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The Curse:

Clockwork Curse
All Attack Rolls the cursed target makes replace their d20 roll with a 10 instead of rolling, as per the effect of Clockwork Amulet.

Extra Details:

  • This curse is expected to apply for at least a full in-game day.
  • Encounters for the day will come from the Forest or Coastal Encounters (5-10) tables in Xanathar's Guide to Everything.
  • The character will be part of a 5-player group.
  • The character's attacks are their ideal method of dealing damage.

The Goal:

  • This curse is meant to be a setback or gameplay-shift to the player, not a crippling of the player.
    • I want the player to spend time affected by the curse to work with it or work around it.
  • Since the players can decide not to remove it, the beneficial aspect of it should not be too strong.

The Question:

Is this curse too detrimental that it imposes more of a penalty than I expect? Is this curse too beneficial in the long-run? Or is it reasonably fair?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ It seems like you have a specific character in mind for this curse. What's the PC's attack modifier? When you say that 'attacks are their ideal way of doing damage' could you be more specific - what other methods of dealing damagae are available to them? \$\endgroup\$ – Tiggerous Feb 27 at 9:23
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    \$\begingroup\$ Not entirely sure this is possible to answer. The reaction to this will depend on the player (it could really annoy a player if they feel they are being punished above everyone else while taking away their agency). While the effect is going to depend entirely on the party-level and types of encounters (against low AC enemies such as zombies its 'always hit', while against high AC enemies it could be 'always miss'). \$\endgroup\$ – PJRZ Feb 27 at 9:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Tiggerous They have access to a few cantrips which target a Saving throw, but their weapons and better cantrips target AC. \$\endgroup\$ – Axoren Feb 27 at 9:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @PJRZ I was very on the fence about even posting the question because I somewhat agree with you: it's hard to analyze. I was more hoping that I'd overlooked something that if brought to light clearly indicates either one or the other extreme. \$\endgroup\$ – Axoren Feb 27 at 9:33
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This punishes player fun more than character mechanics

Dependant on the AC of your enemies this curse is either a massive buff due to never missing, or a massive penalty due to never hitting. Either way it takes away the uncertainty and suspense of combat by making the result a formality.

In my experience a lot of the fun of combat is encapsulated in the thrill of the unknown. This curse takes away that unknown by removing the agency from a cursed characters turn. The curse has two states:

  1. 10 + Attack modifier >= enemy AC. The player knows they are going to hit so every turn they can skip straight to rolling damage. No need for clever tactics or positioning to gain advantage or cancel a disadvantage. The character is effective but boring to play.
  2. 10 + Attack modifier < enemy AC. The player knows they can't hit. There is no point trying so they are instead forced to play a support role, depending on the type of character they may quickly run out of things they can do in this role. No interesting options and a lack of effectiveness makes this character frustrating to play.

In both scenarios the mechanical penalty to the character is not as significant as the penalty to player enjoyment. In my opinion that makes this a bad curse.

A good curse challenges both the player and character to find a way to overcome, cure or circumvent the limitations imposed by the curse. Something that forces them to change their typical combat style or think outside the box. This curse doesn't do that. It is either good or it is bad, and there is (almost) nothing the player can do about it.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I see that this will apply in some cases, but I loathe RNG and would happily take this curse all day long so I could ensure 100% of my actions were effective (or ineffective, but at least I would know that in advance mostly, and adapt to something that would be effective) \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 27 at 13:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri that may be fine for you, but I think a lot of times the fun of D&D tabletop-style games is the possibility for success, which must inherently include the possibility for failure. There are types of games wherein the players and GM make a story together without rolling dice and that's fun for them but those are different games. This curse changes D&D to one of those games and that may not be what the players signed up for. \$\endgroup\$ – Pyrotechnical Feb 27 at 14:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pyrotechnical I wasn't trying to make it about my view, just showing the OP that not everyone feels this way. \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 27 at 18:45
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    \$\begingroup\$ Both sides have a point here. Some randomness is definitely nice, but all too often the D20 system provides far too much randomization. For example, consider how often a STR 6 character would be able to beat a STR 16 character at arm wrestling in the D20 system, versus how often they would win in the real world... \$\endgroup\$ – Mason Wheeler Feb 27 at 21:58
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    \$\begingroup\$ You could achieve basically the same effect without this disadvantage by having the player roll twice and force them to use the result closest to 10. Kind of like advantage, but not. It's still a buff in all the same situations and a nerf in all the same situations, but it does not remove the uncertainty of rolling dice and is not as severe a benefit or a malus. \$\endgroup\$ – Iron Gremlin Feb 27 at 23:56
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Against an average enemy this would be a buff not a curse

Rolls are generally balanced around requiring an 8 to succeed in something you are good at, so always rolling a 10 is a buff (on average, assuming the player invested in the combat stat).

This does mean that against certain high AC enemies this player will never hit.

So how this will effect your game depends firstly on how many high AC enemies you chuck at the party / player, and how they will react to not being able to hit things. Some players will welcome the challenge and have to think of new tactics, some players just want to cause damage and put very little thought into it.

You know your players (hopefully) better than we do, so you would have to judge this for yourself.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you support the claim that "Rolls are generally balanced around requiring an 8 to succeed in something you are good at"? \$\endgroup\$ – Medix2 Feb 27 at 15:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ @medix2 probably going to take a lot of effort to back that up (properly at least) so do you think I am right in the assertion (in which case I will put the effort in) or not (in which case tbh I am probably wrong). \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 28 at 11:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ It seems the assumption makes more sense if you look at the DC. If you expect a DC 15 to be the measure of success in most situations, then assuming that a roll of 8 would to be a success would require a +7 in whatever that ability is to succeed. That seems like a rather poor assumption at least until mid level PCs. And even a DC 15 isn't terribly high either \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Green Feb 28 at 16:31
  • \$\begingroup\$ @matthew green if you are good at something you probably start with +6 (proficiency and +4 stat bonus). \$\endgroup\$ – SeriousBri Feb 28 at 19:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @SeriousBri I was assuming the standard array which would only give +3 plus proficiency. But even with that you would be still be under the DC until level 4 at the earliest. \$\endgroup\$ – Matthew Green Feb 28 at 20:06
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It seems fine. Finding out how it works seems somewhat fun. The player barely hits a sahuagin without needing to roll, then barely hits the next. Seems good, but there has to be a catch. Then they barely miss the armoured hobgoblin, still with no roll, and keep barely missing. There's the catch. At some point they'll get the idea or you'll just tell them about the "always 10" part.

Now you're onto the meat. The players may even discuss the problem. For each new monster type the player might take a test whack. Goblins, bugbears and a bugbear captain? Goblins are a sure hit -- but should they try the bugbears? If you allow heavy tabletalk, what are the odds someone has memorized the exact AC of each monster?

Options are using that +2 dagger (suppose their main weapon is only +1), or maybe a shove action or a grapple. Or a Bless spell (it seems to me the d4 would still be rolled, and added to the 10). They'll probably gain Advantage once before realizing it won't help. Few feats allow for an optional attack bonus, but they might have one. They can Assist another attack. Or try to draw attacks and Dodge (the monsters don't know the player can't hit them). Doing the last two for 1 fight isn't so bad.

You (the GM) can cheat. If 2 rolled encounters in a row only have monsters that guy can't hit, replace one hobgoblin with a softer gnoll.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ This assumes the mechanics of the curse are hidden from the player. While I agree that is a more interesting way to play it, it is also more complex as it requires the DM knowing all the modifiers that apply to the roll. \$\endgroup\$ – linksassin Feb 28 at 1:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ The paras after the first are for when they know the "always 10" rule. But keeping it unknown for a bit only requires the GM know the player's net attack bonus, and might be fun for everyone to try to figure out. \$\endgroup\$ – Owen Reynolds Feb 28 at 2:06
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Situational. Sounds like it would make hitting most low to medium enemies easy, but make it impossible to hit a boss or demi-boss.

So useful for a front liner who will be wading through canon fodder mobs. Not directly useful against a armored one or boss, but silver lining. Against those, it would encourage the player to use the "help" action to help their team hit the boss.

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Seems like a serious debuff

In terms of what the character can actually do -- you roll a 15 or over like 25% of the time. That makes for a hard fight, but you can burn resources and win it. This curse makes easy fights trivial, and hard fights impossible. You might be able to, as the DM, design around this -- make things harder by giving more low-level enemies, and totally avoiding high level enemies. But that sounds really tedious.

Also, how will you deal with advantage? I suspect the expected value of a roll with advantage is about 15. If you give them a 15 on an advantaged attack, it might be more manageable (also more fun).

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