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Made in us
Decrepit Dakkanaut





Glorious Nation of U.S.S.A!

Same here. I know I posted this in the D&D thread as that's the only RPG system I'm currently playing but I'd appreciate answers from any FWIW.
   
Made in gb
Legendary Master of the Chapter





UK

Closest I can think of is losing a fight we were definitely meant to win, thus causing the entire end of a campaign to have entirely different stakes than what was planned. We still won in the end, but going into that last session it was pretty apparent this was not how things were expected to go.

Last year I was in a campaign VERY loosely based on Descent into Avernus (more as a setting guide for Avernus than the actual campaign) and the finale for that went a completely different direction after we spectacularly failed to stop Arlhan the Cruel from summoning Tiamat into Avernus. We had 5 rounds to defeat him before his ritual was complete, and between bad rolls and decisions and the DM playing things very smart, we just couldn't do it. By round 5, one of us was dead, one down and one only just up, leaving Arkhan pretty much unopposed.

Thus, the final session, which was meant to be a showdown with Archduke Zariel at her tower, instead became an enormous battle against/on/beneath a freshly unleashed dragon godess with pretty much every major player in Avernus showing up to join in, whether for rulership, revenge or just for the fight. The PC that died soent most of the session as a resurrected vassal of Tiamat fighting against us, until the other two were able to knock him out of it. A personal highlight was going 1v1 with Arkhan on top of one of Tiamat's heads until Grog Strogjaw (yes, that Grog Strongjaw) 'This Is Sparta'd him off... It was truly epic, and we still won in the end, but the planned finale had to be completely scrapped as the DM had assumed (not necessarily wrongly) that we would at least beat Arkhan the first time and go up against Zariel a little drained, but not that he'd actually succeed in his quest to free Tiamat and that we'd have to deal with that.

To be philosophical for a moment, I'm not sure a campaign can really be 'lost' short of a TPK as while the players are alive, there's still the chance to do something if the GM is willing to keep running the game. Sure, Vecna ascends to the divine plane, but you can still Planeshift over there and try to kick his arse. The death knight takes the throne, but you can still try and deposehim or start a rebellion. I honestly think it'd be a pretty harsh and unfun GM that said 'no, the bad guys win and there's nothing you can do' while PCs are still alive and willing to try. Maybe that try is certain to end in a TPK, or they only avenge the world rather than saving it, but I'd at least them them play it out on the off chance they win, as I've run long enough to know that players are always coming up with solutions I have never even considered and I'm perfectly happy to let them try.

I'm curious to see if anyone has 'lost' eithout the PCs being entirely killed/dominated/maimed beyond retaliation as I genuinely struggle to think of a situation where the campaign can truly end with the players still alive and kicking, and the villain's victory not just becoming the start of a new arc of the narrative.

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2021/08/20 22:34:02


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Dominating Dominatrix






A lot of GMs will write/run campaigns that more or less cannot be lost. They are designed from the ground up to often give players an illusion of real danger but nothing is ever really put in front of the players without the expectation that they will overcome it.

I have recently been on a bit of a kick with the idea that the players CAN'T really win. Not so much that they are destined to loose, but that there is no real win scenario.

They are presented with a situation and are meant to come up with an answer to try for but all answers have some kind of consequence. Maybe it's what they wanted and so, to them, they won. But I didn't write that. They did it on their own. And the consequences there of are theirs for better or for worse.


These are my opinions. This is how I feel. Others may feel differently. This needs to be stated for some reason.
 
   
Made in us
Decrepit Dakkanaut





Glorious Nation of U.S.S.A!

 Paradigm wrote:
Closest I can think of is losing a fight we were definitely meant to win, thus causing the entire end of a campaign to have entirely different stakes than what was planned. We still won in the end, but going into that last session it was pretty apparent this was not how things were expected to go.

Spoiler:
Last year I was in a campaign VERY loosely based on Descent into Avernus (more as a setting guide for Avernus than the actual campaign) and the finale for that went a completely different direction after we spectacularly failed to stop Arlhan the Cruel from summoning Tiamat into Avernus. We had 5 rounds to defeat him before his ritual was complete, and between bad rolls and decisions and the DM playing things very smart, we just couldn't do it. By round 5, one of us was dead, one down and one only just up, leaving Arkhan pretty much unopposed.

Thus, the final session, which was meant to be a showdown with Archduke Zariel at her tower, instead became an enormous battle against/on/beneath a freshly unleashed dragon godess with pretty much every major player in Avernus showing up to join in, whether for rulership, revenge or just for the fight. The PC that died soent most of the session as a resurrected vassal of Tiamat fighting against us, until the other two were able to knock him out of it. A personal highlight was going 1v1 with Arkhan on top of one of Tiamat's heads until Grog Strogjaw (yes, that Grog Strongjaw) 'This Is Sparta'd him off... It was truly epic, and we still won in the end, but the planned finale had to be completely scrapped as the DM had assumed (not necessarily wrongly) that we would at least beat Arkhan the first time and go up against Zariel a little drained, but not that he'd actually succeed in his quest to free Tiamat and that we'd have to deal with that.

To be philosophical for a moment, I'm not sure a campaign can really be 'lost' short of a TPK as while the players are alive, there's still the chance to do something if the GM is willing to keep running the game. Sure, Vecna ascends to the divine plane, but you can still Planeshift over there and try to kick his arse. The death knight takes the throne, but you can still try and deposehim or start a rebellion. I honestly think it'd be a pretty harsh and unfun GM that said 'no, the bad guys win and there's nothing you can do' while PCs are still alive and willing to try. Maybe that try is certain to end in a TPK, or they only avenge the world rather than saving it, but I'd at least them them play it out on the off chance they win, as I've run long enough to know that players are always coming up with solutions I have never even considered and I'm perfectly happy to let them try.


I'm curious to see if anyone has 'lost' eithout the PCs being entirely killed/dominated/maimed beyond retaliation as I genuinely struggle to think of a situation where the campaign can truly end with the players still alive and kicking, and the villain's victory not just becoming the start of a new arc of the narrative.


Good point as I hadn't thought about the TPK/almost TPK scenario. I was more asking about situations where the characters or at least most of the party survived but failed at the point of the campaign. Obviously dying would fulfill that requirement though! While reading your post, it reminded me that I ran myself, namely most of the 3.5 Red Hand of Doom campaign. We didn't actually finish it (got about 2/3 of the way) but I had to keep track of exactly how many days the players were taking during the campaign over the IRL months and they were definitely behind with all the extra rests they took along the way so that certain outcomes weren't really possible for them anymore. We never finished the campaign so I wasn't ever able to reveal the consequences of the (in)action.
   
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 warboss wrote:
Anyone ever played in an RPG campaign where you failed at the main objective at the end of the campaign?


Never been in a campaign with a 'main objective,' to be honest. 'Adventure paths' were after my heyday in RPGs, and I was a military brat, then college, then moving around for work. Nothing lasted that long.
Player attrition (from other commitments/lack of interest) is always the Big Bad of any campaign.

Efficiency is the highest virtue. 
   
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Longtime Dakkanaut





 Paradigm wrote:
I'm curious to see if anyone has 'lost' eithout the PCs being entirely killed/dominated/maimed beyond retaliation as I genuinely struggle to think of a situation where the campaign can truly end with the players still alive and kicking, and the villain's victory not just becoming the start of a new arc of the narrative.
I've had PCs decide that the goal of the campaign was either beyond their reach or not of sufficient value to them, and bail out.
World is ending? Plane shift.

A number of lone survivors, particularly in call of cthulhu, the alcoholic detective character was so utterly plastered that when the rest of the party got on the wrong side of a few insanity checks he had already passed out and missed it.
Woke up the next day, everyone was gone and all was right with the world.

Games like the old firestorm peak adventure are also a good example of where you can fail without being killed or giving up. You can run out of time without the big bad ever knowing you were there, get stuck on the wrong side of a couple of portals, or if you do poorly enough you can get caught by the duragar and sold into slavery kicking off a new adventure arc... and potentially not even 'failing' the adventure long term if the partys' actions later lead to the new duragar leader kicking the big bad off their turf.

Not a campaign, but one game of Dark Heresy (40k) I ran saw the players investigating an attempting assassination attempt on their psyker. They had mixed success catching and not catching various red herrings before locking in on a community living in the wastes outside of regulated Imperium rule and brought the hammer down on them.
The actual 'villain' was a pious woman that they had pulled in half way through the campaign who kept trying to confess her guilt, and kept being cut off by suggestions that she abhor the witch more and tolerate the mutant less. At the time the players were poking fun at the psykers fumbled divination attempts that had defiled the cardinals antechamber (and almost summoned a daemon) and so they unknowingly parted ways on good terms with the assassin having renewed her faith in her actions.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/22 15:36:22


 
   
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Decrepit Dakkanaut





Glorious Nation of U.S.S.A!

Voss wrote:
 warboss wrote:
Anyone ever played in an RPG campaign where you failed at the main objective at the end of the campaign?


Never been in a campaign with a 'main objective,' to be honest. 'Adventure paths' were after my heyday in RPGs, and I was a military brat, then college, then moving around for work. Nothing lasted that long.
Player attrition (from other commitments/lack of interest) is always the Big Bad of any campaign.


Yeah, it definitely only could happen in a long (6 months +) campaign of dedicated players without much turnover otherwise there is no investment.
   
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Nuremberg

I've had several campaigns end in a total party kill, as well as some where we failed in what we were trying to do without dying. Meaningful failure is important for me to enjoy a game.

   
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MN

I have to admit that I am shocked how my current group keeps showing up Tuesday night, after Tuesday night. It is something special.

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Decrepit Dakkanaut





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I'm jealous. We're averaging a monthly game this year instead of weekly. :(
   
Made in gb
Legendary Master of the Chapter





UK

Yeah, players' schedules are the real TPKs!

Over the last year since lockdown, my group has been trying to counter that by changing up our campaign formats a bit. Both myself and the other most frequent DM have completed multi-year 50-odd session epics and that's great when it works, but for the last 18 months we've switched over to more of a miniseries format; 6-12ish session campaigns with a strong thematic/narrative through-line and a lot of what we consider 'dead' time (travel, logistics, shopping) cut out to keep each session snappy and significant.

This has allowed us to cover all kinds of stories and tones and actually finish them, rather than being tied to a single overarching campaign on the rare occasions everyone's around, and endless (ultimately pointless) oneshots when we're down a player or two. In the last 18 months we've done the aforementioned Avernus game, a Potter-esque Magic School adventure, a low-level military campaign that was essentially escorting a supply wagon through dangerous territory on a time limit, and we're currently approaching the end of a Ravenloft game which is basically family melodrama meets gothic horror.

It's not the perfect solution, and part of me still wants to go back to long epic campaigns lasting hundreds of hours, but between jobs, universities and lockdowns that's just not going to happen for the forseeable future. This way, we get games finished that have slightly more stakes (and thus, investment) than the endless string of unconnected oneshots we were doing before, and it's allowed us as both DMs and players to do some really interesting and innovative stuff that a more traditional campaign just doesn't allow.

I'm sure a lot of people would look at these games and call them railroads given the very specific start and end points most of them have, but that's pretty much how our group rolls anyway; if the DM doesn't have a story to tell then we generally just don't bother, more freeform sandboxy games are just not our thing.

It allows for both PCs and the general narrative to be a bit more tailored towards a collaborative story as well. In the current Ravenloft miniseries, I have one of the two players playing the son of Strahd Von Zarovich. That wouldn't really be workable in a traditional campaign or even something like Curse of Strahd run by the book, but with just 7 sessions and two players, that's a story we can tell and it's perfectly feasible for the game to be 'about' that character without getting waring. Likewise, in the magic school game, big chunks of the narrative fell on an NPC rather than a PC, as somewhat ironically we did end up filling out the Harry/Ron/Hermione archetypes, but the two players were the latter two and the NPC was the one with the Chosen One business going on. Not really sustainable over 40 sessions, but over 8 is gave us some incredible moments watching and supporting this character's growth alongside our own.

So in short, if your group is falling apart over scheduling issues and such, mybe give this more concise format a try if someone in the group has an idea for it. It does take a lot of prep and is still at the mercy of Real Life's random encounters, but if you ask me 6-8 games and a complete story is better than 30 with no resolution, even if you're not getting games in more than once or twice a month.

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Northumberland

I accidentally killed my mate's character the other week. It was meant to be a fairly easy fight against some mobs that had been giving the party some gyp for about 5 sessions on and off. The cleric got himself flanked and he got dropped, hit by a player AoE and then rolled a crit fail on his second death save.

It was literally a random encounter I threw in towards the end of an RP and travel session and boy oh boy did I feel guilty!

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MN

So session 18 of Curse of Strahd went off last night. I think this is going to be one of those 50 session epics at the rate we are going. 1 of 15 potential milestones done so far. We spent most of the night helping move some wine around Barovia.

This brought up two things:
1. Observers. How many of your groups have observers that come and watch the game?

Any given session and we have about 2 consistent observers, and a rotating cast of 2-4 others on any given night. Now, eventually, we will pull some of the folks who are there consistently to be players later. Sometimes, we have them be the monsters, or guest star as NPCs with the GMs help. However, this is a phenomenon I have not experienced before.

2. Olthannon also brings up another point, how do you deal with Character death in your games? To me, a character death should never be accidental. The players should have plenty of idea what their characters are getting into before they get into it, and second I always believe that the DM is not bound by the rules of the game; only the players are.

With my current group I am pretty sure that my approach to GMing is NOT their approach. Therefore, I wanted to get a feel for how GMs from other groups do things.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/25 14:12:26


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 Olthannon wrote:
I accidentally killed my mate's character the other week. It was meant to be a fairly easy fight against some mobs that had been giving the party some gyp for about 5 sessions on and off. The cleric got himself flanked and he got dropped, hit by a player AoE and then rolled a crit fail on his second death save.
So one of the other players threw an AoO attack down on their dying companion and killed them?

Sounds like a careless party rathern than a DM kill IMO.
There are plenty of things that would - i.e. having enemies deliberately dogpile a character when they are down, sneak attacks against the one guy in the party won't survive them, and the classic tomb of horrors "you open the door, make a DC23 fortitude save or be instantly killed... wait, no, wrong page, take 212 points of damage instead with no save... then make a DC23 fortitude save..."
   
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Legendary Master of the Chapter





UK

PC deaths are a;ways tricky, and pretty much more than anything else depend on the kind of game you're playing. For a tense, old-schoold dungeon crawl every room should feel like it could kill you, be that by bad luck, carelessness or overwhelming danger. In a more dramatic game, obviously it;s best reserved for climactic moments of tension and the conclusion of narrative arcs. and so certain encounters are designed to be genuinely deadly while others (like most action beats in media) pose little genuine threat to the central characters, but often have stakes beyond that such as NPCs in danger or a ticking time bomb (literally or figuratively).

That said, sometimes the dice just get away from you. The Nat 1 Death Save is one of those things that you just can't prepare for, and sometimes fate takes its course. Likewise, sometimes players just do things that dramatically tip the balance of an encounter way away from what you had intended.

First PC to die in my game was a very squishy warlock who, on his first use of Summon Greater Demon, threw down a Barlguura and promptly lost control of it after one round. As the fight dwindled, it had fewer and fewer targets and it got to the point where all I could have it do was attack the Warlock, who at this point was a good few hundred feet from the rest of his fleeing allies. As a DM that's a rough situation, because you either have the monster act completely out of character, introduce a Deus Ex Machina to get rid of it or you play it straight and know that it's going to lead to a dead PC (this was a 2-player game, so any death was going to majorly effect the upcoming sessions).

In hindsight, there are ways I could have resolved that better (both the death and the subsequent return of that PC as first a Lingering Soul and eventually a full resurrection for the sake of the game continuing) but the main takeaway I've got from both that event and some future PC deaths (both as player and DM) is that when I'm running, the dice fall where they may. A lot of advice says to go easy on players, especially at low level, and fudge away that unlucky crit or max damage roll, but for me that just defeats the purpose. If the dice swing wildly and someone ends up dead, that's the game; I feel fudging it, even if the players never know, cheapens it somehow and I would rather live and die by the dice than have it all mean nothing.

That said, as a DM there are a few things I do to mitigate that risk in situations where I don't want death to occur. The NPC healer is always handy, and to some extent it's easy to rationalise most enemies not attacking downed PCs; if they're dumb beasts, they aren't going to feed or loot while still under attack, and for intelligent foes it's more prudent to deal with the active threats than waste time on someone out of the fight. At a certain point, depending on the campaign, some form of resurrection becomes at least somewhat easily accessible and if that's relevant, I do try and make sure the characters know such a thing is available ahead of time should the worst happen unexpectedly.

On the other hand, attacking downed PCs can lead to some tremendous tension, and for a certain type of enemy really make them a threat. I do save this for major antagonists, but just as you can rationalise not going for the kill, it's also not a leap for a lot of villains to understand and utilise the inherent upper hand (both mathematically and emotionally) a truly dead foe gives them. In such moments, I do offer any PC near enough the chance to use their reaction to try and divert the villain's attention somehow, and will often allow some kind of roleplaying to buy a moment's grace for the fallen ally. Typically, I'm more likely to go for one attack on a downed PC (thus making their next death save a 50/50) than I am to outright kill them with multiple strikes while down.

Final thing I do, and this is really going into a more cinematic style of game, is what I call 'The Boromir Rule'. This came up in the final session of my last game, where a PC that had been there from session 1 was finally killed outright by the villain, stabbed twice while downed. When that player's next turn came around, I made it clear to them that for all intents and purposes, they are dead when this fight is over. Their wounds are mortal and no amount of healing is bringing them back, but with the last of their strength they can buy a few moments more. This let the player stay in the fight for the last couple of rounds, really making their sacrifice count, and still gave the heartfelt and emotional final moments as the dust settled. Obviously, this can go wrong if the player doesn't buy into it thematically, as on one hand this idea does make them immortal for a couple of rounds, but overall I think it was far more satisfying that just having them bleed out unceremoniously or having to contrive a reason that this arch-enemy that was dropping 4 attacks a turn wouldn't spend two of them on a kill shot. Only to be used very sparingly, but one of the few ways to make a PCs death genuinely epic and emotional (hence Boromir).

I think pretty much every DM is going to have a slightly different approach to PC death and there really isn't a right one. Sometimes, the threat of it is enough that you have tension without any real danger. Sometimes, a DM is going to be ruthless and set a tone where life is cheap and death frequent. Most, I think, will go somewhere in the middle, wanting to avoid an unsatisfying death to wolves or zombies or nameless bandits while making sure the danger is real at certain critical moments. Likewise, you're going to get some very different perpsectives of resurrection, where in some games it'll be the norm that a fallen hero is just fine a week or two later, while others put a little more weight on it and add in a chance of failure or some other component such as a quest or permanent cost to the standard resurrection spells. Personally, I'm generally against 'cheap' resurrection for the most part, but not altogether against PCs eventually returning with sufficient strings attached.

I have now written almost certainly too much about the philosophy of killing imaginary characters with dice...

This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2021/08/25 21:35:08


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I was running a game of Forbidden lands where the magic is very dangerous and can potentially back lash against you if you are not careful. Early on... like ... session 4? The sorcerer of the party decided to cast a spell a little outside his skill which more or less guarantees SOMETHING is going to go wrong. Even worse, he did it to a NPC that was BARELY in their way and just wanted to show of by going overboard.

He ended up contracting a magical disease. The next day he gained no rest. Then he started degrading. A few days into their journey he had fallen unconscious and by the time they reached their next destination they did so carrying their friends corpse.

I have no problems with players killing themselves. It's usually pretty funny. We all had a good laugh and he rolled up a new character.


These are my opinions. This is how I feel. Others may feel differently. This needs to be stated for some reason.
 
   
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Glorious Nation of U.S.S.A!

A.T. wrote:
 Olthannon wrote:
I accidentally killed my mate's character the other week. It was meant to be a fairly easy fight against some mobs that had been giving the party some gyp for about 5 sessions on and off. The cleric got himself flanked and he got dropped, hit by a player AoE and then rolled a crit fail on his second death save.
So one of the other players threw an AoO attack down on their dying companion and killed them?


AoE area of effect, not attack of opportunity.

Still, catching a player in an area spell in a game system where the area effect is known when you know they can be downed is a bit douchey unless they were ok with it was Drax in GOTG. It's a different story if you're in a more randomly generated system or a gritty theater of the mind one as players understand that risk ahead of time.


Automatically Appended Next Post:
 Easy E wrote:

This brought up two things:
1. Observers. How many of your groups have observers that come and watch the game?

Any given session and we have about 2 consistent observers, and a rotating cast of 2-4 others on any given night. Now, eventually, we will pull some of the folks who are there consistently to be players later. Sometimes, we have them be the monsters, or guest star as NPCs with the GMs help. However, this is a phenomenon I have not experienced before.


I've had but admittedly rarely observers both most recently as a player in an online game and in person as a GM in the past. For the online game, it was a friend of the GM and a former party member in a different campaign and they mostly quietly observed in voice chat, only occasionally chiming in with a joke when we're all bs'ing. The in person game "observer" was the most annoying type of FLGS stalker that butts in on your campaign to argue rules/decisions/house rules mid combat in scenarios where the actual players were fine with the resolution; after a few polite responses and later unsuccessful requests to not interrupt, I told them they were not welcome to sit at the table and to bug off during the second session they "observed".

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/26 11:29:54


 
   
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MN

Our observers generally add to the fun, so I enjoy having them. Plus, they are a ready pool of new potential players when we rotate campaigns. They are also fill-ins for when a player can not make it, and generally do a very good job trying to role-play as the person who is absent!

Regarding "Let the Dice Roll as they May", I have a true "DM Confession" to make. I roll the dice a lot behind my screens BUT I do not care what the result is. If it is more interesting they get hit, they get hit, and take an appropriate amount of damage to make it interesting. Same with the monsters.

I actually find the random results of dice a lot less interesting. Pretty much the only people at my table where dice rolls matter is the PCs, and that is to measure their success. As the DM/GM, I determine the success based on what needs to happen to make the game cooler, harder, easier, quicker, etc.

If the PCs are into something, I can stretch it out or make it bigger! If they are lazy or not that invested, I can make it quicker and move on, or up the stakes to get their attention and make them engage fully.

Granted, D&D is a bit trickier to do this with, but I have been doing this for a lot of years so I have a general feel for the "flow" of a game, and can read my players reactions to things at the table.

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Yeah, I fudge rolls when it's convenient to propel the story and increase the fun if I'm using a GM screen. If gming, I ask before the campaign if they prefer open or closed GM rolls. I fully admit that on occasion I will fudge rolls mainly (but not exclusively) in the players favor to avoid cheap shots like an npc alpha strike crit that drops a player with no recourse. I prefer to let players kill themselves whenever possible, giving them ample warning but not pulling punches if they ignore it repeatedly.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/26 14:24:21


 
   
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Enginseer with a Wrench





Northumberland

 warboss wrote:
A.T. wrote:
 Olthannon wrote:
I accidentally killed my mate's character the other week. It was meant to be a fairly easy fight against some mobs that had been giving the party some gyp for about 5 sessions on and off. The cleric got himself flanked and he got dropped, hit by a player AoE and then rolled a crit fail on his second death save.
So one of the other players threw an AoO attack down on their dying companion and killed them?


AoE area of effect, not attack of opportunity.

Still, catching a player in an area spell in a game system where the area effect is known when you know they can be downed is a bit douchey unless they were ok with it was Drax in GOTG. It's a different story if you're in a more randomly generated system or a gritty theater of the mind one as players understand that risk ahead of time.


It was actually a smart move. So the cleric went down in the enemies turn and the fighter was up next, he cast thunderwave which with the dmg caused 1 death save failure but it also safely propelled clerics unconscious body out of the mob of enemies near to another player. Unfortunately in the turn order the cleric was then up next and he then rolled the natural 1 which is 2 failures and thus death.

Just one of those things but killing someone in a throwaway random encounter felt terrible.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/26 19:29:34


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Terrifying Doombull






Nuremberg

I find deaths in throwaway battles help to cement the feeling of the world as a real place, but it's very much a style thing as Paradigm explained very well above. If I was your player I'd be satisfied that you weren't pulling your punches.

   
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Yeah. I am always happy to see my own characters fall to the whims of the game and the decisions of the players. The only thing inoortant to me is that the players have agency. If the dm just decides they die with no chance or choice for the player thats a bunch of bull. But having players die because they made a choice and suffer the consequences... Fantastic.

Some groups/players don't like that. But unless i have real risks and stakes (or at least very convincing illusions of risks/stakes) i have a hard time being invested.

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/28 17:37:27



These are my opinions. This is how I feel. Others may feel differently. This needs to be stated for some reason.
 
   
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 Easy E wrote:
Our observers generally add to the fun, so I enjoy having them. Plus, they are a ready pool of new potential players when we rotate campaigns. They are also fill-ins for when a player can not make it, and generally do a very good job trying to role-play as the person who is absent!

Regarding "Let the Dice Roll as they May", I have a true "DM Confession" to make. I roll the dice a lot behind my screens BUT I do not care what the result is. If it is more interesting they get hit, they get hit, and take an appropriate amount of damage to make it interesting. Same with the monsters.

I actually find the random results of dice a lot less interesting. Pretty much the only people at my table where dice rolls matter is the PCs, and that is to measure their success. As the DM/GM, I determine the success based on what needs to happen to make the game cooler, harder, easier, quicker, etc.

If the PCs are into something, I can stretch it out or make it bigger! If they are lazy or not that invested, I can make it quicker and move on, or up the stakes to get their attention and make them engage fully.

Granted, D&D is a bit trickier to do this with, but I have been doing this for a lot of years so I have a general feel for the "flow" of a game, and can read my players reactions to things at the table.


There are two types of GMs in the world:

GMs that are OK with occasionally fudging a roll to make the game more interesting, and GMs who think that those in the first category should die a violent death for ever daring to besmirch the honor and purity of the perfect system of pure unaltered randomness.

"I can't believe all these tryhard WAACs out there just care about winning all the time when it's supposed to be a game for fun!!!!!!! Also here's my 27 page essay on why marines are OP and Orkz should get a bunch of OP rules so I can win more games

-the_scotsman"

-ERJAK 
   
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MN

To be clear, there is a huge difference between dying doing something stupid after the GM says "are you sure you want to do that" and dying as your character is trying to peak around the corner to get a look at the enemy in a firefight using a dodge action and having their head blown off by a reserved action and lucky crit.

The first is completely acceptable as choices have consequences, the second is a bit shady since what else was the guy supposed to do differently?

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/30 22:26:05


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Legendary Master of the Chapter





UK

To be fair, 5e is forgiving enough that, outside maybe the first couple of levels, even that sort of astronomically unlikely crit (in that example, double nat 20s because of Dodge and then enough damage to KO) isn't necessarily curtains for your PC. With death saves there's at least two and as many as five rounds for another character to drag you into cover, drop a Cure Wounds or Lay On Hands or Healing Spirit, get a potion down you or even just stabilise you with a medicine check. Unless the DM is really gunning for that character to the point of sending enemies out just to get some coup de grace attacks in and finish them off, PCs really are fairly tough to kill outright within a round once they've got more than 20-30hp. Obviously a lone PC is much easier to bring down than one with proper backup, but usually it's either bad decisions or being outsmarted that leaves them in that scenario rather than just bad luck.

It can happen, of course, but to me that's just the nature of the game, the same chance/fate/'magic'/confirmation bias that leads to that clutch Divine Intervention roll working or the scrawny rogue successfully grappling the orc warlord or the Bardic Inspiration die giving you just enough to pass a crucial save can mean that poor old Bob The Level 2 Sorcerer gets mercilessly stabbed to death by a particularly vicious and lucky kobold. Again, it's all down to taste, but even as a DM who always goes for interesting and narratively-satisfying combat over particlarly tactically challenging or tough fights, without that chance then then the illusion just comes apart.

For months when I started playing, I ran encounters very much by the book in terms of difficulty and supposed threat level, and basically combat just became a chore for both me and the players. CR-appropriate encounters were cakewalks, boss fights were 2-round takedowns and players rarely if ever felt in any danger. Once I started pushing things a bit more towards threatening and eventually just realised the CR system basically runs on some fairly BS assumptions anyway, the game just came alive so much more. I can still count the PCs that have actually fully died in my games on one hand, but as soon as there was genuine peril and risk, everything just became so much more entertaining on all sides.


The other thought I often have on this topic , based on experience both sides of the screen, is that players typically worry about this way less than DMs. I think it's very easy for a DM to feel they've messed up when a PC dies, worrying if they balanced an encounter wrong or were too aggressive or if their custom monster statblock was unfair... while the player is already coming up with their next character by the end of the session. There's still a sense of loss or maybe disappointment in not getting to fulfil that character's tale, but there's the excitement of suddenly being free to try that cool new subclass, or experience rolepaying from a different perspective, or put together an awesome new aestheric for your next hero-to-be. I'm never one to have 'backup characters' like some do, as I tend to approach making a new PC as a response to the last one's demise (be it thematically, mechanically or narratively), but I can't say that, among the cocktail of emotions I get on losing a beloved character, there's not also just a little bit of excitement for what comes next...

On the other hand, when I kill a PC I'll torture myself for weeks on end about how I got to that moment, but hey, endlessly obsessing over how things might have been is part of the whole DM gig, right?

This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2021/08/30 22:59:33


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USA

Even at low levels, the things that can outright kill you per the rules are very low. Trogs come to mind. Those things are crazy murderous for their CR and even those I don't think can outright kill you, just down a PC very easily.

A GM who is declaring "your head asplodes" in 5e is an donkey-cave GM.

   
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Hobgoblins and bugbears are pretty murderous for their level. For the former, one or two running up into combat and the rest firing an arrow volley can seriously tilt an encounter towards TPK.

+2d6 sneak attack (effectively) for 1/2CR creatures is pretty absurd, especially when they come with sword, shield and bow stock. At AC18 they can be sticky for a 1st level party to deal with.

Similarly as level 1 monsters, bugbears _really_ don't need to be throwing out 4 damage dice (2d8+2+2d6) on the first round of combat or have base 2d8+2 for no particular reason.

Its like (same as 4e) the monsters in the first MM weren't built with a real understanding of what PC numbers (particularly defenses and HP) were like. Separate team, separate revisions before publication.

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MN

Okay, my dodging head exploding example was not D&D, it was Star Wars 2nd Edition, and it still bugs me to this day. I spent a good deal of time making this character and the first time I got to do anything..... zap..... head explosion. The second character I did not bother doing anything but the math. Thankfully Star Wars 2nd Edition character creation by the numbers was super quick. Why bother with anything else. LOL.

I get your points on D&D 5E all ready being pretty player friendly when it comes to death. I have played a lot of systems where that was not the case, so my view may have been shaded by those other systems where 1-hit kills WERE possible and healing was not always quick and easy.

I also have no real issue with death during Boss Fights, it is more death during random encounters that bugs me a lot. Since D&D requires a fair amount of time to build a new character and all RPGs take a bit of time to make them into a "real character" and not just stats, that means a death during a random encounter (or even grinding through the adventures combats) is extra grating to me.

As I mentioned above, a lot of character death means I do not bother too much with making a character beyond the numbers. There needs to be the right balance of risk and satisfying narrative needs.

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Decrepit Dakkanaut





Glorious Nation of U.S.S.A!

Was WEG really that deadly? Or are you referring to one of the WOTC editions?
   
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MN

It can be, but I think it was more bad luck than anything and a "By the Dice" style of GM play. If you recall there was a wild die that could "explode".

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