Sep 18

Faculty Meeting # 58 – Starting Point

cropped-New-RPG-Academy-Crest-Hi-Rez-clean-edges.pngHello and Welcome to Faculty Meetings: The general advice and discussion podcast from The RPG Academy.  This is  where we discuss topics that came up at our gaming table or yours

I am Michael, and this is Faculty Meeting # 58 – Staring Point

First, we want to give a shout-out to our newest Patron Scott H.  Also a big thank you to Josh from Cthulhu and Friends for shouting out that we needed more iTunes reviews and to Ty Prunty for writing us a review.


For this week’s show we cover:

Gamer Lexicon – What is Role Playing and how do you do it?

Fleshing out PC’s at the table

Using backstories


Starting level considerations


Using Passive Ability checks in D&D




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    • LaffinJoker on September 19, 2014 at 1:21 pm
    • Reply

    I think Passive scores serve a very important purpose. I don’t just use passive Perception, I also use passive Insight and in some situations I use all the other skills or abilities as passive abilities or skills when it’s relevant. The reason I use Passive perception is it allows for better immersion in the game as I have a base idea of what a character would notice.
    For instance (Spoiler Alert for the first encounter in the Starter Set), I take the passive Stealth (16) of the Goblins that are hiding (they have a lot of time to prepare their ambush, if this was during combat then I would roll this and use the passive perceptions of the characters to determine if they automatically see the Goblin hiding in combat and on the PC’s turn I would allow them an active check if they asked for it) and none of the Character’s passive scores are 16 or above so I describe the scene and don’t mention the Goblin ambushers.
    “Your journey from Neverwinter has been uneventful so far. You’ve turned towards the East on the Triboar trail and have almost finished the first day’s travel on this road when the woods narrow ahead and you can see two horses motionless in the road ahead.” (any passive Perception is going to notice the horses)
    If a character says, “I don’t like this, it seems like an ambush.” or even “Can I tell if the horses are alive or if not what killed them?”
    Then I would ask them to roll a Perception check as they are ACTIVELY looking. On a fail, they don’t see anything more than what they seen with their passive. But say something weird happens, the character rolls a 12 but only adds 3 to their Wisdom (Perception) and they have a 15. Still not enough to see the Goblin but I would now add something like, “You notice that there are black feathered arrows protruding from the horses flanks but after scanning the wood line it appears that whatever killed these horses has moved on.” Now the characters can act on the information they have and the Goblins when they choose to attack will have Advantage as they are hidden and will have a Surprise round. If a character perceives them then the Goblins will still get a Surprise round but will not have Advantage for being hidden.
    Even in your Fate example, yes you can flip a table automatically but to gain a benefit from it you would have to Create Advantage and that would require a roll. Say the GM determines a difficulty of 2 for the Create Advantage roll and there are two outcomes, Success or Failure. On a success the player can say, “I see the Hobgoblins crashing into the tavern brandishing crossbows and I quickly react and flip the table and duck down making excellent use of the table for cover.” On a failure, the GM can describe instead, “You flip the table and tuck yourself against the backside of the table, trying to gain cover.” Now the Hobgoblins try to Attack the character and the character receives no benefit from the table and the GM can describe a hit as, “You ensure you’re well hidden behind the table as a bolt splinters through the table and pierces your shoulder for a 2 stress hit (or however much it was). You push the table away from you pulling the bolt with it.”
    In the Fate example I’m still using the character’s passive strength to know that he is capable of flipping the table (as just about anybody would be able to) but he still has to actively roll for a positive result because like you guys said, the table may break or he may flip the table and it crumbles under its own weight or maybe there’s a lot of bar fights and the tables are secured to the ground.
    Regardless, I think passive scores are still a great way for a DM/GM to keep the story moving while still allowing for fun failures. Keep up the great podcast!

    • Jerry H on September 19, 2014 at 2:38 pm
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    Great show. As an extension of the passive ability checks in D&D toic, I’d be curious to hear your insights about the surprise round.

      • Jerry H on September 19, 2014 at 2:40 pm
      • Reply

      … D&D topic …

    • Andrew "That One GM" Young on September 22, 2014 at 3:33 pm
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    Caleb: “Sergeant Summary” or “Coach Crunch” or “Colonel Crunch”
    Michael: “Señor Segue” or “Grandmaster Fluff” or “Professor Fluff”

    1. Andrew,
      I really like Colonel Crunch. So I guess I could be Headmaster Fluff, but that really does sound dirty


    • Clayton on September 29, 2014 at 5:02 pm
    • Reply

    Hey guys!

    Quite enjoyed the show, I’m just starting to get into it a bit, and following on Twitter. In regards to passive perception, I think that Caleb had the right idea. I think perception is unique in that it’s not always a proactive skill. With Michael’s example of a strength check or stealth check, both of those involve the character making an active effort to do something: break through a door or sneak up behind a goblin. Perception, by contrast, can be passive. You can notice something even if you’re not actively searching for it.

    Now, I think that there is a method for using a ‘passive skill’ concept for active skills. In D&D 3.5/Pathfinder, this is Taking 10, as Caleb mentioned. Your character can take 10 in what amounts to basically normal situations. You can also take 20, but this requires that you have a lot of time, no distraction, and there’s no hazardous consequences for failure.

    That said, I still think this is a different situation than flipping the table. The table, in terms of game mechanics is an object that has weight. There are rules for determining how much you can lift over your head, carry, or push along the ground, given a strength score. In the table-flipping case, it’s reasonable that unless there are unseen circumstances, you generally shouldn’t have to roll to flip a table over because this is one of those automatic sort of things.

    However, I note that that’s also my DMing style and personal opinion. In my group, we have a couple campaigns, one that I run and one that a friend runs. Sometimes as I player, I sort of raise my eyebrow and go “Hmm, your going to make me actually roll for that?” So I realize I might be a little more ‘loose’ as to what actions I denote as ‘heroically automatic’ and which require that element of randomness.

    Another comment on character advancement. I feel like I’m a Michael-Caleb hybrid. I like to start at low level, but I like to have fairly frequent advancements. A level every four or five sessions is about perfect, and I’d be fine with even more frequent than that. I agree with Michael in that I love developing the story and the characters, but I agree with Caleb in that I want my character to grow into being able to do awesome stuff in terms of the game mechanic. I’m a strange combination of storyteller AND power-gamer.

    Anyway, sorry for the rant. Thanks again, guys! I’m going to start poking around other parts of the site. 🙂

    1. Clayton,
      Welcome to the Academy! Thanks for listening and for taking the time to drop us a line. I would like to ask, how did you find us? trying to see what’s working and what’s not.

      At this point we have a ton of old content if you’re up for starting from the beginning. The AP audio goes through some really rough patches. we’ve (mostly) gotten it cleaned up at this point. The Dungeon Talks and Table Topics are pretty consistent, but occasionally there are issues. We’re always up for new things to talk about so if you have anything you’d like us to talk about, either because you’d like some advice or just hear our thoughts to agree/disagree with, please let us know. Shoot me a msg on twitter so I know who you are. Also if you’re a Facebook’er consider giving us a LIKE on there. We’re currently under a recruitment drive. If we can get to 200 by 11/7 we have a give away planned. 250 it’s the super-delux give away. We’re at 160 now, so we have some work to do. Enough shilling, though. Thanks again for listening. I hope you stick around.


        • Clayton on September 30, 2014 at 1:11 pm
        • Reply

        Thanks very much for the welcome! I think I stumbled upon you guys via some research. I was looking for an RPG-related podcast that dealt with gameplay and GM aid as opposed to actual-play. Stumbled on Table Topics after many Google searches, which in turn led me to the Website. I think I listened to the first…four Table Topics in one day (my job is in Cubicle-Land and usually quiet enough that I can listen to stuff during the day). After that I bookmarked, followed on Twitter (I’m @Teele87) and just recently came back for some more. 🙂

    • Red Rabbit on April 15, 2016 at 1:43 am
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    I love the hero’s journey, but being at 1st level for months sounds brutal. I don’t know what edition that was in, but in 5e most classes get their defining features at levels 2-3 such as arcane traditions, pact boons, metamagic, archetypes, etc. Those generally help characters find a niche within their class. Being without those for so long sounds pretty crazy, but I suppose if the story is good enough you might not even care. Both arguments were good though, for a one shot, start wherever you want. Although, I would argue that levels 3-10 are the best.
    I really wanted to comment on the passive ability scores as well, but as usual I think y’all covered everything very well and very very thoroughly. Overall, a very informative episode.

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