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TheCountAlucard
2011-09-06, 01:29 PM
So, a thought occurs to me - like "statues" (http://agc.deskslave.org/comic_viewer.html?goNumber=261)coming to life and attacking (http://agc.deskslave.org/comic_viewer.html?goNumber=262), there are some things that have become such a staple in tabletop gaming that it no longer really surprises someone.

In this case, I'm talking about playing dead. Y'know, a monster either pretends to die during combat to prevent itself from actually dying, or just acts like a corpse to get the jump on PCs before the fight starts. Sometimes, depending on the system, the monster in question actually has an ability to help facilitate this deception.

The question is, does this work?

Speaking from experience, no. "Just in case," the players say, their characters decapitate the body while it's down, or set fire to it, or try to animate it as a zombie. I've never gotten such an example to work, and as such, it makes me wonder why they even bother to continue publishing these things.

Probably the most aggravating example occured in an Exalted game, in which a high-Compassion Solar martial artist PC defeated the "Shoat of the Mire," a nine-year-old Abyssal girl, who promptly used a "play dead" Charm. He decided to keep attacking until he'd caved in her skull, because the player wanted to "make sure she wouldn't pull any of that ****."

Anyone else got a story to contribute? :smallsigh:

beyond reality
2011-09-06, 02:23 PM
I actually had it work quite well recently. The players were fighting a sorceress who was a (disguised) undead. She's trapped by two of the party's fighters who greatly outmatch her. The barbarian charges her but while he's rolling his attack and damage he chats with the other PC out of character about whether they should try doing non-lethal damage after this attack to try and capture her.

Well, he rolls 23 damage and she falls down, apparently dead. He's shocked and dismayed. Checks pulse and breathing...nothing.

So it depends a lot. When dealing with undead, abyssals and constructs that have no obvious lifesigns then they're probably more cautious. If it's someone they believe to be alive the trickery works a lot better. It helps that I don't pull this kind of trick too often.

Of course, in that same scene things turned around pretty fast. The players decided they really wanted to capture her alive for questioning so the barbarian tries to force a healing potion down her throat in a desperate attempt to try and save her. Of course, being undead this causes her to rise up screaming in pain and the fight is back on again for the very surprised PCs.

tyckspoon
2011-09-06, 03:29 PM
IMO it's pretty unlikely to work in the middle of an actual fight; players are already suspicious of the things they're fighting, and it's not made any better by usually pretty low-level abilities and skills that make it quite easy to determine if something is actually dead. There's also the issue of when to start playing dead; if you do it too soon, players/characters know you're trying to pull something because the enemy should have been tougher than that. If you do it later, the enemy is authentically already almost beaten, and the best they can get out of it is maybe a single surprise hit before one of the characters finishes them off. The best use for playing dead in the middle of a fight would be to get less intelligent pets/minions/summons to leave you alone, as they generally are operating on a 'hit it until it stops moving' level and don't have the brains or self-initiative to doublecheck or be suspicious of why exactly something stopped moving unless one of the PCs directly orders them to.

Setting an ambush as a pre-dead body usually works better, although it's a 1/adventure kind of thing because players will check everything after that 1st time (although if they do it by facechecking- walking up to things and jabbing them with a sword/polearm/whatever- it still pretty much works in that you got somebody into a position that your monsters chose.) If they just Fireball/Turn Undead/put an arrow into every body on general principles, it loses impact.

starwoof
2011-09-06, 03:30 PM
I tend to throw a lot of information at my players to intentionally throw them off. Since they only listen to about 20% of what I say I can get the jump on them with playing dead monsters pretty much whenever I want.

Dimers
2011-09-06, 03:51 PM
I imagine it'd work more often if combined with simultaneous charm, illusion or shapeshift effects ... like a contingent mass suggestion or something. Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic (Note: frequently NSFW for nudity, including this arc) did something similar a couple months back (http://yafgc.net/?id=1870). Also, creatures whose vital signs the PCs don't know or can't sense anyway -- it's not like they can check the pulse of a shambling mound, right? But a major part of it is going to be DM description and reaction. "He falls down with blood in his mouth and stops moving" will provoke suspicion in some players, whereas "he dies" doesn't. If you rant and rave about the PCs "killing off" what was "SUPPOSED to be a recurring villain, dammit!", it might get them to leave her alone long enough for her to sneak off.

EDIT: Oh, and if your players are the super-bloodthirsty sort who pre-burn everything that will sit still for it, try putting them in an adventure filled with monsters skinchanging with innocent people. Sure you can fire ten flaming arrows into that corpse! Oops, actually that was a little girl from the village, but I'm sure her parents won't mind too much ...

Sucrose
2011-09-06, 04:53 PM
Probably the most aggravating example occured in an Exalted game, in which a high-Compassion Solar martial artist PC defeated the "Shoat of the Mire," a nine-year-old Abyssal girl, who promptly used a "play dead" Charm. He decided to keep attacking until he'd caved in her skull, because the player wanted to "make sure she wouldn't pull any of that ****."

In fairness, if he had already gotten over the hurdle of fighting to kill, Compassion had decidedly less to do with whether to desecrate the corpse than how much he abides by the mores of society, or how suspicious he is as a person.

Daer
2011-09-06, 05:11 PM
Playing dead works best when players don't have time to check the 'corpse'.

In other words something else to pull their attention. for example if player has atleast 2 monsters attacking him and he sees other one fall i am pretty suprised if he wastes time on corpse instead taking down the other target first. Though better run away as soon as there is chance before fighting ends.

For ambush it is good to have few real corpses between heroes and faking monster and then atleast few monster attacking from sides or behind the heroes just when they are about to search the corpses.(and hope wizard doesn't just blow bodies up... )

dsmiles
2011-09-06, 05:15 PM
Well, my players tend to take a lot of things at face value. The only times they keep attacking past "dead" is when they're dealing with Trolls and Undead. Trolls regenerate until they hit -10 HP (since 0 HP is not "dead" yet), and you can never really be sure with undead (so it's best to just keep attacking it until it's atomized).

TheCountAlucard
2011-09-06, 05:44 PM
In fairness, if he had already gotten over the hurdle of fighting to kill...In fairness, that wasn't the only factor that had made it aggravating. I'll admit, the far more aggravating factor was that the player was insisting his "Bloodthirsty Sword-Dancer Spirit" would preclude the need for him to supress Compassion. :smallannoyed:


The only times they keep attacking past "dead" is when they're dealing with Trolls and Undead. Trolls regenerate until they hit -10 HP (since 0 HP is not "dead" yet)...Not quite. Regeneration doesn't quite work like that. They regenerate from non-lethal damage - it's just that to them, "non-lethal damage" translates out to "everything but fire and acid." As such, no amount of clubbing will kill a troll permanently, even if you've reduced him to paste.

dsmiles
2011-09-06, 05:56 PM
Not quite. Regeneration doesn't quite work like that. They regenerate from non-lethal damage - it's just that to them, "non-lethal damage" translates out to "everything but fire and acid." As such, no amount of clubbing will kill a troll permanently, even if you've reduced him to paste.Must be one of those house rules we've been using so long we've forgotten it was a house rule. Once you hit 0 HP in non-lethal damage, you start taking lethal damage. -10 HP from lethal damage, and you're dead. Period. No returns, no refunds.

Mike_G
2011-09-06, 06:07 PM
If the combat is big enough and there are still threats, then maybe the PCs won't want to waste an action to hand out a coup de grace to everyone they drop.

If the enemy do play dead among the bodies, then the once bitten PCs will start "making sure." This happened in WWII, when "dead" or wounded Japanese attacked approaching Allied infantry. After the first time, Allied soldiers would put an insurance round or two into a Japanese corpse before approaching.

For game play, I might have an enemy try to play dead if they had no other option, but it would be a last resort, and I'd expect it to fail.

Nyarai
2011-09-06, 06:58 PM
This is from one of the Eberron adventure paths (The Golden Dragon, I think).

There was a wizard on an airship that the party had gotten kinda chummy with. He was from Karrnath, but a quiet and unobtrusive fellow. He and a Silver Flame Cardinal both turned up dead from poison. I tried Speak with Dead to find out who killed him. It didn't work, so I turned on the cardinal who was obviously responsible. :smalltongue: He responded but couldn't help.

Later, we got ambushed by an invisible foe who taunted us in a familiar voice... I managed to peg his general vicinity with a Fireball, and all was quiet. A few minutes later, his charred corpse shimmered into existence. Guess who? :smalleek:

Turns out that the wizard stole a move from Juliet's playbook for... not sure if we ever found out the reason. Guess I could comb the adventure path for it, but... whatevers. :smallcool:

J.Gellert
2011-09-06, 08:09 PM
It doesn't help that the "Dying" rules already suggest that a lot of things "killed" are really just unconscious and could recover. My players always deal with fallen foes if there's time, and I'm not one to even track negative HPs for critters.

On the other hand, playing dead mid-fight is terribly hard to pull off, especially when faced with things like Fireball. Even if you managed to act while your skin is sizzling, you'd still probably die by "accident" from the next AoE...

I have had better luck with enemies pretending to have failed saving throws vs Charm...

supermonkeyjoe
2011-09-06, 08:21 PM
I'm currently playing with a group who is insanely paranoid about this kind of thing. They were running through the Barrow of the Forgotten King module *WARNING, SPOILERS FOR THIS MODULE MAY FOLLOW*,

The very first statue they encountered (a memorial to those who died) they were convinced had some hidden meaning, so after breaking both the arms off thinking they may be hidden switches they carried on. The first main room contains a couple of zombies pretending to be corpses and some skeletons, they decide (correctly) as soon as they see these corpses that they are going to animate and attack, from this point everything is a candidate for animating so they proceed through this tomb desecrating every corpse and smashing every statue they come across.

Later on this is going to land them in some hot water when a tomb guardian calls them to account for their vandalism and they receive a bill from the townsfolk for their broken memorial :smallbiggrin:

Steward
2011-09-06, 09:41 PM
One additional concern for Evil-aligned parties is that their Cleric may use powerful dark magic like 'Deathwatch' all the time, just to make sure.

Fiery Diamond
2011-09-07, 09:49 PM
One additional concern for Evil-aligned parties is that their Cleric may use powerful dark magic like 'Deathwatch' all the time, just to make sure.

"Deathwatch" as an evil, dark spell strikes me as incredibly silly, to be honest. It's a good, reasonable way of 1) monitoring the life-and-death-and-close-to-death status of your enemies, which could be used for numerous purposes, including knowing when to start using non-lethal if you wanted to avoid killing them but couldn't afford to pull punches from the start and 2) doing the same for your allies, which can also be used for numerous purposes, including knowing when you ABSOLUTELY NEED TO heal your allies AT ONCE.

Cespenar
2011-09-08, 04:07 AM
If your character encounters a lot of instances of "playing dead", then it might make sense for someone to look at every enemy in that particular light, but if something like the OP's post would happen without any precedent, just... ugh.

Steward
2011-09-08, 07:30 AM
"Deathwatch" as an evil, dark spell strikes me as incredibly silly, to be honest. It's a good, reasonable way of 1) monitoring the life-and-death-and-close-to-death status of your enemies, which could be used for numerous purposes, including knowing when to start using non-lethal if you wanted to avoid killing them but couldn't afford to pull punches from the start and 2) doing the same for your allies, which can also be used for numerous purposes, including knowing when you ABSOLUTELY NEED TO heal your allies AT ONCE.

So, are you saying that the ends justified the means, no matter how heinous? I mean, I get what you're saying, but the idea of using such dark magic to know how healthy nearby people are is unspeakably twisted and depraved to me.

You know, it's just an incredibly evil and hateful spell, unlike this one (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/wailOfTheBanshee.htm) or this (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/horridWilting.htm), or even this one. (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/symbolOfPain.htm) I mean, sure, those spells seem horrifying but nothing really compares to the unholy ability to just know how close someone is to death, right?


If your character encounters a lot of instances of "playing dead", then it might make sense for someone to look at every enemy in that particular light, but if something like the OP's post would happen without any precedent, just... ugh.

I'm sure there's precedent. Probably metagame precedent, but I think most people wouldn't do that to someone who looks like a small child just for no reason, right?

Lord Raziere
2011-09-08, 07:41 AM
Bah, you just aren't going far enough.

play dead, using an illusion, so that when they decapitate the corpse, its actually an illusion that reacts to their actions so that it looks like hey decapitated it.

then? surprise them with revealing that they had just killed illusions :smallcool:

Sucrose
2011-09-08, 09:06 AM
Bah, you just aren't going far enough.

play dead, using an illusion, so that when they decapitate the corpse, its actually an illusion that reacts to their actions so that it looks like hey decapitated it.

then? surprise them with revealing that they had just killed illusions :smallcool:

In D&D, at least, that gives an automatic Will save to know that it's an illusion, because trying to decapitate it is very definitely 'interacting with it.'

TheCountAlucard, I'll grant that that part of the story is decidedly more munchkiny.

But yeah; there's a reason that playing dead is an uncommon tactic; when it becomes more common, it very quickly becomes a losing proposition. And, from a metagame standpoint, ever using such tricks really does become a case of the DM saying 'I want you to desecrate the corpses of all enemies for the rest of the game.'

hamishspence
2011-09-08, 09:14 AM
"Deathwatch" as an evil, dark spell strikes me as incredibly silly, to be honest. It's a good, reasonable way of 1) monitoring the life-and-death-and-close-to-death status of your enemies, which could be used for numerous purposes, including knowing when to start using non-lethal if you wanted to avoid killing them but couldn't afford to pull punches from the start and 2) doing the same for your allies, which can also be used for numerous purposes, including knowing when you ABSOLUTELY NEED TO heal your allies AT ONCE.

Especially since it's on the "must be good-aligned" healer's spell list.
Simplest to treat its [evil] tag as a mistake- especially since it didn't have it in 3.0.

Mike_G
2011-09-08, 11:56 AM
Especially since it's on the "must be good-aligned" healer's spell list.
Simplest to treat its [evil] tag as a mistake- especially since it didn't have it in 3.0.

But when we say that about mindless undead, we get all kinds of insane, non-canonical lectures to justify the Evil alignment, like any animated corpse means a puppy's soul gets tormented for a million years.

Yes, the "evil" tag is stupid, but there's a huge precedent for stupid being RAW.

Dimers
2011-09-08, 10:19 PM
Bah, you just aren't going far enough.

play dead, using an illusion, so that when they decapitate the corpse, its actually an illusion that reacts to their actions so that it looks like hey decapitated it.

then? surprise them with revealing that they had just killed illusions :smallcool:

Ooh, ooh, even better -- there are also real enemies in that group who're now playing dead along with all the illusions, and at the same time the illusions fade away, the real enemies get a Mass Invis! :smallbiggrin:

Cespenar
2011-09-09, 02:45 AM
I'm sure there's precedent. Probably metagame precedent, but I think most people wouldn't do that to someone who looks like a small child just for no reason, right?

Metagame precedent was what I had said "ugh" at.

thubby
2011-09-09, 09:32 AM
as unfortunate as it is to lose the narrative device, i gotta say. if I lived in a world where crap i killed could get up and try and eat me, i would turn everything i killed into into meat paste, then burn it to ashes.

in fact, in RL cultures where they did believe that could happen, they had funeral pyres.
in war it was (and, circumstance demanding, still is) standard practice just to stave off disease.

CarpeGuitarrem
2011-09-09, 09:56 AM
Though, as people have pointed out, you can always invoke it in situations where there's consequences for desecrating the corpse. See, for example, Dracula, where the heroes were operating far outside of the social mores in that regard.

"Wait, we're going to cut off her head, and stuff it with GARLIC?"

Steward
2011-09-09, 11:29 AM
But when we say that about mindless undead, we get all kinds of insane, non-canonical lectures to justify the Evil alignment, like any animated corpse means a puppy's soul gets tormented for a million years.

Yes, the "evil" tag is stupid, but there's a huge precedent for stupid being RAW.

True, but I can sort of see how creating undead might be considered evil. I don't agree but I can see how someone else might see it that way (especially in the context of some religions in game that oppose the use of negative energy at all). But death watch... it's really not that much different from the spell status (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/status.htm) and it's certainly much less cruel or destructive than something like Horrid Wilting or Symbol of Pain (the latter of whom was practically designed for sadistic torture).


Metagame precedent was what I had said "ugh" at.

Ah, gotcha.

Morty
2011-09-09, 11:39 AM
Even if the PCs aren't suspicious and don't but a sword, bullet or whatever they have through each dead enemy just to be sure, playing dead still might still raise some problems if the game takes place in a civilized area, especially in modern settings. In such situations, players will be disinclined to just leave a corpse lying around.

Mike_G
2011-09-10, 06:14 PM
True, but I can sort of see how creating undead might be considered evil. I don't agree but I can see how someone else might see it that way (especially in the context of some religions in game that oppose the use of negative energy at all). But death watch... it's really not that much different from the spell status (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/spells/status.htm) and it's certainly much less cruel or destructive than something like Horrid Wilting or Symbol of Pain (the latter of whom was practically designed for sadistic torture).




I have no problem ignoring the bejeezus out of silly rules, and yes, the [Evil] tag on Deathwatch is a silly rule.

My objection was to the poster who has a huge history of the Alignment system warts and all, who decides that this is a rule we should just turn a blind eye to. This is just what I hate about the whole concept of putting an objective, mechanical rules system to deal with a subjective concept.

hamishspence
2011-09-11, 03:53 PM
Sure, I've take part in various alignment debates.

But when a prestige class that Falls if it ever commits an evil act, gets an [Evil] spell on its spell list- and a class that must be Good, also gets that spell, the simplest inference is that somebody in game design has made an error.

There are various ways to solve that error- but of those ways, the simplest is to remove the tag.

Steward
2011-09-11, 06:01 PM
Even if the PCs aren't suspicious and don't but a sword, bullet or whatever they have through each dead enemy just to be sure, playing dead still might still raise some problems if the game takes place in a civilized area, especially in modern settings. In such situations, players will be disinclined to just leave a corpse lying around.

True. If I saw a dead body lying around my neighborhood, I would probably saw through its head with my +3 Greatsword and ram a chunk of wood through its heart. Because I'm a good citizen.


But when a prestige class that Falls if it ever commits an evil act, gets an [Evil] spell on its spell list- and a class that must be Good, also gets that spell, the simplest inference is that somebody in game design has made an error.

Or you could argue that the gods placed it into the spell list as a temptation. Who among us could resist the seductive allure of that greatest of powers -- the ability to tell how unhealthy someone is just by looking at them?

randomhero00
2011-09-11, 06:21 PM
Personally OP I don't think playing dead should work unless its special circumstance. I mean, way back when, people did the deathblow thing regardless of seeming life. And that's without special monsters or magic. With that stuff you'd certainly make sure they are dead.

edit (after big battles it was common to go around with big daggers and make sure they were dead before looting their body of any wealth)

Mike_G
2011-09-13, 05:36 PM
Another point to consider is that with melee weapons, it's hard to kill somebody outright when he's on his feet fighting you. More often than not you'd knock him down, stun him, incapacitate him, and then the killing would be giving the fallen a coup de grace. We often forget this in our firearm dominated age.

If you look at the casualties in medieval battles, they are often pretty lopsided since killing an active defender is hard, but cutting down a guy who's running away or slitting his throat when his buddies leave him stunned on the field is easy.

flumphy
2011-09-13, 06:20 PM
True. If I saw a dead body lying around my neighborhood, I would probably saw through its head with my +3 Greatsword and ram a chunk of wood through its heart. Because I'm a good citizen.


I think they were referring more to disposing of the corpse of the person they just murdered to hide their involvement. You know, by throwing it in a woodchipper or dissolving it in lye.

Anyway, in a setting where creatures can and do come back to life through magic or other abilities and the PCs know this is a possibility, I don't think it's unreasonable to make sure everything is truly dead. I've met more DMs who would punish you for not doing so than ones who would cry metagaming.

Steward
2011-09-14, 06:57 AM
I know, I was just kidding.


I've met more DMs who would punish you for not doing so than ones who would cry metagaming.

Some DMs might do both, though. You know -- it's metagaming to react based on the dumb smirk I have on my face as you walk by the "corpse" of the enemy you "killed".

Choco
2011-09-14, 12:26 PM
The only time I have had playing dead work great was when I did it as a player. However, it worked SO well that it ended the campaign....


The setup:

We are playing a supernatural game in modern times. Magic and just about anything else paranormal exists, but the vast majority of the world's population is kept in the dark about it. My character is a detective on about the same level as Sherlock Holmes, and 2 of the abilities she has are that she can play dead, to the point where even a full autopsy would fail to reveal that she is alive, and she is a master contortionist who can do things like spin her head around 360 degrees. The rest of the group did not know about these abilities because we had never been in a situation that required their use. 1 of the 4 other group members has an explosive temper, and another is very protective of my character. The other 2 go along with what the rest of the group is doing. Oh and they all work for my character :smallbiggrin:.

The Story (long version):

We are attending a formal gathering with all the other bigwig supernatural types. The most powerful and influential NPC there is a total d-bag, and I suspect him of secretly being the main villain of the campaign. We had ran into the main villain before and I caught onto a little bit of foreshadowing the DM dropped for us. Funny story bout the foreshadowing, sometimes I figure out the whole 100 piece puzzle after finding the first random piece in the dumpster, other times the DM is beating me in the head with a glowing neon sign flat-out telling me what is going on and I somehow miss it....

Either way, main villain or no, this character is annoying and obviously pushing our buttons knowing that we can't do anything to him. The DM was clearly pushing onto us the fact that this guy is deplorable in every way and we should hate him. My char happened to be the one talking to him at the time and I suddenly got a flash of inspiration. From what I had figured out about his personality I knew what exactly I needed to say to piss him off, and that he would very well react violently. I succeeded marvelously and he surprisingly did exactly what I expected him to went to backhand me across the face.

The DM had a bit of a confused look on his face when I told him I would accept the hit, and the minor amount of damage, without any resistance. The confusion turned to concern when I said that right as his hand connects, I would spin my head around backwards 180 degrees. The confusion became flat out worry when I then activated my "play dead" ability and collapsed on the ground.

The rest of the group all saw this and of course the guy with the temper and the protective guy go on the attack right away, with the other 2 following suit shortly after. They would not have normally been able to kill him, as he could at least have escaped (he didn't have his epic evil artifacts of doom on him so he was fairly weakened), but I have never seen so many consecutive criticals and max damage rolls in my life. He gets completely SHREDDED. And to top it off, the entire thing was viewed as justified in the eyes of the other attendants (even the guy's supporters couldn't do anything), so the party got away with it! Sure I would have to lay low for a VERY long time cause I am supposed to be dead, but hey I could do that.

We find out at the end of the session that the guy WAS actually the BBEG, and the DM's entire campaign just went up in smoke. He didn't feel up to running it anymore so he put it on hold till he could work out where to go from there. Unfortunately that never happened....

The Story (short version):

My char taunts the guy who is secretly the BBEG (who is not at full power at the time) into attacking her, then plays dead after getting hit. This leads the rest of the party into ganking him, and the DM ends the campaign cause he basically broke.

So basically I used it to start a fight, not to escape from one.

But as others have said, if the PC's are in the middle of a tough fight against multiple enemies they will usually not bother to "waste" rounds attacking downed foes when there is a dragon eating their friend's face a few feet away. Said foes then have until the fight is over to escape or get off some sneak attacks, and if you give them enough stealth skills/spells/abilities they may be able to pull that off. Or even alternate movement, if they could move through ground like earth elementals they could safely "disappear" when all attention is off of them.

Morithias
2011-09-14, 03:03 PM
Alternate Class ability in Exemplar of evils or Elder Evils, I forget which. You give up evasion for the ability to "feign death". Only a true resurrection spell, breaks the faked death.

Considering there's a ring of "evasion" doesn't seem to odd for their to be a ring of "feign death" somewhere too.

Lhurgyof
2011-09-14, 03:30 PM
What about when PC's do it? I've seen a lot of PC's play dead in my time.