So I had a recent session that was just one big fight....A town my player's characters were in was besieged by a multitude Mephistopheles and their role was to help in some way. To make matters worse, none of the party members were near each other in the fight.
To set the scene, there were 20+ zombies, 8 gnashers (think langoliers but on short stubby legs), 6 gargoyles (not D&D gargoyles, more nasty). There are 7 players but only 5 showed up for this session and their characters are 2nd/3rd level. Before everyone showed up I preset the monsters and characters on the map. The character were awoken to screaming and when they went to assist, they came on the effects of some psychotropics. Their assessment of time and distance were so warped they could not keep together in the confusion of the town in chaos.
When the fight started, they were in various parts of the town and there were about 12 villagers still hadn't found a place to hide (they were trying to get to one of the stone buildings). All the player's save one immediately went to attack the closest creature to them. None of the creatures were 'easy kill', the zombies were the simplest and they had 39 hp each (which low for this game). Now the fight was designed that if you kept moving, they couldn't attack you, just follow you around the town. The NPC had it bad, they could be overrun and finished off.
So, as the players fought their immediate surroundings, the monsters closed in on whatever was closest and after about three rounds villagers started dying and the party found out that they could brute force their way through this encounter. One player did have his character help the villagers, running and directing them to get them to safety, he only stopped to take the brunt of attacks while the villagers ran ahead.
Well to make a long story longer, the managed to save 4 villagers out of 12. I only counted 2 of them as actual 'saves' as these were the two the 'heroic' character had helped. One was saved by game master coercion, the other merely coincidental, happen to be running in the same direction as one of the characters trying to get away.
None of the monsters were new to the players/characters and most of the party had known each other for a long time. The real problem is a strong lack of leadership in the group and the two players who could actually pull of the role would rather not do it. There is an issue with heckling anyone trying to give orders. I did not expect them to kill everything and there was a lot of random movement, no-one was bum rushed. I was surprised that no-one tried to even seek out another player and there were some statements to the effect "I didn't know where you were, everything was in chaos" as if some of the players overcompensated for player knowledge to justify being obtuse.
This is not the first time this has happened and I was kinda enough to let those actions slide, but at this point I feel I should have just TPK'd the party and be done with it. thoughts?
So, I guess my question is this: Did your players not play to their characters' alignments? Did they have some sort of reason to be trying to save these people and failed because of a lack of teamwork? Or are you just bitter because they didn't act you YOU thought they should in the circumstance?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking you as a DM, but I myself have been in situations where my players didn't do what I'd hoped they would do, and been upset at them for it...but I later acknowledged that it was MY expectations that were the problem and not actually THEIR actions.
I guess what I'm saying (now that I've asked for more information if there is any) is this: Wanting to TPK your party isn't necessarily WRONG, (though some would argue that it really should happen by accident, if at all) but it sounds like your motivation for wanting to may be....let's say not the strongest.
If you're asking for a debate on the CONCEPT of wanting to TPK your party, we'll discuss that, but if you're looking for justification under these circumstances, you'll have to give me a better reason than "they didn't work together to save a bunch of strangers in a random town."
Wow, that sorta went on for a bit, didn't it?
Maybe I'm still a bit pissed at myself for earlier mis-judgements while GM-ing, and I was ranting at myself.
Still, I think this is a good discussion, and am looking forward to others chiming in on the subject...maybe I'm way off base here
Poutine brings up some good points here: "So, I guess my question is this: Did your players not play to their characters' alignments? Did they have some sort of reason to be trying to save these people and failed because of a lack of teamwork? Or are you just bitter because they didn't act you YOU thought they should in the circumstance?"
Also I found it pretty ironic that the guy named Paladin commented, "I likely would have done what your players did, and just tried to fend for myself as best I could if a random town I was in was under siege by montrosoties. I might have looked for my buddies to make the fending for ourselves easier, but depending on the situation, I also may have just high-tailed it out of there."
So much for goodygoody Lawful Good paladin. Are you a dark paladin Poutine? ;P
Also...don't think I didn't see that same irony while I was writing that post...and knew someone would point it out. This place is awesome.
And, like I said...sometimes it happens by accident, I'm kind of surprised that you've never experienced it, Dark. No one you've played with has ever mis-calculated an encounter difficulty, or made a bad decision to not run away when overmatched?
Maybe redesigning the scenario would be for the best next time? It sounds that it was created to keep them from knowing where everyone is. Just my thoughts.
In regards to saving the villagers, perhaps I put two much emphasis on this fact in my initial post. The only measurable goals in encounter were how much did we kill (which was 0) and how many could we save. The reason I use the villagers was that the party (3 out of 5) did in fact attempt to save villagers, but two decided against it when it posed a risk to their characters. Saving the villagers, this was more of a side quest than anything else. Players could earn some xp if they wanted, but wasn't really required.
Alignment: I hate alignment and think its a terrible mechanic. Luckily this game has none. It is considered heroic fantasy and actually characters benefit from being heroic, but I do not hold them to lofty goals. I do hold them to honoring the group and those that allow the group to fail just because they find interparty conflict humerous don't really get much in my book (well thought out character conflict is different then simply being assanine).
psychotropics: that was just a mechanic to explain the separation of the characters, by the start of the encounter, the character's heads were clear. The reason was so that the characters would know the extent of the attack (as oppose to just having them wake up in a random location in the town), they 'knew' there were a lot of creatures, they 'knew' the types of creatures, they could make informed decisions how they handled the situation. They chose the 'Hack N Slash' route. No one asked anything like "Do I remember where I lost track of character X?", "Can I hear character X, that's only one street down?", "Can I catch a glimpse of anyone btween the buildings?", heck one character reminded the entire party, "hey I'm wearing armor that has lightning flashes rolling across it" which I reaffirmed with a, "you KNOW where he is in the town". He was on the one player that was trying to save villagers, but no one even tried to make their way to him.
On a side note, the psychotropics were a magical effect, not a drug.
I'm not really upset at them, this is not a post on if they played their character correctly as it is completely up to them. My players are firmly aware at my stance that anything can be justified especially in a world filled with magic, so how the choose to act is completely up to the players. BUT, the way the monsters choose to act is completely up to me, the question is So I dumb down an encounter cause the player just want to swing at what ever is closest, or do I give the creatures the cunning they deserve?
[quote]Also, only 8 villagers died from a ravaging horde of 34+? Sounds like a win to me.[/quote]
This is taken out of context, it was 8 out of 12 that died since the start of the encounter. The rest of the town was either dead or hiding at that point.
Finally, I don't actually want to TPK the party... I just thought it would be a funny title for the post. I have never TPK'd a party in my 15+ years of game mastering.
I would like to relate an encounter where I had no choice but to let the characters actions lead to all of them dying, but-- it led to a really fun one shot adventure the next gaming night, where everyone had a chance at redemption.
The party, when faced with an enemy force that was heavily fortified in a defensive line, did the worst possible thing. There were many other options available to them, from stealth to magic, distractions, calling in allies (they had a force of 40 level 0 goblins back at their compound an hours travel from the battle). But even a frontal assault using the rubble for cover would have had a shot at survival with some luck, but they launched into the air, superhero style and banzaid across this cavern at an altitude of 75 feet.
So, the enemy archers got off a couple of volleys and that was all she wrote. The party had defensive measures, one shots that might have saved them if they tried and had some good dice rolls, but somehow it was just foolhardy night at the saloon (might have been the alcohol, I believe the ladies were matching the guys wineglass to beer that evening).
As a DM, I was silent about the next session, we are all friends so starting a new character even has its own slang in our house rules, Crumple Time. As in time to crumple up your character sheet and start a new one. But, they also know all kinds of things can happen in a fantasy world. I had several options available to me to allow the characters to live on, while still punishing them game wise, for playing foolish. It can be more fun to lose sometimes anyway. They could have been dragged off, and raised later while in prison by some the force that killed them. An old nemesis could have been lurking, or had a spy watching the party, and He had their bodies moved to his lair for some devious sort of experiments or something. They could have been turned into undead, and then had a quest or adventure where they tried to regain their living status before they succumbed permanently to the brain rot. Or, same thing but with lycanthropes.... passing wererat nibbled on your mostly dead corpses.... then you laid still until the next full moon...etc
The point is, an end doesnt have to be an end. What I ended up doing for that session was running a one shot adventure, one night only, where the I handed out an index card to each player, with an abbreviated character archetype on it. Stats, 3 major powers, 3 minor powers, and equipment that was it. They were the recovery squad sent by the druidic order to aid the party. This served as a strong reinforcer to the group for the Main story arc, the quest they started out with to seek out the source of earth magic corruption- in basic terms, the parties patron was pleased with overrall party cooperation so she had a vested interest in keeping her useful agents up and completing missions for her.
The mission-- enter the underdark, find the bodies, and bring them to the nearest patch of fertile ground above, where they could be transported to the main temple across the continent from tree to tree teleports.
If it failed, they were all dead, Crumple Time.
The party had a blast that night, and they did succeed in their mission, and used a hell of a lot of teamwork while doing so. They ended up losing a lot of their possessions, and the respect of the locals in that area of the underdark, but they had fun and it seemed like a more than fair solution to everyone involved.
From there on out, they would spend a minute or two at the beginning of each encounter to make sure they had some semblance of a plan, at least for round one. So, its ok to kill off a party, there are a lot of ways they can come back and still learn a lesson.
Unfortunately, it only works really in Fantasy type settings. I think, in Modern times, you end up dead like that, you're Killed Off For Real. :(
Of course, it depends on the system...
I like the concept and toyed with a similar dark fantasy concept (where you must cultivate your next character in the game), I may use your idea in the game. Right now the players are immersed in talking with the survivors of the ordeal and I may use this as the basis for their next (temporary) character. Unfortunately, I don't think players mind care for the odds (never tell them the odds). There was a point in the game when they went to a very evil place and I let the only player who had knowledge of the place to warn them with player knowledge (this was from when we played together and I wasn't the GM). Despite his best efforts (he actually got mad they wouldn't listen), the walked into the place without much though, just to "see how bad it really was". It was probably similar to trying to run 1st level players through the Tomb of Horrors. The place is so bad, there is an evil being, who hunts the other evil beings in this place. I let them slide on that one, but if anything deserved a TPK, it was that one.
Anyway, just wanted to point out to everyone that you CAN kill off a party and not feel guilty about it, if they deserve it--and still give them a reasonable, non cheaty way to play those characters again. As always, it is up to the individual DM to decide how to handle his (or her) party best.
"I met a traveller from an antique land....."
CotM May 2016: Mysteria: set in Wolfgang Baur’s MIDGARD.
Previous CotM Aug 2012: Shimring: High Level Multiplanar Campaign
Inner Council Member
You shouldn't ever WANT to tpk your group, but as a neutral force in the game, a dm shouldn't necessarily WANT the players to win either. As a DM, I feel that if they players get the feeling that I am rooting for them, they might at least subconsciously use that to their advantage. True, the heroes are often the crux of the story, and killing one or more characters off can mess with the flow, but as igorn put it, AN end isn't always necessarily THE end. But the players should always THINK it is.
In my campaign, The Land of Corra, the world is a particularly deadly place. There are many static dangers that are always present in certain locales, whether the players choose to face them or not. Knowledge is a PCs best friend, and a player should always try to get as much info on his quest as possible. Likewise, a dm should always supply a source for that knowledge outside of skill checks. In Corra, i try my best to make sure this is always the case. As a result, any player who blindly takes on impossible feats will not be awarded much sympathy from me when it turns sour. i believe constantly bailing your players out undermines the believability of the world you've made and your neutrality as DM. I don't like it much, but when a player loses a valuable character to a foolish decision, it will be a learning experience he/she can utilize the next time around.
After all is said and done, everyone at the table should be friends and understand that the game is nothing personal. The story never ends, the protagonists just keep changing. Players would be wise to remember the old addage; "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread..."
I will certainly have to take note of the idea and tuck it away for a future situation should the need arise!:)
Also, killing a party is okay sometimes, but when you stack everything against them, WANTING to kill them is a bad sign :P.
In fact I believe that I may very well be one of the players that the Paladin was writing about when he said, "I myself have been in situations where my players didn't do what I'd hoped they would do, and been upset at them for it..." ;p
I understand your pain and have had to suffer doling out various in-game punishments to players who make bad choices, but never out of spite! A player in a game I once GMed ran his mouth in a very provocative way at a very powerful, very ruthless warlord of a hostile country who had an army at his immediate disposal and ended up getting himself castrated and another player tortured and enslaved. Though I thought that the player in question was crazy for approaching the situation as he did (especially as I had gone to great lengths to detail the strengths of the warlord to other players who had scouted the area) I was happy to play the new side adventure that involved rescuing the enslaved players.
The consequences of this were far reaching because even though the characters were rescued they lost several powerful magical items and earned themselves a new and potent nemesis. The players continued on their adventure and engaged in a battle that would have been tricky for them at full strength and became lethal in their depleted condition. I admit a great deal of guilt in not diluting the coming challenge and ended up with a TPK. :(
Like igornapnappovich I handle the situation by pregenerating a group and having the players use them to save themselves. The new group was sent by the evil warlord to find the PCs and what they were searching for. They arrived just seconds after the battle that felled the original party and managed to rescue two PCs that were still alive and use them in the dungeon crawl. Later events allowed another PC to be resurrected.
I mention this to illustrate how as a GM you must be flexible in handling the unexpected.
Basically what I am trying to get at is, PCs don't always do what we as GMs want them to. If they always did gaming wouldn't be nearly as much fun. Instead of being disappointed with them, embrace their poor choices, their less-than-heroic moments and the fact that they zig when you hope that they would zag.
My humble advise, Vinsane, would be to have NPCs approach the PCs in a manner that reflects the way that they acted. Survivors should buy drinks for and offer praise to the PC who risked his life to save others. Those who scrambled to save their own skins should be ignored at best or viewed as cowards at worst. Perhaps the town council has second thoughts about hiring or aiding a group that seems disorganized and unable to set up a strong defence against a minor foe. Don't beat them over the head with it, but have the world react to them in a way that makes sense. Don't lose faith! Maybe a chance to redeem themselves can be offered. If the PCs know what is expected and have a clear idea of what they face it gives them the confidence to approach it heroically. It doesn't sound like they have backed you into a corner yet! The secret of a good GM is flexibility. No matter what they do you always have options.
And remember, TPK doesn't have to be the end of the road!
Kill them all, burn their character sheets in a ritualistic bonfire and melt their miniatures in your microwave next session.
That should be especially glorious if they're still using pewter minis.
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These are just a couple things to keep in mind when you play in our group, this is mostly stuff that's common sense, but it never hurts to have it written out.
House Rules for Palm Beach Gamers:
1. BE PREPARED TO PLAY. You are fully functioning and capable adults, Veran is perhaps the exception :D. There is almost no acceptable reason that in the 2-8 weeks between games you couldn't squirrel away 20 minutes to update your character to his new level and stats. Sheets are hand written so I'd suggest putting it in a binder. Folding it up wears it out faster and you'll have to recopy it to another sheet sooner. I like to use sheet protectors, I have plenty for everyone. Don't forget your dice!
2. PAY ATTENTION! Hey folks, big surprise here; I don't just talk to hear myself do it. Well most of the time, lol! I spend hours sometimes up to 6-7 hours preparing an adventure, and it's frustrating when you guys make jokes that bring me out of character. The speeches are fun for me, but I'm also dolling out vital information most of the time. It would be great if you kept notes, but I really appreciate when you guys listen.
3. RESPECT EACH OTHER. I love to see respect for the other players. When we don't interrupt them when they are speaking and don't make fun of their characters, it shows a lot of respect. We have to keep in mind that when we come together to game, it is NOT the same as when we come together to hang out, or go to dinner, or maybe catch a movie. I don't think anyone appreciates being picked on, especially when they are trying to play an alter-ego. We are trying to make everyone comfortable enough so they not only can be themselves, but so that they can be their fantasy self. It's pretty hard when someone staying in character casts a spell only to have another player make a rude comment along the lines of, "That spell was gay,". So just keep in mind what we say to each other.
4. RESPECT THE RULES. Hey I didn't invent this game. I didn't even consult on it's existence, but I am sure as hell gonna use it as it stands. If you think a rule sucks, then we can always discuss it. There is plenty of room for modification in this game, so just let me know if you have any thoughts. However if you choose to use an ability or spell incorrectly, don't get upset if you're corrected. Remember, it's your job to know what you're doing. You can't just say I want to cast this spell, and expect someone else to know what the spell does. You need to know. Sometimes the result may not be what you want, which brings us to our next rule... LOL
5. DM HAS FINAL SAY. Hey there's always gonna be a time where there isn't a rule, so we need to respect whatever judgement the DM comes up with. He's the referee for the game, and his word is law. I AM THE LAW! . Seriously though, the DM is the one running the game, so he'll try to be reasonable, but there is gonna come a time when you don't agree on something that he rules on. Try to keep in mind this is still a game. If you think the DM is being unfair, then talk to him about it after you've both cooled off a little. But do talk to him. He's probably not psychic.
6. EVERYTHING IS FORGIVABLE. There is no infraction that would cause me to throw away a friendship over the game. I love you guys, well most of ya lol! We should not let this game ruin any potential friendships.
7. GIVE ME ALL YOUR MONEY. :D
Just trying to help out.
Now that's a rule a DM could get behind! :P
Another example of TPK we have used was as a plot device. We were playing Immortal and the players were fighting for control of a powerful artifact. It was essential all die before the artifact was used and that the final player would use the item to raise their friends back to life. Little did he know that the artifact rewrote the world and would kill him too. This TPK set up the players for the next campaign in a world they created through their actions during that campaign. Now they had no idea this was the case when it happened but after it became apparent, they loved it.
To use a TPK in a game you need the right elements.
#1 Never kill the party because you are angry or upset about their actions.
#2 Never kill the party if you know it will cause hurt feelings or damage a friendship.
#3 Always play the game to have fun. if someone isnt having fun pull them aside and find out why.
#4 If the player do something really dumb, then let them live with consiquences.
#5 If you feel that a TPK will make for a great night for everyone involved go for it. Just make sure that you will create something fun and memorable. That should be the goal of all game masters. It sucks to get killed if it isnt melodramatic, exciting, or serves some divine purpose.
From what I read in your post a TPK would not have been appropriate at least for my style of play.
Have fun and good luck.
"Star Trek Late Night":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/star-trek-late-night