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Thursday, May 29, 2014

How to Defeat Ear Seekers

Not so hard, really. Some, if not all, of the ear seeeker write-ups state that they are attracted to warmth; that is, after all, their modus operandi, entering the warmth of the ear of a character listening at a door.

You have a torch, right? Let the flames lick the door a bit. Unless it’s covered with tar or flaming oil or something, brief exposures to flame won’t set the door on fire; however, a little warmth will draw out the ear seekers, and you can then hold the torch up close to them and kill them automatically.

They’re one of the easiest damn monsters to deal with, and yet we hear constant whining about how ear seekers are a “screwjob”.
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  1. Nice! I never got why they didn't include ear seekers in 3E. Those things are awesome. Only restriction I've considered on them is maybe wait until the second level of the dungeon to introduce them. That way people get into the habit of listening at doors before learning there's a risk. If a newbie died the first time they tried that tactic, they might get the impression one shouldn't be listening at doors at all!

  2. Gnome on a rope makes a pretty good ear-seeker detection system too, but your method looks to involve less grumbling.

    1. I forgot to add "... Or USE A GLASS". How many movies and TV shows show people holding a glass to a door or wall to listen better? Perhaps they were also afraid of earseekers.

  3. They are, like many puzzle monsters, deeply unsatisfying to me. Either you know about the "secret move" like that automatically renders Ear Seekers irrelevant (in which case, why should the DM bother to include them), or you don't, in which case they are a boring PC-killer.

    Basically...is there a purpose to the Ear Seeker other than to make clever players say, "okay, from now on, before we listen at any door, we hold a torch to it" once in the campaign?

    1. The purpose is to make the game about observation and strategy. Torching every door assumes you are carrying a lit torch, which alerts monsters who can see it. What if you don't want to do that? Also, presumably, you are paying attention when the GM describes the door as "ordinary", "worm-eaten", or "covered with something sticky or gooey". You only torch the middle one, right?

  4. > is there a purpose to the

    To keep players on their toes, challenged, surprised, engaged and to break up monotony of routine. I.e. "we listen at every door". Most importantly to inject RISK. If listening at door becomes riskless, then there is no longer a risk/reward decision to agonize over. Such evaluation being one of the fundamental aspects of "exploration" style play.

    It's a never ending escalation. Players figure out work around X,and are rewarded. For awhile. Eventually DM introduces Y which trumps X and players need to figure out a Z. For instance, for every door, we apply flame, kill earseekers, then listen. Well then some doors will be impregnated with tar/oil other trap that goes off when flame is applied.

    btw if players selectively listened to doors (say for just the handful they deemed it strategically important) I would probably never introduce ear seekers, as they would not be needed. Earseekers are for players who ignore risk/reward evaluation and listen at *every* door. Earseekers fill the same roll for listening at doors as random monster checks do for spending hours searching.