What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Discussion of all things magical for DCC RPG -- "Let the Phlogiston take you where it will..."

Moderators: DJ LaBoss, finarvyn, michaelcurtis, Harley Stroh

Post Reply
User avatar
Satchmo
Gongfarmer
Posts: 1
Joined: Wed May 25, 2022 11:06 am
FLGS: Dr. No's

What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Post by Satchmo »

Well, it finally happened. I've been playing and judging this game for nearly two years now in private sessions with my friends, and last night the party wizard finally spellburned to cast sleep at the maximum result, and boy did it throw us all for a loop. And I have questions. Perhaps some questions are not meant to be answered, and yet ask them I must.

What in the heck is going on in this spell?

For ease of reference, here is the text from page 156 of DCCRPG, which describes the effects of a 32+ spell check result for sleep:
Natural slumber to all things: the caster causes the world around him to slow and sleep. All creatures within 500 yards fall asleep. Creatures of 4 or fewer HD receive no save. The affected creatures include birds, insects, and small animals as well as people. Both friendly and unfriendly creatures are affected. Plants are also affected; those that close their petals or retract flowers at night behave as if it is nighttime. The effect is supernatural in aspect and cannot be disturbed. The affected world continues to slumber until a specific interrupt condition occurs (e.g., the new moon rises, or 100 years have passed). Only powerful magic can end the effect sooner.
Now, there is a lot to unpack in this paragraph. First and foremost, this result entry veers away from the format and style of all lower sleep result entries. It uses different terminology, gives a new set of examples for the specific interrupt condition, and omits clarifying statements which appear in most lower result entries.

The specific term "natural slumber" is only used in this entry. In all lower result entries the term "normal slumber" is used, and in all cases where normal slumber is mentioned, it is clarified that normal slumber can be cancelled by normal means (shaking, water in the face). This clarifying statement is not given with respect to the "natural slumber" mentioned in result 32+, and it is not stated whether "natural" slumber is in any way different from "normal" slumber. That said, there is a sentence in result 30-31 which suggests they are the same thing: "The sleep is natural and the targets can be awakened with normal means (rough shaking, water on the face, etc.)." 30-31 is the only other result entry which uses the word "natural".

The term "supernatural" is likewise employed differently in this result entry. Whereas all lower result entries make a clear distinction between normal slumber and supernatural slumber, 32+ seems to contradict itself. After stating the slumber is "natural", it goes on to claim "the effect is supernatural in aspect and cannot be disturbed." This specific phrasing itself is unique among all spell result entries which reference supernatural slumber.

Like the lower result entries, 32+ does state the supernatural "aspect" causes every creature affected by the spell to slumber until a specific interrupt condition occurs. This in itself is not unlike what has been explained of supernatural slumber and the use of interrupt conditions from lower results, however this entry introduces an entirely new set of example interrupt conditions which differ from those offered in lower result entries. Lower result entries use the same set of example interrupt conditions in all instances in which they appear: the kiss of a prince, the smell of a rose, hearing a clock strike midnight. 32+ puts forth the following examples: the new moon rises, 100 years have passed. I can't help but notice the former examples all reference individual senses (touch, smell, hearing), while the latter reference the passage of time. I will say, given the scope of the effects for result 32+ it makes sense the interrupt condition should be tied to the passage of time, lest some poor prince be tasked with kissing every ant and flower within 500 yards of his castle.

So, what is "natural slumber"? Why introduce a new (albeit similar) term? Is it in any way distinct from "normal slumber"? if it is, why is it not further elaborated in the entry? If it is not, then what of the supernatural "aspect"? What does "supernatural aspect" mean in this context? Can characters be awoken by normal means or not? The latter half of the result entry suggests they cannot be, but then why specify "natural slumber" at all? What do you mean "natural slumber with a supernatural aspect"? Is dispel magic sufficiently powerful magic to end the effect sooner? And what are the criteria which constitute an acceptable interrupt condition? Should they be somehow different, given the far-reaching scope of this powerful casting? Why is this result, the most powerful possible result given, the one which any self-respecting sorceror of somnolence would strive to achieve, so confusing and inconsistent with all lower result entries, when the rest fit together so coherently?

There is more I could pick apart here, but I believe my point has been made. This spell as a whole, as written, all it's entries taken together, is at once specific and vague enough to cause exhaustive debate between player and judge over the effects it has on PC, NPC, and game world alike. After all, the casting of sleep is a contentious moment, most especially when the spell is directed toward the player characters, but also when it may mean the difference between life and TPK.

Studying this spell, trying to come to my own interpretation for use at the table, has given me such a headspin I felt I needed to hear the opinions of the wider community. I would love to hear your thoughts.

I'm well aware of the heights of pedantry to which I have soared with this post. I'm well aware of the nature of the game, and the judges prerogative to interpretation and ruling at the table. I know much of the rulebook is presented as inspirational and reference material, and not meant to be followed strictly. My goal with this post is to explore the intentions of the good designers and writers at Goodman Games, and examine the implications of the various possible interpretations of this spell as it is presented in the text. Given the history of the spell within the hobby and its power at the table, I believe it deserves a good looking over and thinking about.
User avatar
GnomeBoy
Tyrant Master (Administrator)
Posts: 4097
Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:46 pm
FLGS: Bizarro World
Location: Left Coast, USA
Contact:

Re: What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Post by GnomeBoy »

My personal take with this kind of thing is to let it be heavily influenced by the context -- the situation being addressed when cast, past of the Wizard doing the casting, the beings affected, the locale, whatever jumps out at me as important in relation to the spell.

A rule doesn't need to mean the same thing all the time in a roleplaying game, or else it risks morphing into a board game. Creativity and improvisation is what makes an RPG unique among games.

I realize this sounds like punting the problem you're bringing up, but I don't have time to discuss point by point, as much as I'd like to...
...
Gnome Boy • DCC playtester @ DDC 35 Feb '11. • Beta DL 2111, 7AM PT, 8 June 11.
Playing RPGs since '77 • Quasi-occasional member of the Legion of 8th-Level Fighters.

Link: Here Be 100+ DCC Monsters

bygrinstow.com - The Home of Inner Ham
CapnZapp
Hard-Bitten Adventurer
Posts: 173
Joined: Wed Nov 17, 2021 2:00 am
FLGS: Book

Re: What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Post by CapnZapp »

It all boils down to the DCC rules designers were clearly not interested (or able?) in making an effort to write a concise and consistent ruleset.

And if you believe the theory often proposed by the game's most ardent fans, they did so by purpose, not because they're sloppy. If the rules keep you guessing, they "force" the GM or Judge to assume responsibility, is the idea, or so they say.

However, even if that were true, I think that is a frustrating and inefficient approach. It would have been much better to clearly state when the game leaves a detail up to the judge, than to purposefully write ambiguous rules with vague and inconsistent terminology.

And, of course, I really have a hard time believing this theory. There is just so much inexactness for me to believe that.

DCC is a very imaginative and cool ruleset but the sometimes inept and lazy rules engineering can drive you insane with frustration, and the cheerful "it's by design, rulings and not rules and all that" is not helping, since the game does have lots of rules clearly meant to be set in stone for all players.

Basically these forums are inundated with people reflexively defending every flaw, mistake and oversight as "intentional", despite there being zero difference between what's considered an error (that gets fixed in upcoming printings) and what's considered "a feature not a bug".

So perhaps its for the best if we don't discuss point by point. Likely there is no deeper meaning to that spell result. I suspect it simply was written on a different day than the others, or by a different developer, and nobody bothered to make sure it was consistent with the other results. It probably is nothing more than the mess it looks like and you're better off fixing it however you want.

To be slightly more constructive - simply assume your players have won the dungeon when and if the party wizard successfully casts this spell to a 32+ result. Sure 5+ HD monsters get a save, but the save is DC 32 or higher, soo... Simply assume everything is asleep except the caster. If there's a lot of traps and undead, the adventure keeps going. If not, well... time to discuss encumbrance ;) and how to get your sleeping friends (and the gold) safely back to town!

Remember: the designer who wrote up the spells pretty clearly did so before the rules for spellburn were finalized. The highest results for pretty much every spell are over the top, which in itself is fine - they all come across as written by somebody reasonably thinking only the most powerful and well-prepared caster could ever achieve them (reliably I mean, everybody can roll a 20). Except it's not fine, since that assumption is very clearly not true.

Cheers
User avatar
GnomeBoy
Tyrant Master (Administrator)
Posts: 4097
Joined: Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:46 pm
FLGS: Bizarro World
Location: Left Coast, USA
Contact:

Re: What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Post by GnomeBoy »

CapnZapp wrote: Fri May 27, 2022 11:56 pm ...were clearly not interested (or able?) in making an effort...
Please stop denigrating my friends. Thank you.
...
Gnome Boy • DCC playtester @ DDC 35 Feb '11. • Beta DL 2111, 7AM PT, 8 June 11.
Playing RPGs since '77 • Quasi-occasional member of the Legion of 8th-Level Fighters.

Link: Here Be 100+ DCC Monsters

bygrinstow.com - The Home of Inner Ham
BanjoJohn
Deft-Handed Cutpurse
Posts: 205
Joined: Sun Sep 20, 2015 6:00 pm
FLGS: there are a few but I dont really consider any of them as my main flgs

Re: What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Post by BanjoJohn »

The only important part of the spell is that it effects every creature, birds, insects, animals, plants, friendly and unfriendly creatures. Creatures of 4HD or less receive no save against it. It effects everything in 500 yards
And the sleep will not be disturbed unless some specific condition occurs to break the sleep. And only powerful magics can end the sleep effect sooner than the specified effect.
As to the specifics for when the spell ends? That should be determined by the spell caster.
As to what powerful magical effects could end the sleep early? That needs to be determined by the Judge.

The rest of the stuff is flavor text, "Natural Slumber" doesn't have to mean anything.
Carrot
Ill-Fated Peasant
Posts: 8
Joined: Tue Apr 26, 2022 3:44 pm
FLGS: Scenic City Game Emporium

Re: What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Post by Carrot »

I assume that it's supposed to be "unnatural sleep"
User avatar
herecomethejudge
Hard-Bitten Adventurer
Posts: 117
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:52 am

Re: What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Post by herecomethejudge »

Satchmo wrote: Wed May 25, 2022 1:55 pm What in the heck is going on in this spell?

[...]

I'm well aware of the heights of pedantry to which I have soared with this post.
And yet, here you are, posting anyway. LOL

I had Sleep 32+ come up once in a game. Nothing about its description seemed confusing in the least. Everything, including the rest of the party, involuntarily went to sleep, and the caster, a level-3 wizard, was left alone to fight a half-dozen skeletal warriors (immune to magical sleep! oops!). No problems were had with the adjudication.

There is also no need to compare Sleep 32+'s effects to any lower effect of the spell. Just take it for what it is, have a deep breath, and remind yourself that games are supposed to be fun.
TithianKing
Far-Sighted Wanderer
Posts: 24
Joined: Sun May 15, 2022 1:06 am

Re: What's the deal with 32+ Sleep?

Post by TithianKing »

Thanks to the OP for pointing out a nuance I completely overlooked that I will 100% use in my game for an interesting encounter / adventure hook.

It also has solid foundation in Appendix N. Whole castles & villages and nations being cast into endless slumber appears all over classic fantasy literature - most notably in the original telling of the story of Sleeping Beauty.

However I am kind of amazed he managed to run the game for 2 years considering the ferocity with which he attacks this super-cool and creative application of the spell effect.
Post Reply

Return to “Magic and Spells”