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Old 01-04-2020, 04:00 PM   #1
Dalin
 
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Default Bards: Song of Command

In my DFRPG Saltmarsh game, the party bard has Song of Command (Adventurers, p. 18). I have a couple of questions about how others would rule on the ability:
  1. Can this sort of mind control be used to compel honesty? Could you, for example, say, "Answer the following questions truthfully," and be confident that the forthcoming answers would be the truth (as the victim understands it).
  2. How would you handle a question like, "If we free you, will you attempt to harm us?" (This partly depends on the answer to #1.)
  3. How strictly do you interpret the idea of doing something against their principles. The examples seem to be quite direct: suicide or harming an ally. This suggests that indirect harm to an ally might not trigger a Quick Contest. So, for example, if you are using the spell to interrogate a prisoner, could that trigger the QC if the information could give you a significant tactical advantage?
    If you ask an evil wizard for the recipe for his top-secret immortality potion that he would be loathe to tell you, would that require a contest? What about asking a poor merchant where he keeps his life savings?
  4. Can you effectively lend control to someone else (as long as you continue playing within hearing range) by saying something like, "Do whatever the half-orc says."
  5. Losing a Quick Contest means that the target breaks free and you can't control them again for 24 hours. If you were successful, however, nothing would prevent you from controlling the same person multiple times in 24 hours, right? So you could sing a song and have someone do something. Then you could release them and sing again a few minutes later to have them do something else. Right? (I have no problem with this, and it seems self-evident from the text now that I'm reviewing it, but there was some debate at the table about it.)

Thanks!
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Old 01-04-2020, 06:33 PM   #2
Gnomasz
 
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Default Re: Bards: Song of Command

  1. Yes, I don't see why not. Nothing in the description excludes any type of command, and for 35 points it should be powerful. Regarding important, but small details, though, I'd maybe make the party roll Interrogation at +4 to be able to ask the right questions.
  2. I think I'd make an IQ roll for the victim, probably at a penalty, and if they pass, let them slip with an answer like "only if you tell me to, master". Also, quite often the answer would be "I don't know, depends on the situation".
  3. I'd cling to the word "principles". That is something more than "my well-being", so I wouldn't give the Evil Wizard no Quick Contest, unless he were all "never share any knowledge with anyone" – which should mean weaker, uninformed sidekicks. Besides, if the PCs manage to capture the wizard and overcome his Will, they deserve the info. The merchant would get a roll if he were greedy. The "significant tactical advantage" would only trigger QC for someone extremely loyal (or fanatical) or always secretive (the type that wouldn't talk about job with significant other, not to tell any details).
  4. I'd say yes, but if your commands become contradictory, I'd give the victim a new QC.
  5. Yes, but the victim would know what's coming the next time and could try to run (or attack, or cover ears).
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Old 01-04-2020, 06:51 PM   #3
Dalin
 
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Default Re: Bards: Song of Command

Thanks. Your thoughts match my instincts on this one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gnomasz View Post
  1. Yes, but the victim would know what's coming the next time and could try to run (or attack, or cover ears).
In this case, the party had a prisoner who was in no position to avoid the charm. Makes sense that the bard could repeat the charm whenever desired. There is the built-in risk of a possible failure each time which then grants that victim immunity for 24 hours. In the future, if it seems prone to abuse, I may grant the victim a bonus to their resistance roll for each repeated attempt within 24 hours (or something like that).

EDIT: Still curious for thoughts from others, too! (I know this sort of thing gets hashed out on RPG forums all the time, but the Song of Command is a bit different than many implementations of charm spells, so it's fun to consider what its particular limits and possible abuses are.
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Old 01-08-2020, 10:28 AM   #4
Yssa
 
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Default Re: Bards: Song of Command

I mostly agree with Gnomasz.

In regards to the "If we free you. . ." question, there is a lot of room for tricky answering, if the NPC has an appropriately high IQ. "If you free me, I'll walk away." Might satisfy the interrogators, but says nothing about how far they'll walk before they start to loose arrows. There's also nothing to stop them from changing their mind between answering and being freed: At this moment in the interrogation they might plan to leave peaceably, but once they are compelled to reveal the combination to their safe, they might feel otherwise. . .

In terms of "principles," I think the first place to look is disadvantages (anything contrary to a disadvantage would trigger a QC), then perhaps quirks and advantages, if any are relevant. After that, I think it's a question of role-play/storytelling: If a temple is guarded by an acolyte and a mercenary, it will likely be against the acolyte's principles to reveal the secret entrance, but the mercenary would be happy to. Unless, of course, the acolyte is only there to escape his wicked uncle, while the mercenary has grown to be a True Believer over the course of her employment. . .
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Old 01-09-2020, 09:59 AM   #5
Dalin
 
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Default Re: Bards: Song of Command

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yssa View Post
In regards to the "If we free you. . ." question, there is a lot of room for tricky answering, if the NPC has an appropriately high IQ. "If you free me, I'll walk away." Might satisfy the interrogators, but says nothing about how far they'll walk before they start to loose arrows. There's also nothing to stop them from changing their mind between answering and being freed: At this moment in the interrogation they might plan to leave peaceably, but once they are compelled to reveal the combination to their safe, they might feel otherwise. . .
Yeah, this makes sense. It might also change as their perception of the circumstances shift. For example, when first charmed, they might think the PCs are more powerful than they really are. When the charm expires later, they might perceive a vulnerability, at which point any "truths" they expressed earlier fly out the window.

Quote:
If a temple is guarded by an acolyte and a mercenary, it will likely be against the acolyte's principles to reveal the secret entrance, but the mercenary would be happy to. Unless, of course, the acolyte is only there to escape his wicked uncle, while the mercenary has grown to be a True Believer over the course of her employment. . .
Love this.

I haven't used a bard against the party yet, but I think that would be fun. I can even imagine a fun scene where two bards go toe-to-toe. Nothing would prevent them, as far as I can tell, from simultaneously successfully charming each other. Of course, the first one could order the other one to stop singing (or playing).

I also wonder if the commands are subtle enough, would the target know that they were being magically compelled? Would it be possible, for example, for a bard at court to subtly affect policy decisions by playing music in the background without the monarch being aware that they were being influenced?
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Old 01-09-2020, 10:54 PM   #6
Balor Patch
 
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Default Re: Bards: Song of Command

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalin View Post
I also wonder if the commands are subtle enough, would the target know that they were being magically compelled?
This also impacts the "what will you do later" question. If the subject thinks he's in his right mind now, he'll likely assume that later he'll still be of the same mind.
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Old 01-10-2020, 07:45 AM   #7
Yssa
 
Join Date: Mar 2019
Default Re: Bards: Song of Command

There's also the flipside:

I don't see anything in the description that says the bard can "sense" whether their song is strong enough or not. Could a target who knows they are being charmed (either because they are familiar with bardic magic broadly or this particular bard has charmed them before) pretend to be charmed: following enough commands to appear under their thrall, but inserting false information in an interrogation or seizing a prime opportunity to escape when Bard & Co's' guard is down?
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Old 01-11-2020, 09:06 AM   #8
Dalin
 
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Default Re: Bards: Song of Command

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yssa View Post
Could a target who knows they are being charmed (either because they are familiar with bardic magic broadly or this particular bard has charmed them before) pretend to be charmed: following enough commands to appear under their thrall, but inserting false information in an interrogation or seizing a prime opportunity to escape when Bard & Co's' guard is down?
Brilliant. Why not? Sounds like exactly the sort of shenanigans you would want in a bard-focused game!
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Old Yesterday, 07:40 AM   #9
ArchonShiva
 
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Default Re: Bards: Song of Command

That’s why bards should always grab Detect Lies.
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