What's Good for the Goose

Sarah Darkmagic - Posted on 21 May 2010

With D&D it's impossible for the rules to cover every possible action your players will try. Given that, it's important to come up with a few easy to remember game play philosophies. One of my most central ones involves the idiom, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." I try to say yes as often as possible to my players with the caveat that if they can do it, so can the NPCs. If they chafe at the NPCs being able to do something, that's a clue to me that their request likely is broken. This guideline helps forestall arguments and long periods of time spent combing through the rule books.

So what does this mean in terms of actual game play? Well, a couple of the PCs have powers that allow them to dominate a creature. This means the dominator gets to choose one action for the dominated party during its turn, with the limit that it must be something that can be done at-will (no encounter or daily powers here). In a recent game, the player decided that the creature should walk past each of the PC's allies, drawing opportunity attacks in the process. One could argue that this is a bit broken and decide to not allow it. But why do that? There is no clear rule and, in this case at least, I believe it's a daily power. So I rewarded the player who had the clever idea by letting him run with it, but made it clear to the table that this meant the enemies could use it as well. I have to say, it was a lot of fun when it played out at the table, with the poor monster running away from the group while taking hits from all sides. Now the players are just waiting to see when I decide to bring out the gander moment.

This guideline isn't a magic bullet. Some people really prefer that there be a real rule that is clearly spelled out and defined. This is not going to help with that. But for most gamers who can come to a friendly agreement, it can make things a ton easier and fun.


I think you're on the right track, here. Cool ideas (even if slightly broken) are awesome for the game and help you maintain that "know how to say yes" philosophy.

However, you do have to balance allowing such things and recognizing that this could be a game changer and that if the character can do it, so can a monster.

Great post!

That should swing both ways - if an NPC or monster can do it, the PCs should be able to as well, under the same conditions as given above.

Generally, this is true. The NPCs/monsters shouldn't able to do things that the PCs can't. Very rarely I might need to change this a bit to help the story move along. I can't think of any specifics from my game, but I remember that the beginning session of the Icosahedrophilia podcast had some things for story reasons that seemed a bit fantastic.

Hmmm, that is interesting. I understand and agree with the premise of every creature being able to do the same things, but this specific example struck me as not something I would allow. I think I know what it is.

What the player actually did was make the dominated creature run a certain path. Whenever I think of how something goes down I return to the premise of what is actually happening. Making a character walk a gauntlet of death is equivalent to throwing oneself into a pit and I would consider given them a saving throw before doing so. Also, in combat no one is really walking, they are beating a path around as fast as they can. That is why it didn't sit well with me the first time I read it.

We ran into this kind of thing the first time we played 4e, I rolled a Swordmage. I was teleporting above people and slashing down, as well teleporting people off cliffs. The new ruling for teleportation kinda fixes that (with a saving throw; success cancels the port). I knew that if we didn't get that fixed we would have problems later on when something would just teleport us off a cliff into lava. ^_^

Good for the goose is good for the gander is indeed good advice and it solve many future problems. I've always used it as a guideline myself and its worked out well. For example I used a modified initiative system where I use playing cards with characters names on them to determine the play order (characters with really high dex scores or feats to improve init I give them extra cards). My players really liked the idea because at first most of the creatures they were fighting only had a a single card, so they all were constantly getting first wacks at the creatures. Then along came creatures with more and more cards added in and a few times it the players fate would be determined by the luck of the draw. It was great! Everyone was on pins and needles! When it came up the big bad monster attacked first they all though everything was lost and even one of the players said "We all knew this could happen at some point, what was good for the goose is now cooking our gander!" hehe. Actually they thought of a creative way out of the situation and only destroyed half of the message beacon for the multiverse called "the crag" in Pandemonium!

Love hearing the play session stories keep em coming.

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