Fighter has a history of missing his Perception check on mimics.

Fighter has a history of casting his companions aside for an upgrade.

Fighter gets no sympathy from me. If he hasn’t learned the most basic lesson of fantasy gaming by this point, he deserves what he gets.

Of course, if you wanted to throw the big lug a little sympathy, you might point out that the game is more fun when wacky random bad stuff happens. That 5e doesn’t let you identify curses with identify for a reason. And that pushing the big red button can often lead to the very finest in dungeon-based hijinks. Avoiding these things might keep your character alive, but spending hours on the paranoid approach to dungeoneering can slow the game to a tedious crawl. What’s a gaming group to do?

Differing schools of thought apply. If you’re going in with a Tomb of Horrors mindset, then matching your wits against the dungeon is the point. Thinking your way around impostor loot and oops-you’re-dead traps is part of the charm, and overthinking is an essential aspect of play. On the other hand, if you want your players to feel like big damn heroes, your deathtraps might become more minor inconvenience traps. That sword in Fighter’s hand makes a bite attack in the surprise round, then becomes a standard combat. The necklace of strangulation only chokes you until you pass out. The rot grubs of yore get the nerf bat, and a Wisdom (medicine) check plus a cure spell can eradicate them, no lesser restoration required.

There are all manner of variations between these extremes, but in all cases I advise a little up-front communication. If you’re the GM, let your players know whether you run a “paranoia” style game or a gonzo “audacity will be rewarded” one. That’s not a bad item to add to the session zero checklist. By the same token, if your style varies from session to session and encounter to encounter, make sure to throw plenty of “you get a bad feeling about this” checks into the mix. After all, risk and reward is only interesting when you have some idea what you’re getting into. Without that added info, you’re just pulling mimic swords blindly from the loot pile and hoping for the best.

So for today’s discussion, what do you say we talk about that paranoia vs. audacity continuum? Do you like deadly surprises, or do you prefer a lighter touch? Is it the player’s fault for picking up a duck in the dungeon, or are those quack-based negative levels a case of GM dickery? Sound off with your own preferred approach down in the comments!


ARE YOU THE KIND OF DRAGON THAT HOARDS ART? Then you’ll want to check out the “Epic Hero” reward level on our Handbook of Heroes Patreon. Like the proper fire-breathing tyrant you are, you’ll get to demand a monthly offerings suited to your tastes! Submit a request, and you’ll have a personalized original art card to add to your hoard. Trust us. This is the sort of one-of-a-kind treasure suitable to a wyrm of your magnificence.