So, in the most recent Dungeons & Dragons session the player characters purged an underground chapel of undead.
They did so with somewhat more daring and expenditure than I’d actually thought they would apply. The skeletons in question only seemed to respond when they entered the relevant room, and were fairly slow compared with people. (The one who created them had left them with fairly simplistic commands to follow.) The PCs had, in fact, sussed out the pattern to the skeletons’ behaviour (after careful observation and going away to talk to some experts) so they could have got rid of the skeleton without much of a challenge simply by stand in the doorway and throwing shit at them.
Midway through the session, after considering even more elaborate ways to eliminate the skeletons (such as having the party’s thief climb onto the ceiling with the use of a Spider Climb spell and drop holy water vials on the skeletons from there), one player hit on the notion of using the “AI exploit” (as someone termed it) to eliminate the skeletons. At that point I ruled that the players wouldn’t get any experience from doing it, so they opted for the OOC more rewarding and IC much, much faster option of just fighting the skeletons again.
In retrospect, I’ve queried that ruling to myself, because I’m fairly sure I would have given them the full whack had they hit on the solution when they first encountered the skeletons – and after all, 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons specifically gives you XP for defeating opponents and finding an exploit to wipe a bunch of skeletons without personal risk is both a clever plan and a good way to defeat skeletons.
Having ruminated over it, though, I think I was justified in making the call the way I did. Firstly, the players had gone off to get the advice of experts on the undead before coming back, and had mentioned this behaviour of the skeletons to said experts, and the experts had concurred that the skeletons probably wouldn’t leave the room, so crediting the players for a plan handed to them on a plate feels against the spirit of things. Secondly, the players only hatched the plan after they’d already engaged half the skeletons in direct combat, so the big advantage of the clever plan – getting rid of the skeletons without wasting resources, spells and blood – was already mostly wasted anyway. At that point, a clever plan starts to cease becoming a clever plan and starts to resemble l’espirit de l’escalier.
What do you think?