A Monster for Every Season: Summer 2
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    PirateCaptain

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    Default PC Death: A question for DM's

    I tend to find myself avoiding killing off my Players (I think it's happened exactly twice in a campaign I was running, and one of those times it was because the player stumbled, alone, into a fight I'd intended for the entire party.) Some DM's say this is right, other's say this is wrong. For the sake of simplicity, I'll make a sliding scale.
    This is for general RPG's, discussing games like Paranoia as a standard example of how DM's should act is treason.
    KILL EM ALL!: PC should equal Posthumous Corpse. This isn't just having the enemies fight smart, this is about building the adventure with the intent of killing the PC's off. The Rogue and Caster heavy party gets hit wit ha Golem. The Fighter-heavy party goes up against strength-sapping ghosts. Goblin rogues pop out of holes and sink their daggers into soft PC flesh, then collapse the ceilings. All enemies with less than 4 HD get the Spellwarped template, and the wizard will never get a full 8 hours of rest.
    Bottom Line: The Kill Em All DM views dead PC's as a goal to strive for.
    No Mercy: This isn't Kill Em All. This is less "The universe is setting up events to kill you" and more "The enemies are trying to kill you". The No Mercy DM realizes that enemies will want to kill the PC's, and has them use effective tactics to maximize the chances of that occuring. Now this dosn't mean that if you're not a No Mercy DM,you must be fighting stupid, the No Mercy DM is just bringing the tactics past what is expected of NPC's, or use monsters they know to be under-CR'd.
    Bottom Line: The No Mercy DM views a PC surviving as a privilege, not a right.
    One foot in the grave, one foot on the ground: The inevitable middle ground. a One Foot in the Grave DM runs the game without intentionally trying to kill the PC's, but won't nudge things to stop them dying.
    Bottom Line: Dosn't care one way or another.
    Lo, for I am Merciful: I fall into this catagory. In battle, the Merciful DM tries to avoid killing players. Enemies rarely focus their fire on the squishiest party member, a PC in negatives will be ignored rather than finished off, the DM conveniently Forgets about a monster's DR or Fast Heal on occasion (Mind you, I usually do this to speed things along, I have a habit of making my battles last too long). The DM isn't totally unwilling to kill you, but they are actively trying to avoid it. This is especially true when the PC's don't have easy access to Raise Dead spells.
    Bottom Line: Will try to avoid PC death, but is not dedicated to preventing it.
    Fire the Gravedigger: This DM absolutally, will NOT let their PC's die. A TPK'd party will be taken prisoner and put in an easily escapable jail cell with their gear in a poorly locked chest across the room, or a wandering party of adventurers will show up, save them, heal them, and leave. Now this dosn't mean the PC's will always Win, it just means that actual PC death will not occur.
    Bottom Line: Will not kill off their PC's.
    Last edited by BRC; 2010-02-23 at 07:38 PM.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I'd place myself approximately in the middle.. though I do tend to slip between "No mercy" and "Lo For I am Merciful" depending on the fight, enemies intelligence and general plot relevance of the fight... becouse dying to the villain is much less a letdown than dying to the random encounter that wasn't supposed to actually be much of a threat.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    I tend to find myself avoiding killing off my Players (I think it's happened exactly twice in a campaign I was running, and one of those times it was because the player stumbled, alone, into a fight I'd intended for the entire party.)
    Now that is a tough DM. Killing one player may be considered an accident, two though...

    No Mercy: This isn't Kill Em All. This is less "The universe is setting up events to kill you" and more "The enemies are trying to kill you". The No Mercy DM realizes that enemies will want to kill the PC's, and has them use effective tactics to maximize the chances of that occurring.
    I try to be this. It's the responsibility of the player to keep their character alive. I'm just an impartial judge who adjudicates the calamitous cascades of catastrophe initiated by player action. (yeah, right )
    Last edited by bosssmiley; 2010-02-23 at 07:00 PM.

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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    No Mercy, I say! As a player, it definitely spoils my fun when I realize that the DM is pulling punches to prevent me from losing, so as a DM, I never do it. Now, I have an honor code with my players that a single bad dice roll should not kill a character, so I avoid monsters with SoD abilities, but my NPCs are always well-twinked, they make full use of the environment and their own abilities, and utilize tactics appropriate to their Intelligence scores and natures.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I'd also say middle ground, though I'd like to point out that you keep referring to player death. Now, I've got no say in what goes on at your tables, but if you find players dying during your gaming sessions to be a common thing, you might just be doing it wrong...

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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I think I tend to be more in the No Mercy side of things, occasionally slipping into the One Foot ground...

    Quote Originally Posted by TheCountAlucard View Post
    I'd also say middle ground, though I'd like to point out that you keep referring to player death. Now, I've got no say in what goes on at your tables, but if you find players dying during your gaming sessions to be a common thing, you might just be doing it wrong...
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I find that it's generally a good idea to write the adventure's encounters with the difficulty level you think is appropriate, and then change the difficulty on the fly. You could make an encounter easier mid-fight by having some enemies get confused and flee, or perhaps an environmental issue kills a few off (ceiling collapse, etc.). Encounters could easily be made more difficult: just have more enemies arrive, reveal that a few of the baddies have a special power or spellcasting abilities, or the like.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I'm mainly One foot in the grave kind of DM. I never actively try to kill my players and if they're roleplaying really well, can even show mercy - but I won't fudge dice for their benefit and if they act dumb they will get what they deserve. It's almost a running gag in our group that whenever I'm the DM, the PCs will end up enlisted in army and in jail, not necessarily in this order. What can I say, they brought it upon themselves.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    This is for general RPG's, discussing games like Paranoia as a standard example of how DM's should act is treason.
    How do you know? Have you read Paranoia's suggestions on how a DM is to act? Isn't that treason?


    I try to be One foot in the grave, one foot on the ground, but I often veer off toward No Mercy. What makes this more striking is that my group claims I am incapable of killing PCs, and says that of the four PC deaths in my last campaign:
    -One was the result of another PC's fireball
    -One didn't actually die, and their exit from the campaign was only because the character (same one as above) didn't even try to resist the dragon's grapple, and the rest of the party didn't give follow the dragon when it flew away.
    -One was triple 20s and, therefore, pure (un-)luck.
    -One was because they forgot to heal her, and they were able to raise her right away so it doesn't count.

    Interestingly, the half-dragon son of the second on the list almost provoked the rest of the party into killing him this past Saturday.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I usually have the enemy NPCs out to kill the players, but not always to the best their abilities allow. I try to take into account their intelligence and wisddom, so a smart creature fights with more tactics than a dumb one. Death is definitely a possible outcome for characters when I DM, but I try not to kill anyone (or at least let them be rezzed without too much difficulty) unless they do something stupid.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by BRC View Post
    One foot in the grave, one foot on the ground: The inevitable middle ground. a One Foot in the Grave DM runs the game without intentionally trying to kill the PC's, but won't nudge things to stop them dying.
    This is where I would probably fall (I'd rename it "Letting the dice fall"). I've just dropped 3 out of 5 PCs in the span of two sessions. Two were pretty unlucky, the third was a nasty module situation. I felt pretty bad, but that's how things rolled out. I think I had only killed one PC up to that point (started at 1st level and now they are 5th).

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    2 sessions ago:
    Rogue tries to tumble through a ghoul's square.
    The party has had no trouble with the ghouls up to this point, aren't getting hit and are hitting them easily.
    Rogue fails her check.
    Ghoul hits with its AoO.
    Rogue fails her fort save and is paralyized.
    Cleric decides to try and hit the squishy ghoul instead of turn it (we are using the variant turning rules).
    Cleric misses.
    I, the DM, roll a d20 to see how the ghoul will act, high and he's really mean, low and he's really nice/stupid. I roll a 20.
    Ghoul coup-de-graces the rogue, the rogue fails her fort save, dead.

    Last session:
    Orc barbarian gets hit with an effect that makes him hate nearest female character (failed Will save against it).
    One shots the female druid (new character of the rogue's player, see above) into unconsciousness.
    Warlock bluffs the barbarian that she is dead.
    Effect says if there is no target, then the person attacks themselves.
    Barbarian starts hacking into himself and others that try to stop him.
    Warlock decides to cast blast at a lower level, only rolling 1d6 instead of 2d6 of damage.
    Orc ends up at 3 hps right before his turn, power attacks himself and kills himself out right.

    Human knight gets hit with an effect (failed will save against it), that makes him want to commit suicide. He takes a sharp stick (treat as a makeshift dagger), and coup-de-graces himself. Fails the fort save and dies.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by bosssmiley View Post
    Now that is a tough DM. Killing one player may be considered an accident, two though...
    Um, you do mean characters...players are the people playing them... killing players is illegal in most states and Canada (I'd hope outside of US as well).

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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I play enemies realistically. Ruthlessly. I don't, however, metagame the CR system, or play enemies past their stated Int level, as your "No Mercy" DM seems to.

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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    My philosophy is that I have put the NPCs and monsters in the world and telegraphed their power levels/capabilities/etc. well enough to the PCs; if they do something stupid and end up dying, I'm not going to save them. I'm not going to go out of my way to kill them, or use exceptional tactics for stupid monsters, or do anything arbitrary like that, but I build things to the power level of the PCs and don't pull punches.

    If the PCs waltz into an enemy base that they know is the personal facility of the enemy's extremely-powerful obviously-templated-and-grafted artificer/necromancer, end up accidentally running into this extremely-powerful necromancer, and subsequently decide that a full-out assault on said extremely-powerful necromancer on his home turf--while he's buffed up and ready to experiment on with powerful subjects--is the best idea*, they're going to get their asses handed to them if they don't retreat after their first assault doesn't even scratch him.

    *Actually happened last campaign; even after I said "What part of 'you're level 5 and this is the BBEG' don't you understand!?" they went ahead with it....
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I usually just tailor the outcome to the situation. For instance, when we were trying out 4th edition (they didn't like it enough to stick o it :P), I accidentally used too many goblins and wound up dropping both of my players below 0 hit points. Rather than saying "sorry, those guys are dead," I simply had them wake up tied up and without their weapons. The goblins had decided to eat them or sacrifice them to Meglubyet or something like that. I didn't want them dying to the random, fairly unimportant adventure just because I misjudged what they could do.

    Side Note:
    Just because the book says that you die at -10 hp (or whatever the number happens to be), it doesn't mean you HAVE to have the character die. You could simply say that they are knocked out to the point that even magical healing won't wake them up until they've had a good, long rest. Plus, this allows you to have the PC's be captured by villains who use fire balls rather than enemies that specialize is non-lethal tactics just so that you can set up that prison scene.

    Back to the main topic, I usually try to know my players when it comes to stuff like this. One guy might be fine with his characters dying at the drop of a hat because he likes being able to try out different characters often. Another guy (and this describes me) would be fine with dying BUT ONLY if he dies at a certain character's hands or as part of an epic moment (surely Gandalf's player didn't mind his character dying in a fight with the Balrog... but then again he did come back later with all the XP that comes from fighting mono on mono with a Balrog to boot...ahem, back to the topic at hand.) Other players might not want to ever die under any circumstances, and that's fine so long as the DM can roll with that. And then there's my buddy who was burned alive by a pyro hydra while hiding amid a bunch of corpses and actually wanted to die, but that's a different topic.

    It all just depends on the situation in the game and how the players feel. Remember, it's all about what's fun. If players have different ideas about what method of handling death is "fun", then I'll try to adapt to all of them as best I can.
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I rarely DM, but when I do, I like to do the following to slightly decrease player deaths: When a character would be reduced to less than 0 HP by damage, I secretly roll a D20. If I roll a number divisible by 3, then I fudge the roll or whatever to save his life. Otherwise I'm a No Mercy DM.

    This rule is excepted whenever the player is going to be killed because of obviously bad decisions, like a fighter in full plate trying to leap a 25-foot pool of lava or acid to reach a ledge to kill someone when there's bridges over to the sides, even though they have enemies on them.
    Last edited by AtopTheMountain; 2010-02-23 at 07:53 PM.

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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I only really coddle them when I know that it's my fault that the players are going to die. When the highest attack bonus the players have is +5, and the cleric has an AC of 25, I go easy. I do however occasionally buff up hard fights when the party is breezing. Wizards are casting spontaneously, the barbarian actually had 10 more HP, ect. Not every fight, but ones that are supposed to matter.

    I also tend to have the creatures go for the stronger player a lot though. And not just power wise, they will go for the charcter with higher hp, to try and balance it a bit.
    Last edited by Tinydwarfman; 2010-02-23 at 07:43 PM.

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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    The few times I've DM'd, I try to be a One Foot In... DM. I'm not gonna go out there and look for ways to make my players hate me, but I don't treat them like babies either. The exceptions are player stupidity (I'll let someone off for one or two stupid moves, but do it enough, and i'm gonna let you jump off the cliff.) where I may even go out of my way to kill off someone who is bringing the game down, and its inverse, DM stupidity (If I mess up and make a fight obviously too hard, or forget something about a creature that makes it uber effective, I'll fudge some, at least to let the PC's get out)
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    Default Re: Player Death: A question for DM's

    I avoid killing my players. I encourage them to think about their characters and really get into it. It can suck if your character dies because of some randomly good roll or some mundane method. Character death generally should be memorable.

    Let's be honest here. CR's are kinda broken. Some monsters of an appropriate CR are way too easy and some are way too hard. I even knew a GM that threw a wizard at the party that had exactly the right spells prepared to destroy the party unless every party member could make 3 straight saves. Doesn't particularly seem fair. There's no reason the wizard should have had those EXACT spells prepared. When they actually beat it because they GM cut them a SLIGHT break and let them have a second save out of the incredibly broken spell he was using, the GM gave them a very small exp reward. Why? Because it was only level 17 wizard and they were a level 16 party.

    That's an extreme scenario though. So, why do I bring it up? Well, it makes a point. As a GM, at any given point, you have the means to kill your players easily. It is, in no way, a challenge, even keeping within the expected CR limits. Short of doing something like Tomb of Horrors where the point is to see how far the party survives, there's really no reason to just wave your hand to kill the party. Rocks fall, everyone dies isn't fun for anyone except maybe the sadistic GM.

    I also generally have a problem with trying to be too challenging. Not all of my players are power-gamers, and the ones that are have learned to tone it down. Not everyone can or WANTS to play a character of optimized build #17. When you put the difficulty up where an optimized build is required, everyone needs to play up there. This works for some groups, but in any group with varied experience levels, this means that the big optimizers will ultimately over-shadow the other players and make them feel useless.

    So yeah. I'm a bit easy on my players. They work hard on their characters, and they deserve a suitably interesting death if they have to.

    Also, this discussion seems to instantly assume that you'll be playing D&D where a ressurection or raise dead spell is just around the corner if a player wants to get back up after a certain level. The vast majority of systems I run don't have such luck. Once you're dead, you're dead for good. No one's coming back from the dead without Deus Ex Machina. In system's like this, challenging the players can often feel mean-spirited.

    Honestly, my big problem with D&D death has always been the level loss. I have no problem with a character dying to a monster, but having the player fall behind the other players because of it always seemed harsh. After all, half the time, it's the front line party members that die, not the squishy ones. It's not the fighter or Barbarian's fault that they took 100 damage from the dragon because the Wizard botched their spell to finish it off. Someone has to hold the line, and playing that character is likely to end with you punished with no extra reward. This isn't a competition to be the best. It's a social game. No one should have to suffer because they didn't choose to play X party role first.

    Bit of rambling there, but that's my 2 cents.

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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    During levels 1-4, I`m "One foot in the grave...." I don`t like to kill young partys.

    Levels 5 and up I'm No mercy :P
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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    I am definitely a No Mercy. I don't directly brutalize my players, but I don't pull punches. If a monster is attacking a player, and that player drops to negatives, and the monster likes eating fresh kills... well, they're gonna get munched on, cause the damn thing is likely hungry. If against NPCs, they WILL focus fire to drop their foes, since that's the best way to end encounters (this assumes an Int score of 11+). Intelligent monsters are brutal, using clever tactics when it's important. Enemy spellcasters bring good loadouts and use then in smart ways. They have NPC gear that is mildly optimized for their needs, etc.

    Basically, I use practical optimization as a general rule, and encourage my players to do the same. I don't pull punches for any reason, and they all know it. If they die due to assuming I'll let them live or I'll be nice when it's unwarranted, they're fools, and they've been warned as such.

    All that I say applies only to myself. You author your own actions and choices. I cannot and will not be responsible for you, nor are you for me, regardless of situation or circumstance.

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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by Drager0 View Post
    During levels 1-4, I`m "One foot in the grave...." I don`t like to kill young partys.

    Levels 5 and up I'm No mercy :P
    +1, it just feels like such a waste and is far too easy for PCs to die at early levels, especially one or two.

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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by arguskos View Post
    If a monster is attacking a player, and that player drops to negatives, and the monster likes eating fresh kills... well, they're gonna get munched on, cause the damn thing is likely hungry.
    I'm not sure this is entirely true as you put it.

    Under that logic, either your encounters are well below player CR, you play very low level games, or your frontline characters die almost every encounter. Half the CR appropriate monsters in the monster manual past level 4 are designed to knock out 1 player a round (the other ones are either weak or designed to kill the entire party simultaneously with some genetic trick). So, unless your players can kill the monster in 2 turn, there's a dead party member every encounter.

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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by Dairun Cates View Post
    I'm not sure this is entirely true as you put it.

    Under that logic, either your encounters are well below player CR, you play very low level games, or your frontline characters die almost every encounter. Half the CR appropriate monsters in the monster manual past level 4 are designed to knock out 1 player a round (the other ones are either weak or designed to kill the entire party simultaneously with some genetic trick). So, unless your players can kill the monster in 2 turn, there's a dead party member every encounter.
    Eh, if they're really putting the hurt on, it'll try and scare other dudes off to eat in peace. Remember, we're dealing with an animal-level intelligence critter here, it wants to eat it's food in peace. No demon will do this, they'll spread around the pain. No devil will do this, he'll kill efficiently and quickly, then torture the unconscious. Now, a creature like the Voor? A top predator? A Dinosaur? They'll target one character, knock them dead or unconscious, try and scare off others, and drag their meal away to eat. This doesn't ever happen though, because the other PCs will just force it to fight by not fleeing, and thus no one gets eaten.

    However, yes, I have had players die to something like that. They were attacked by a Famine Spirit, who knocked a PC unconscious and then ate him next turn. Why? Because that what the damn thing does! It eats people.

    Also, yes, my combats are sometimes 2 turns, especially against solo bruisers that use this tactic, since there's a whole party against a solo bruiser, he's not gonna live too long. And I plan for that.

    All that I say applies only to myself. You author your own actions and choices. I cannot and will not be responsible for you, nor are you for me, regardless of situation or circumstance.

  25. - Top - End - #25

    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by Dairun Cates View Post
    I'm not sure this is entirely true as you put it.

    Under that logic, either your encounters are well below player CR, you play very low level games, or your frontline characters die almost every encounter. Half the CR appropriate monsters in the monster manual past level 4 are designed to knock out 1 player a round (the other ones are either weak or designed to kill the entire party simultaneously with some genetic trick). So, unless your players can kill the monster in 2 turn, there's a dead party member every encounter.
    That is also one really stupid monster. Who stops in the middle of fighting to eat?

    Fighter: Ha, take that, vile beast!
    Orc: Ug, ug, Gromsh smash you!
    *ding ding ding*
    Fighter: Ah, tea time, perfect! I was just getting hungry! Pulls out portable table and tea set
    Orc: Uh, should Gromsh come back at better time?
    Fighter: Nonsense! Sit down, there's plenty for everyone.

    And they all lived happily ever after...

    EDIT: Oh come on, you ruined my fun
    Last edited by Tinydwarfman; 2010-02-23 at 08:55 PM.

  26. - Top - End - #26

    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    I try to keep my players alive, within reason. Enemies know that if one member of the party is down (negatives) and there is no easy way for the healer to get to them (if there even is one... my players all want to play glory hogging fighters) it's a waste of time to kill them until after the battle. Or, that's what I'll say.

    Of course, if the Wizard has the bright idea of charging into the middle of a crowd, and the enemies kill him with their AoO's... then it's his own damn fault.
    It's been a bit, GitP. If you're reading this, you're either digging through old stuff, or I've posted for the first time in forever.

    If you want to stay in touch, reach out to me on twitter (same username).

    The best answer is always to ask your DM.
    Unless you're the DM, in which case you should talk to your players.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    I'm pretty merciful when it comes to this sort of thing. I've only killed PCs twice that I can remember. Either the game was ending or the player was leaving, so both were expected deaths.

    I do it this way because my games are focused on story more than anything else. I get attached to the characters that are involved and I want to see them succeed, or at least resolve. If I ran a rotating door style game where characters swapped in and out every week I'd get bored of the game and stop running it.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    My DM is mostly No Mercy, but he has a splash of Lo for I am merciful. He allows us 2 Fate points (similar to Karma in Shadowrun 3e) that we can choose to burn at anytime in order to avoid death. Once burned they never come back. You only ever get two. This is sort of his way of keeping the players from killing themselves with intense stupidity.
    As an example, I started a bar fight when I tried to tip the odds of a wager in my favour. I calmly dimension door'd away. The DM declared this a **** move and dropped me off in front of two barbed devils. I was forced to spend a fate point or get bent over and murdered.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by Noedig View Post
    My DM is mostly No Mercy, but he has a splash of Lo for I am merciful. He allows us 2 Fate points (similar to Karma in Shadowrun 3e) that we can choose to burn at anytime in order to avoid death. Once burned they never come back. You only ever get two. This is sort of his way of keeping the players from killing themselves with intense stupidity.
    As an example, I started a bar fight when I tried to tip the odds of a wager in my favour. I calmly dimension door'd away. The DM declared this a **** move and dropped me off in front of two barbed devils. I was forced to spend a fate point or get bent over and murdered.
    ...you legally escaped from a bad situation... and he screwed you? Forcing you to use a Fiat Card to get out of the situation?? I question his judgment on that one, just sayin'.

    Also, Tinydwarfman, sorry to ruin your fun buddy. However, I've done that before. My party was fighting a very suave and civilized Aristocrat, and halfway through the fight, this bell rings. He perks up, lowers his blade, and asks if they'd like to join him for afternoon tea. The party was surprised, to say the least. They eventually did join him, after much bickering, and over the course of that tea and biscuits, they actually ended up allying with the Aristocrat!

    All that I say applies only to myself. You author your own actions and choices. I cannot and will not be responsible for you, nor are you for me, regardless of situation or circumstance.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Dairun Cates's Avatar

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    Default Re: PC Death: A question for DM's

    Quote Originally Posted by arguskos View Post
    ...you legally escaped from a bad situation... and he screwed you? Forcing you to use a Fiat Card to get out of the situation?? I question his judgment on that one, just sayin'.
    Yeah... Pretty much this. It seems a bit off to GM fiat you to death and then say that you have to spend something that's limited to escape it. He always could have made you wanted in the city later instead. The punishment is totally unfitting in this case.

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