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I am new to D&D. I just recently started a game where we are using 3.5 books for character creation, but the world is completely homebrew and the rules are heavily house-ruled. Pretty much the DM just makes things up as we go. But he has got a lot of work into this world, and he has been running it for a very long time.

The game is fun, and I like this DM. He was very up front in saying that he doesn't care much for the RAW, as he takes a more narrative approach to the game. I don't really mind this. While I do wish sometimes that the rules were more consistent, I am happy to stay a part of this group and I am enjoying my experience as a whole. However, at our last session, he got upset with the way I used a spell, and I was wondering how I can defuse conflicts like that in the future.

Our party found three magic orbs that began to hover in front of each of us. A voice then echoed throughout the chamber and said, "Choose your fate." As each PC touched an orb, some great blessing was bestowed on them. Some got permanent stat boosts, others got magical weapons, others got gems worth great fortunes. It came to my cleric's turn, and she was a little bit nervous. At this point, since a voice from the sky had just almost gotten her killed literally minutes before, she was not uber-trusting of strange voices from the sky. Plus, she was worried that she might lose her casting by accepting something from a strange god. So she cast augury on the orbs to see if any of them would have bad consequences.

The DM got very upset over this. He said, "No, you know what? I'm gonna roll for you to see what you get." he rolled his dice and then made me roll a will save. He said "you feel very warm," and for the rest of the dungeon, it kept getting worse until she was actually in pain from it. He would not tell me what happened. After the game he said, "If you had just picked one like everybody else, you would have gotten a stat boost or something." I'm not sure if that was the predetermined effect on someone that didn't choose one or if he arbitrarily decided to penalize me.

I still don't know what has happened to my character, and now I am afraid of what it could be and what it will mean for her in the future. I understand that he was trying to give us something good and all. I understand that maybe my actions were a little cheesy since it was supposed to be like a random bonus. I also understand that maybe he felt like I was looking a gift horse in the mouth. But I felt like he overreacted. I tried to be a good sport about it, since I could see why he thought it was cheesy, but I also felt like I had a good roleplaying reason to do it.

Was my usage of augury here in any way out of line? I'm afraid I do not understand the usage of this spell if it is not meant to be used in situations like this. The GM had not told us we couldn't use that spell (though he has already banned all psionics, interplanar travel, and sending, and I don't remember a time he's let a divination spell work). How can I work through it when the GM dislikes how I approach a game decision when it's an honest (from my POV) and game-legal choice?

UPDATE: We had another gaming session last night. I decided to let it play out and see where this went. As it turns out, the curse did end up killing the cleric, but the DM's PC picked her up and carried her to the nearest temple of her god where they resurrected her. Now I think that she has some sort of Celestial Template or something. She is much stronger. I got, by far, the best boosts of anyone in my party. He said he could not remember all of the changes to her but so far she has got +2 Str, +2 Wis, +2 Con, +2 Cha, Flying 20ft-Good, and DR1/-. He also told me that she feels lighter. He told me he will give me the rest later. I think he's still going to make me find out exactly what she is the hard way.

I am very happy with this change, I do wish he had not made me worry for a whole week though. I guess this must have been some sort of "Warning shot." I am thinking he was upset and wanted me to know it, but he is a good enough DM not to ATCUALLY punish me in game without letting me know that he did not appreciate my actions. So he just played it like he was going to punish her and let my mind do the rest. I have since removed all divination spells from my prepared spells list. I do not think that he likes them, so I will just avoid them. I think he feels like they force him to give us answers that he would rather we find on our own. I have also found that he likes to surprise us and to keep us in suspense. I may possibly prepare some scrolls for them if we absolutely need them to advance the story, but other than that I am content not to use them. It is already difficult enough to cut spells from my list and there are other useful spells that I can fill the slots with.

Thank you all for your help!

Oh, and a special thanks to hey I can chan chan for his advice on the phylactery of faithfulness. My DM gave it to me for free! He thought it was a good idea since alignment is really important in his campaigns and since I am new to his world I don't necessarily know all of the nuances.

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Do not answer in comments. That's what answers are for. –  mxyzplk Jul 8 at 21:13
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Hint: An answer that is really just validation or a set of your related gaming stories appended with a 'talk to them' is not really a very good answer to this question. –  mxyzplk Jul 9 at 12:57

12 Answers 12

That's What Augury Is For!

You were totally in line. That's a perfectly valid use of the spell, and an equally reasonable thing for your character to do.

Ditch the Divinations

If you insist on playing with this DM, you're taking the right steps. If the DM hasn't banned yet he hates divination spells, don't prepare them, and, instead, scribe such spells onto scrolls (or buy them, if that's an option), therefore reassuring the DM that they aren't for making the plot disappear but advance. Then stick to your word, whipping out the scroll of commune when everyone at the table--including the DM--understands you're otherwise out of options.

Also, if he doesn't immediately ban it, see if one of your character's magic items can be a phylactery of faithfulness (DMG 264) (1,000 gp; 0 lbs.). It takes a lot of the guesswork out of being a cleric.

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your right, it does seem like he hates divination. In fact, I cannot remember one time when a divination spell was successful. I have removed all divination spells from my spell slots. That's ok, but it does make me feel like I'm losing some very nice spells. –  user14978 Jul 7 at 21:25
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@user14978 If feels that way because you are. That's why I suggested not preparing them yet finding a way to still use them for special occasions. Divinations are incredibly valuable, and maybe if you ease into them and don't complain when they work weirdly in this DM's game, it might make the DM give those spells another shot. I doubt it. A lot. But, if this is the gaming group for you, your options otherwise are few. –  Hey I Can Chan Jul 7 at 21:33
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This is the best answer. The DM has problems that won't go away no matter what you do as a player. You need to decide if you want to continue to play under these circumstances. If so, stop trying to fix it 'cause this kind of broke don't fix. If not, find something more constructive and less stressful to do as life is short. –  user23715 Jul 10 at 1:35
    
See, OP's update is why I'd change my vote if I could. Appeasement reinforces the behavior... and we still don't know for certain what happened because apparently the OP didn't bother talking to their GM about it. –  Wesley Obenshain Jul 12 at 20:39

Your action was not out of line per se, unless you did know that your DM doesn't like divination spells.
Since he appears to have already made a lot of house rules, I'd say banning the spells he thinks are detracting from world exploration and removing hard and meaningful choices would be a lot more sensible than letting you guys use them and then punishing you for doing.

As a DM, I know that sometimes those spells ruin all the fun (some groups don't really care and the DMs expect the players to get their hands on knowledge, spending spell slots and time, and are perfectly fine with the tradeoff), so I'm not gonna tell you banning those spells is wrong - it depends on the social contract.
If you're ok with getting no divination spells ask him to go for the sensible option I talked about earlier; it's the best thing to do IMHO.

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yes, he has already banned all psionics, interplaner travel, and sending, I wish he would write up a guide of what all was banned so that we knew ahead of time. Perhaps I will talk to him and just let him know that I am having trouble with what is banned and what is not request that he thinks about even just a basic list. There is nothing more disappointing than thinking you have a clever answer to a problem and then having the DM say "Nope, that's banned, you can't do that." –  user14978 Jul 7 at 21:29
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@user14978: if the DM wants to ban powers then he shouldn't necessarily have to make a complete list of what is banned (after all, he might miss something from the list and you're back where you started). What he should do is read your freaking character and ask for the changes before you start playing it. –  Steve Jessop Jul 9 at 7:16
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@SteveJessop There are probably 100 different Cleric spells, and I can prepare different ones every day. There is no way to know which spells I would choose on a given day. The character sheet would not help him at all. So the best thing for him to do would be to go through the list and decide which spells to ban and which ones to caution. Then as time goes on, and situations arise he can always edit it over time. The problem is when you are dealing with a system that is so heavily house ruled, there is no way to know what to expect. And that can lead to these kind of misunderstandings. –  Joshua Utterback Jul 10 at 15:26

Nope

Doesn't sound to me like you were out of line. Perfectly good use of Augury.

However, 'choose your fate' might have meant that he had something pre-prepared for someone who didn't choose, especially since he rolled on a table for the result when you didn't choose.

So, I don't think he is killing or rendering your character unplayable for spite, despite his stated dislike of divination spells. Killing for spite is probably always wrong, unless things have gotten WAAAY over the line and personal and you just don't want to play with a player again.

However, that doesn't mean that your character won't die or be rendered unplayable either as a result of not choosing a blessing. Possibly you just got hit with a Heat Metal spell, is what it sounds like to me? Or some other effect.

At any rate, I don't think you were out of line. Maybe he was frustrated that as a player the Augury was slowing things down for something that he considered obviously beneficial (looking a gift horse in the mouth, even for good reasons as you stated), but chill out and see where things go from here. The penalty for non-choice may have been pre-prepared and it may not be as bad as you think. It should be obvious if there is an over-spite problem pretty soon, but give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Also, try taking your armor off, that might help with the heat problem ;)

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You've got me wondering if I've played with the same guy.

If your DM is like mine, he likes railroading the party and if anyone steps of the track the tiniest bit then he absolutely can't handle it so he is going to punish them. In your case, like mine, it seems like the railroad tracks are often a bit obscure, but you get punished anyway.

If you want to succeed in game with such a GM, then follow the railroad tracks. If something is stupid and out of character in-game, but is part of the ordained plot, do it anyway. If other player characters are getting rewarded for something that makes no sense and is clearly out of character for your character, do it anyway.

Fun, right? Alternatively, you could spend your time on something enjoyable and watch a video of the game session later- it will be the same result whether you play or not and you won't have to pretend you are part of a cooperative game. Whichever you prefer.

But don't expect the DM to change. GMs who freak out when players avoid railroading have no other options - they don't have the skills to do it any other way.

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Yes, this was an entirely appropriate use, but...

Okay, so this is what augury is meant to do. Because let's be honest, it's only a choice if you have information. Otherwise its a random selection. Now, your GM could have pre-planned for this eventuality but that doesn't make the conclusion any more sensible and that's probably why it frustrated you so much. You pursued a logical course of action and received an (apparently) illogical response. So, here's my #1 rule of being a player or a GM.

If you aren't happy with the way something works, talk about it.

A GM might have final say on how they want to run a game but that doesn't mean they can't and shouldn't be expected to take input from their players. Tell your GM that you can't understand any reason for punishing the player who is trying to make an informed choice. Ask him why the character suffered a negative effect and if and why you should expect to suffer such effects in the future. Even gasp argue with him about whether or not this is a reasonable way to handle the situation. If you can't convince him, though, eventually you'll have to either accept his point of view and move on or quit the game but as you already know, in real life... it doesn't pay to make an uninformed decision.

Remember, you're not just a player. The GM is just a player who's agreed to do a bit more work and take on a bit more responsibility.

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+1 for talking to the GM about it. This GM clearly has some problem with your use of augury and desires to punish you for it, but without any explanation as to why, the punishment won't necessarily alter your behaviour in the way he intends; Finding out exactly what it was that annoyed him about your actions will help you both enjoy the campaign. –  GMJoe Jul 8 at 2:55
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Indeed this clearly needs discussion. To my mind, this is not a normal reaction. IMHO most reasonable GMs might be irked at player using something unexpected that throws off what they are trying to do, but direct punishment (whether improvised or not) indicates something that won't resolve itself via guesswork. –  Anaksunaman Jul 10 at 7:34

The DM got very upset over this ... After the game he said, "If you had just picked one like everybody else...

This makes me think that the DM probably didn't prepare that outcome. DMs who have planned for what you do, and know what the result is, and it's bad for you, generally aren't upset and don't return to it like it's a sore point. They cackle evilly.

That's not to say he was completely making it up. If he felt that the Voice of Fate would be offended and would curse you, and he rolled you a curse, that's fine in itself. But he shouldn't be upset just because you surprised him.

To me it sounds like he had a vision for the scene, and that the players would respond in a certain way, and he just wasn't emotionally ready for the scene to play out differently. There's quite a fine line between (on the one hand) feeling that your players haven't bought into the scene you present and (on the other hand) railroading. Players should make some effort to play along with the style of a game, and DMs should allow for variation from the script, that's just how roleplaying is.

In this case, even if your character was cautious, you could have played along once you saw a whole bunch of other characters getting freebies. That doesn't mean you have to, and I think it's somewhat short-sighted of the DM to be upset that you didn't, but you made a choice with consequences. There's a perfectly valid hard-line position that players never need to try to pick up on how the game is supposed to feel, or on the dramatic intent of a scene. They should just play their characters. You clearly don't have a DM who wants this game to work that way, though, so that position wouldn't work in this game.

So, in-character you've learned that the gods are jealous and capricious. They demand faith, not to be augured, and mysterious voices are best not questioned. Of course, mysterious voices that are up to no good are best avoided entirely, and you can't tell the difference without putting them to the test. That is the sorry lot of a plaything of beings with immense powers, it sucks to ask questions and it sucks to guess wrong.

Out of character you've learned that your DM hopefully isn't jealous and capricious, but certainly cares a great deal about certain elements of style. Presumably he does want characters to play it cautiously when entering a trapped room, and he doesn't want characters to do the same during his special divine blessing sequence. Different scenes can be played in different ways, that's fine. The problem here is that between the two of you, he didn't communicate what this scene was like. So either you threw a custard pie in his coronation, or else the DM is making the players his playthings, depending which side you're sympathetic to.

It can be hard to pick up on those differences, especially with a DM you're new to and especially when you're focussed on correctly playing a character trait like "doesn't trust mysterious voices". So I suggest you discuss it with him outside the game (preferably not at a session), and say that you genuinely didn't realise this was a "safe" scene that you could have just played along with. Also make clear that you're content that your character, because of her lack of faith, got cursed instead of blessed, but that distrust of strangers is part of that character. If he knows there are no hard feelings about the outcome, only about the fact that his expectations weren't clear to you, then hopefully he doesn't need to feel defensive about cursing you.

You could also maybe ask him whether he'd enjoy running a sequence in which your character takes steps to placate the angered Voice of Fate. Perhaps he expects you to buy a spell to break the curse, but throwing spells at the issue is what got you into this mess, so it isn't necessarily the best means to get you out ;-) If he wouldn't consider it to be pointless time-wasting then it's much more dramatically satisfying to break the curse by apologising, or undertaking a quest, or whatever the Voice of Fate might want. Just make clear you aren't asking him whether it will work or not (i.e. asking for out of character answers), you're asking him whether it would be fun for the game to spend time on it.

If he really hates Augury and divination, and he seems to be in a good mood, you could also ask him if he'd prefer to substitute some other powers for your character. Actually, if you can somehow get on the good side of the Voice of Fate, then replacing your Augury with something more powerful and non-divinatory would IMO be quite a fitting end result. It all depends whether the Voice is prepared to be good-humoured about the misunderstanding. And the DM too, but you'd hope that's more reliable. I'd be very uncomfortable about the game if the DM ran an apologising-to-the-Voice scene before he was over it himself. If your DM can't separate his annoyance from that of the Voice then there's an ongoing problem.

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I'm sorry, sort of, for the downvote, since it's a very well-written answer, but ultimately it's far too apologetic for the DM. No, the DM's behavior really wasn't "fine" as you keep saying. It was childish and petty. Could be a one-time thing, a mistake when he was caught off-guard, could be something you could talk out and work out something for, but ultimately the DM was not, in my opinion, holding up his end of the deal here. –  KRyan Jul 8 at 17:37
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+1 for "he shouldn't be upset just because you surprised him." Sounds like the character's being meta-punished. –  starsplusplus Jul 8 at 17:48
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@KRyan: I have a principle when answering these "(is) someone else being unreasonable" questions, whether on RPG or workplace, that if I've only heard one side of the story it is near-certain that the other party is better than they look. Even given the questioner is reporting as honestly as they can, likely there is at least some element of misunderstanding. Please note that the two things I said were "fine" are quite specific (the existence in game of divine punishment, and having different styles of scene). I've described other aspects as not fine, starting with "being upset". –  Steve Jessop Jul 8 at 21:01

I think you should make a point of discussing your character with your DM and what you would like to be able to do with it, and ask him what HE thinks your character should be doing. Let him do the talking if he wants to. Just listen. Ask why he was so quick to backlash and penalize you. Do this outside of your normal DnD night.

I had a DM who had been playing for many years, and he too was super heavy on house rules, very little core 3.5 was actually in play. Turns out he ignored most of the rules because he didn't actually know them, it had nothing to do with RAW (rather DNR: did not read), and he really got defensive if you tried to ask him how his new rules worked (because he didn't really have rules, he made them up and constantly changed them to work how he wanted). If you challenged him at all, I believe he was actually embarassed, and that is why he was so quick to slap me.

My DM was very good at fantasy roleplaying, very creative, just not very disciplined. He would shower you with expensive toys so that everyone would praise him. If you didn't openly accept his gifts, he was insulted that you didn't find his Master Plan superior to all other forms of gaming.

I discovered, the best way to work with him was by telling him about my character (a straight wizard) when others werent around, then he was not embarassed in front of his other friends. It also gave him a heads up on how my spells were planned, so he could work them in before the next session. Then at the next tabletop, we both look smart when I cast spells, and he was once again master of the universe.

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Completely justified in the use of the spell, there.

It sounds more like your DM's lacking creativity there. It's not hard, really. If he had a set vision for you, he COULD have had you fail to get anything useful from the spell (You NEVER get better than a 90% chance with Augury and he should be actually hiding dice rolls from you). Let's just say that his way of handling your creativity in game play is seriously lacking on this score.

He may dislike divination spells, but they exist and they've got limitations on their use and their success such that he should be good enough to compensate for them when it doesn't work the way he'd planned. House rules and like of this nature are a serious put-off for many (myself included) and I'd typically find another DM on the note you're currently on. (Seriously- if they're not capable of handling someone doing something legit, but un-planned for in their planned gaming session for dramatic, etc. reasons, they're not really a good DM by my standards and I'll just do without or go on instead of putting up with what's really a prima-donna.)

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Reread the second paragraph of the question. Specially "The game is fun, and I like this DM" and "I am happy to stay a part of this group and I am enjoying my experience as a whole". I agree with you and most answers that the GM did wrong (although we didn't listen his version), but won't it be a bit extreme to leave a group you are enjoying for one small disagreement? –  Flamma Jul 8 at 13:59

It's possible the DM was punishing you, but it's also possible that the power/deity was punishing your character. Even if the DM didn't see your distrust coming and didn't have anything prepared, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's an invalid response - if there is a good RP reason for the power to react that way. What's more, a well RP'd, in-character response from an NPC is still valid even if your character had a good RP reason to be distrusting. A character justification for action is no reason to expect an out-of-character reaction.

Supernatural sky voices are notorious for rewarding faith above all else. Almost every series of trials on film, on TV, or in literature includes a test of faith as one of the trials - often as the very last trial that finally proves the character's worthiness. The fact that several PCs went ahead and received rewards before you makes it even more likely that the power would react with indignation. In particular, a cleric is probably exactly the kind of character to take the leap of faith, and even lecture other members of the party about it (although this will depend on your particular character background and patron).

The other side of it is that the DM (probably) shouldn't be designing a campaign that will be impossible for you or your character to get through, or unfairly victimise a single player for playing honestly (although in the right group I'm sure either could make for a lot of fun...[evil laugh]). Whether or not your DM crossed the line will depend heavily on the sign-posting. Is the power benevolent? Is the power known within your campaign setting to be benevolent? Has your party been crossed by sky-voices in the past? Has anyone in the setting suggested that your character needs to be more trusting - has your DM suggested that some level of character development may be necessary over the course of the campaign? Has your DM ever suggested that the party is being over-cautious? Does your party "take 20" to search every room, corridor, door, bookshelf, skirting board and floor tile - even the barbarians? Is the setting rich enough in myths and legends of earlier heroes that the characters ought to be genre-savvy to their "leap of faith" moment?

TL;DR

Was my usage of augury here in any way out of line?

From a game-play perspective, not remotely. From a narrative perspective, yes. Or no. Or maybe. The only true judge of this is the in-game power/deity, in-character.

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As a DM I'm very used to completely unexpected actions from my players. A good DM doesn't lose it when he's caught off guard, because that's going to happen and you have to learn to cope with it.

I don't think your DM handled it right. What's the backstory behind these floating spheres? Are they deities, widely known to be generous, inscrutable and irritable? Then you'd have known your best choice was to choose quickly without trying to pry. But if you walk in given no backstory at all - if for all you know this is an especially cruel trap - then an augury is a reasonable action, and to be punished is beyond capricious.

That said... it's his game. Maybe there's a reason it played out as it did. Talk to him and find out.

There are spells I have banned from play (V2's Teleport No Error never existed IMH) but effectively banning all of divination is radical and severe.

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You're not really giving any constructive things to do in your answer besides just validating her rant... Besides "talk" I guess but hasn't that been adequately covered already? –  mxyzplk Jul 9 at 12:56

I want to point out some social elements between you and your GM:

When I'm the GM and I react like yours did then its because I didn't prepare for the situation and (this is very important) because I'm hungry and didn't notice.

Many people (including GMs) I know have something that makes them tick odd (being hungry, tired, bored whatever). Getting to know whatever makes your GM tick odd is very valuable and could save you in situations like this. If he has the signs of (whatever) just give him a piece of cake or claim that you are hungry (even if you aren't) and take care that he gets to eat (this is more complicated for tired but the idea still works).

The other thing that you can do to improve the situation is to give the GM a chance to think about a possible outcome more than 2 seconds. In a situation like this when the first player takes his choice you ask yourself aloud "What could augury do in this situation" and then fiddle with your character sheet or grab a book or something. While doing so observe your GM. Is he thinking about it? Great, you can do it (but it might have strange results anyway) Is he frowning on it? Better not do it.

Of course talking to your GM about the social aspects of it is important. Don't say "I disagree with your decision" but more something like "I had the impression when you did X you did so because you were upset of my choice." Its important to talk about the social here, not the actual decision because its not important to hear his in-game argumentation on why it was right.

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A regular D+D group can be a large part of your life, so I'm aware this isn't a situation to be taken lightly, even if it is a game.

In your position, I would feel trapped in a game I didn't like. It was rude what he did, and I would not want to play with this person any more, especially with him in a position of power.

As others have said, you can adapt to stay in the group. But personally, I'd be looking for a way to get out and find another group.

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How is this answer different from all of the existing answers? –  Wesley Obenshain Jul 10 at 8:43

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