Behind the Screen: The Great Tavern Mug Debate…

2008 April 10
by Dante

Well… it wasn’t exactly great… but even still this scenario did cause a bit of contention within our group and it illustrates an excellent example of how impromptu DMing can sometimes cause some issues.

What happened:

Well, to put it succinctly… one of our player characters (Bat Loaf, I believe) did something uncouth in a tavern and started a fracas. In the resulting fray, one of the patrons blindsided The Loaf with a thrown beer mug.

Since this was taking place outside of initiative, I simply arbitrarily selected an amount of damage (2d6) and applied it upside Bat Loaf’s head. Someone noticed the die roll, since I was excited and didn’t hide it all that well and it caused some discussion as to whether or not the damage was subdual and how I picked 2d6.

The Resulting Argument:

The argument that someone was trying to cause harm was easily enough won, but there was a lot of discussion about how much damage a thrown, broken beer mug would cause. If I remember correctly, there was a certain measure of punishment involved in selecting that much damage for such a mundane thing, however if you think about the breaking glass and resulting shards it might’ve been somewhat close to correct.

After a few iterations of hearing the tried and true “you’re the DM and you can do what you want but…” argument, I think we compromised by backing off the damage a bit. Has anyone else experienced momentary gaffes relating to situational damage when you’ve been made to create something on the fly?

Let’s hear some stories… it always pleases me to read others sharing in my pain!

12 Responses leave one →
  1. ChattyDM permalink
    April 10, 2008

    Wait a minute Dante, your group argued for a 2d6 damage fiat while being Epic Level, did I hear that right? I’m surprised… in my group, at level 21, anything under 10d6 shouldn’t register for rules arguments.

    But I guess you hit the famous ‘DM just broke verisimilitude’ wall.

    I did have situations like that where one of my calls was challenged openly because my players thought it was an unfair call (We had a lot of those while learning the rules of D&D 3.0)…

    We would discuss it for a few minutes and I ended up annoucing a final call… open for discussion between games…

    When that broke down once because the player was too pissed off about the call… (and he turned out to be wrong about the rules in question) the game did turn sour and I invited the player to leave the game shortly afterwards.

  2. SirGeekelot permalink
    April 10, 2008

    Chatty DM, this happened at the very beginning of our campaign. I believe we were 3rd or 4th level at the time.

    However, I still stand by this being too much. 😉 At 2d6 a glass mug is better then a Greataxe. I believe my comment at the time was “we need to steal all the mugs at that tavern!”

  3. ChattyDM permalink
    April 10, 2008

    Ohh My bad.

    In that Context… I agree… Unless the DM was fast/devious enough to say ‘he rolled a crit’ and grin like a maniac…

    A filled wooden Beer stein should deal 1d6 (and impose a -4 penatly to attack, possibly with a +2 circumstance bonus for righteous indignation), once and splash the target with foul smelling Rat’s Pi$$ causing the target to suffer a -2 on all Charisma based rolls until wash off


    Still… DM calls that can cause a precedent where players require the same treatment are problematic…

    But maybe such super Steins can only be wielded by drunk smelly angry characters… and always shatter upon impact.

  4. SirGeekelot permalink
    April 10, 2008

    I think to justify it in my head, I assumed that the one mug that got thrown was an ancient artifact. And that the drunken crazys soul is now locked away in some far off crystal being tortured by a Balrog.

  5. ChattyDM permalink
    April 10, 2008

    …That would work too.


  6. Anonymous permalink
    April 10, 2008

    Maybe the one who threw the beer stein was a monk Drunken Master with the Throw Anything feat and the mug wasn’t just wooden. It was made of adamantine!

  7. Yax permalink
    April 10, 2008

    2d6 is fine. For all the stuff I let my players get away with they certainly have to let me get away with a Holy Mug +5 if I feel like throwing one.

  8. The_Gun_Nut permalink
    April 10, 2008

    I would have said something like “He got a lucky crit” and just left it at that. If someone really complained, I’d go as far as saying “It’s a quick and dirty barfight, let’s just roll with it, OK?”

  9. consummatedm permalink
    April 10, 2008

    Rules discussions and numbers and die rolls are rarely if ever discussed during play. My Players mark down conflicts they have with my callings, and they bring them up after the session. That way, while I may have over-rolled or under-rolled the damage of a flying tavern mug, all future tavern mugs will have a pre-agreed upon amount of damage.

  10. Your G(rinning) M(asochist) permalink
    April 11, 2008

    Occasionally this has come up. One particular time was when our PC Wizard, who chose to wear a mithril shirt that I had forgotten about, was singled out with a feeblemind spell at the start of a fight. He argued that since he didn’t obviously look like a wizard, they shouldn’t have targeted him. What I should have countered with, but didn’t, was that because he never rolled arcane spell failure, I assumed he didn’t wear it. In any case, it was quite the knock-down, drag-out situation that I still wish had been handled better by both parties.

    These things happen. I agree, 2d6 for a beer mug is a bit steep (I’d have gone with a d6 or d4). Of course, you could also have said that the thrower was a rogue who had a the feat: exotic weapon proficiency (stein).

  11. Anonymous permalink
    April 11, 2008

    My argument would be:
    1d4 for the mug, 1d4 to randomly determine STR bonus, +2 for annoying me by starting the fight. 2d4+2 normalizes to 2d6.

  12. kanati permalink
    April 16, 2008

    Hell. This STILL comes up Dante. I remember a couple sessions ago someone mentioned that they would have hit if it had been a beer mug. 🙂

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