Rule of cool; how far is too far?

DJShaddycat

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I just finished a one shot with some friends last night where I had been subjected to the "rule of cool" for the first time. While attacking multiple enemies who had encircled me, I rolled high on four attack roles and the DM said "Rule of cool, you use a broad swing of your sword to cleave all four enemies in half, killing them all."

Now personally, most of the time I don't like rule of cool. I know it might make me seem like a pretty stuck up DnD player, but I've always felt it's used a lot more to excuse complete and utter bullshit than it is used to just do something cool. I didn't really mind the way my DM had handled it however. It felt perfectly feasible for a fantasy world like the one we were roleplaying in. But from the way I hear other tables use the rule of cool, it often sounds completely unrealistic in the established world in which they're roleplaying. IE one I hear a lot: "I slide on my shield down this hill, using X attack on Y enemy as I pass!"

Maybe others don't see the issue with that, but Idunno, it's never felt realistic to me. So I suppose, the point of the thread is, how far is too far to you for the rule of cool? Do you think anything should be allowed if it sounds cool enough? Maybe loose boundaries, like nothing impossible, but unlikely if cool enough? Or maybe you're a lot stingier like me, and think it should be used sparingly, or not at all. No matter how your table handles it, as long as you have fun, that's the most important thing. I'm just curious how everyone else feels.
 

Tireseas

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Let me put it this way: If you're looking for realism in TTRPGs, you're barking up the wrong tree.

As DM, I give players a lot of discretion in how they act and if I think there's a risk of failure, I give them a DC to match the difficulty. Hell, very often, I tell them to roll a skill/ability before I think of the threshold just to see how they react to their roll. If they roll a 17 and are unsure that they met the threshold, that's a sign to me that they know how unreasonable their actions are and I will adjust accordingly.

The big caveat is that my current campaign is the first half of Out of the Abyss, where the characters are fairly weak compared to most things they're going to encounter, so a lot of things they're doing are little more than last ditch efforts to escape/survive while giving them some semblance of control over a situation that very much isn't in their control. The campaign by it's nature is more serious than most. A few are also novices, so they're still working on getting their range for more spectacular actions.

EDIT: also this seems appropriate:
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happyninja42

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I just finished a one shot with some friends last night where I had been subjected to the "rule of cool" for the first time. While attacking multiple enemies who had encircled me, I rolled high on four attack roles and the DM said "Rule of cool, you use a broad swing of your sword to cleave all four enemies in half, killing them all."

Now personally, most of the time I don't like rule of cool. I know it might make me seem like a pretty stuck up DnD player, but I've always felt it's used a lot more to excuse complete and utter bullshit than it is used to just do something cool. I didn't really mind the way my DM had handled it however. It felt perfectly feasible for a fantasy world like the one we were roleplaying in. But from the way I hear other tables use the rule of cool, it often sounds completely unrealistic in the established world in which they're roleplaying. IE one I hear a lot: "I slide on my shield down this hill, using X attack on Y enemy as I pass!"

Maybe others don't see the issue with that, but Idunno, it's never felt realistic to me. So I suppose, the point of the thread is, how far is too far to you for the rule of cool? Do you think anything should be allowed if it sounds cool enough? Maybe loose boundaries, like nothing impossible, but unlikely if cool enough? Or maybe you're a lot stingier like me, and think it should be used sparingly, or not at all. No matter how your table handles it, as long as you have fun, that's the most important thing. I'm just curious how everyone else feels.
Personally, I think it partly depends on the game you are playing. Some settings are designed to be more accepting of rule of cool than others. For example Scion an Exalted, are both game settings that basically live and breath "rule of cool." The shit you can do in those games is crazy levels of epic, and that's on purpose. So it's not breaking the mood, it's working as intended for them. Also FFG's Star Wars game system, and their subsequent Genesys system also encourage this kind of stuff, but they limit it to the dice results. There are results that you can get on a dice roll, that you can basically spend, to do extra layers of awesome shit. So, in your above example, your damage on the attack roll determined that say, 2 of those 4 mooks died, but you also rolled a few critical hits, which are auto-kills on mooks, so that's all 4 of them dead, working as intended. BUUUUT, you also rolled 2 Triumphs, so not only did you kill them, but you did it in such a terrifying way, that their allies further back, all shit their pants, and are under the effects of Fear for the next 2 turns. And you PAY for that, with the Triumphs, in basically a bargaining system with the GM. You: " I want to do X thing." GM: "Ok, something that epic will cost you..let's say 2 Triumphs" You: "Sweet, I rolled 3 of them, I will spend 2 to do that, and....hmm...can I spend the last one to also do Y?" GM: "....hmm, yeah sure, that's reasonable. Fair trade." Boom, stuff gets done.

Now, as a GM, I always lean towards having fun than following the rules as intended. I'm there to tell a fun story, and to have my friends participate, and have a good time. If it makes them have more fun, to let my friend Dave, leap off of a roof onto a speeding garbage truck, and then go do something else crazy after, honestly I'm fine with it. I'd rather them inject fun and creative things that I didn't anticipate into a game, and be more engaged, than the opposite.

Rule of Cool always gets consideration at my table. I do have some limitations based on the situation, but my rule of thumb is that if I feel it makes the scene better, I'm willing to consider it.
 
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DJShaddycat

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Let me put it this way: If you're looking for realism in TTRPGs, you're barking up the wrong tree.
I think there's a difference between realism and something being realistic. Realism is more so when something tries to mimic real life as closely as possible. A game that prides itself on realism will stick to very real world boundaries in all regards. Survival systems like hunger and thirst, no magic, no monsters. As close to real life as possible. Realistic is sticking to the boundaries defined to the in game worlds physics and what sounds possible in the world you're partaking in. Of course monsters and magic aren't realistic... In relation to the real world. They're perfectly realistic for the world in which you're roleplaying in. However, the world you're roleplaying in has it's own rules, just like the real world. And when something breaks those rules, I would say it becomes unrealistic. There's a reason not every character is a master of everything. Because the rules of the world say they can't be, it isn't realistic. In the end, it's the DM's choice though. It is the DM's world of course. But I don't think it's foolhardy to be looking for realistic actions and consequences in a table top game.
 

happyninja42

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I think there's a difference between realism and something being realistic. Realism is more so when something tries to mimic real life as closely as possible. A game that prides itself on realism will stick to very real world boundaries in all regards. Survival systems like hunger and thirst, no magic, no monsters. As close to real life as possible. Realistic is sticking to the boundaries defined to the in game worlds physics and what sounds possible in the world you're partaking in. Of course monsters and magic aren't realistic... In relation to the real world. They're perfectly realistic for the world in which you're roleplaying in. However, the world you're roleplaying in has it's own rules, just like the real world. And when something breaks those rules, I would say it becomes unrealistic. There's a reason not every character is a master of everything. Because the rules of the world say they can't be, it isn't realistic. In the end, it's the DM's choice though. It is the DM's world of course. But I don't think it's foolhardy to be looking for realistic actions and consequences in a table top game.
Just talk to your GM, if "keeping it real" is something that important to you. Establish the expectations for the game, and what limits on rule of cool the GM has. But honestly, from my own experience, the amount of time it takes to confirm what is "within the rules" is so tedious, and mood breaking, that I frankly don't care. I'd rather not derail for 10 minutes while we book dive for an obscure rule about this odd situation that popped up, because then it's next to impossible to get everyone back on track. I'd rather just make a call there, which usually means going with the "cool" thing, and be done with it.

And I never have luck with imbedding single images on this site, as it always seems to reject them even when I'm using it's own system to insert them, so just imagine a nice meme image of Captain Barbosa talking about guidelines below.

I do think it's fair for a table to actually discuss it ahead of time, to see how it will be handled. Because if you have one person, who is very quick witted, and good at improvisation, at a table with min/maxing introverts, who are busy number crunching in their head the whole session, it can be one sided with the rule of cool, and feel like one person is getting preferential treatment.
 

Chimpzy

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Depends. I rarely invoke Rule of Cool as a DM myself, but I'm pretty lenient at allowing it of my group under a few conditions. As a general rule, I'm fine with it when a player comes up with a solution to a difficult situation that is A) creative, B) dangerous but plausible, C) in line with that character's personality, even if that solution is not RAW, or even RAI. Basically, if it's high risk, high reward.

For example, a group I was GM'ing was fighting a mage and because of some very poor tactical choices, had found themselves in a situation where they were boxed in with the mage flying overhead pelting them with long-range spells while the group had no means of effectively attacking at that distance. With one exception. The Wizard had one casting of Dimension Door prepared and that had enough range. So they came up with the idea to teleport the big heavily armored Dragonborn Crusader up, who'd then use a prepared action to grapple the mage and drag it down to the ground.

Is this a creative solution? Yeah, I think so. Is it risky? Yes, if the grapple failed, the Crusader would fall to the ground, and his hp was low enough this had a chance of killing him. Also, they'd have used up their last effective means of fighting back. Is it in-character? Yes, the Crusader was a bit of a death seeker who wished to die a noble and heroic warrior's death by sacrifice, while the Wizard was kind of a sociopath who often liked making his party do the dirty work for him. Rules legal? Kind of, definitely some stretching in there tho.

So I allowed it. It worked out. Group happy they clutch saved themselves from a party wipe in a cool way.
 

happyninja42

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Depends. I rarely invoke Rule of Cool as a DM myself, but I'm pretty lenient at allowing it of my group under a few conditions. As a general rule, I'm fine with it when a player comes up with a solution to a difficult situation that is A) creative, B) dangerous but plausible, C) in line with that character's personality, even if that solution is not RAW, or even RAI. Basically, if it's high risk, high reward.

For example, a group I was GM'ing was fighting a mage and because of some very poor tactical choices, had found themselves in a situation where they were boxed in with the mage flying overhead pelting them with long-range spells while the group had no means of effectively attacking at that distance. With one exception. The Wizard had one casting of Dimension Door prepared and that had enough range. So they came up with the idea to teleport the big heavily armored Dragonborn Crusader up, who'd then use a prepared action to grapple the mage and drag it down to the ground.

Is this a creative solution? Yeah, I think so. Is it risky? Yes, if the grapple failed, the Crusader would fall to the ground, and his hp was low enough this had a chance of killing him. Also, they'd have used up their last effective means of fighting back. Is it in-character? Yes, the Crusader was a bit of a death seeker who wished to die a noble and heroic warrior's death by sacrifice, while the Wizard was kind of a sociopath who often liked making his party do the dirty work for him. Rules legal? Kind of, definitely some stretching in there tho.

So I allowed it. It worked out. Group happy they clutch saved themselves from a party wipe in a cool way.
See....I'm picturing this as some crazy Machinma mash up of Portals and TF2's Heavy. With The Medic and Glados conversing about the best method, and then both turning to the Heavy with evil grins...or..well grin and an evil....display of lights? *shrugs* Heavy give them confused, but scared look. "Vaht?" Smash cut to aerial shot of the wizard flying around them, doppler sound of screaming heavy, flying at him, gun forward, hosing a rain of bullets at the wizard before finally smashing into him and taking him to the ground.
 

Chimpzy

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See....I'm picturing this as some crazy Machinma mash up of Portals and TF2's Heavy. With The Medic and Glados conversing about the best method, and then both turning to the Heavy with evil grins...or..well grin and an evil....display of lights? *shrugs* Heavy give them confused, but scared look. "Vaht?" Smash cut to aerial shot of the wizard flying around them, doppler sound of screaming heavy, flying at him, gun forward, hosing a rain of bullets at the wizard before finally smashing into him and taking him to the ground.
Coincidentally, that mage they were fighting? Pretty much just Merasmus with a different name and moderate increase in competence.

I'll readily admit I've liberally cribbed from TF2's cast for several (non-player) characters I've played. My favorite was basically a fusion of Pyro and Black Mage from 8-bit Theater, with just a dash of Rincewind.
 
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Buyetyen

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It goes by genre, setting, theme, tone. In a comedy flavored game, there's a lot of shit I let my players get away with that I never would in a straight D&D game. Mostly it goes back to the little-big rule and some moderation. I don't want the Rule of Cool to wear out its welcome so I try to reserve it for particularly effective or well-timed moments.
 

Eacaraxe

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...Also FFG's Star Wars game system, and their subsequent Genesys system also encourage this kind of stuff, but they limit it to the dice results...
I can't speak to the FFG system, but in WEG's Star Wars d6 you get a decent amount of leeway to do badass stuff -- I leaned in heavy into it at thematically appropriate moments, hence all the stories from the other thread. I mean, it's Star Wars, if your players aren't doing crazy shit at the table, they're just not in the spirit of things. And that's what strikes to the heart of the matter to me, is it fun and is it thematically appropriate.
 

Gordon_4

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Depends on the DM. Depends on the game you're playing. My old DM allowed players at least a single "Hollywood Point" per session, backed by dice rolls. I rolled a mind boggling three Nat 20's in a row - we were all shocked - and then a 19 on the fourth role in a D20 Modern game, so my DM allowed me to invoke my Hollywood Point to basically cheese the encounter.