as one example.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Mind Gamer on Mon Aug 19, 2013 7:54 pm

So Challenge Fate and such can be viewed as the other person just happening to have a bad day. A REALLY bad day.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Ramsus on Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:01 pm

That doesn't really make sense since you're the one with the ability and you're not even targeting them.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Mind Gamer on Mon Aug 19, 2013 8:07 pm

Alright then, faith. Your character has faith things will turn out alright, like the gun will jam or the villain's spell with fail or the chasers will fly into a mountain by mistake. As broad and vague as magic, but you don't even need an actual ability to use it. "Ya just gotta believe!"
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

Post  Zarhon on Mon Aug 19, 2013 9:31 pm

Well, thematically, Challenge Fate is a good excuse for a luck/gamble-based character, or one that can bend reality (discordians?), or one that abuses 4th wall abilities and has the metagamer destiny. Or one with laughter. In-character, the ability could be flavored as, for instance, the character literally cheating (it's a cartoon, so it gets that right), or using the equivalent of "the stare" to make somepony bumble, or simply a chance for some sudden comedy. And of course, if a nat1 happens, it doesn't mean only the DM has to suffer its consequences...

"The mob boss suddenly is suddenly gripped with the urge to laugh maniacally. He continues this for about 30 seconds. You can tell he's not even paying attention to you."

"Rather than bathe you in a dragon's fire breath, burning you to a crisp, the dragon bathes you in regular bad breath. You're completely unharmed, but your nostrils feel violated."

"The knight chooses the mighty swordfish as his weapon of choice. His apparent pride is shattered a few moments later, as he realizes the court jester just pulled a fast one on him."

"Well, it appears he suffers from narcolepsy. He falls face flat on the floor, unconscious."

"The grenadier lobs a safety pin at you with expert accuracy, dealing 1 point of damage. Judges will later rule him disqualified for a Darwin Award due to outside interference."

"The driver of the petrol truck, rather than run you over, manages to somehow impale himself on the steering wheel. Unluckily for you, the truck is now out of control and heading for the nearby orphanage!"

As for its usage, it doesn't need to be confrontational against the DM solely - it can be utilized to assist your allies when a stroke of bad luck on their part (or very good luck on the DM's roll) would ruin an otherwise cool/fun scheme or plan or action.
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Re: Sitting in the Corner: The Unpopular Utilities

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