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Killed my first PCs


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

Andoran *

I've killed PCs before, had TPK's even, but never in a living game. I feel bad but it was really inevitable. I was running Tide of Twilight for four 1st and 2nd level characters. I warned them that there was a real chance of someone, possibly everyone dying. The final two encounters are very challenging, and the characters were not heavy on combat skills. To top it off, the usual meat shield, a barbarian was not present.

So despite the warning, and despite these being experienced players (though new to PFS) they made some rookie mistakes and failed the scenario's primary mission. Two of them died, two were stricken with the scenario's transformation curse, though they were able to pay for it's removal and thus remain playable characters.

Some spoilers:
The first PC died during the very first encounter in Wispil. Should never have happened, but the player wasn't thinking and ended up unconscious on the ground as the fire spread over him. No other PC was in a position to even know about his predicament, much less help. He finished the game with a pre-gen.

Upon reading the encounters with the twigjack, I knew they would be in trouble. A 4d6 cone attack and the (limited) dimension door as part of a move action? Just brutal. No one died there, but two PC's dropped and had to be revived. During this encounter, one of the players, again not thinking, ran ahead and smacked right into the druids, each waiting with produce flame ready to go. (Jokes about Han Solo chasing the stormtrooper on the Death Star were told.) He dropped right there.

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
BLAMM! wrote:
...again not thinking, ran ahead...

Sometimes PC deaths can't be avoided. This was one of those times. BLAMM happens!

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Yeah, sometimes they'll do everything in their power to die. ;)

I had my first TPK this past weekend. First, two of the characters were horribly built. Second, they decided that the best way to handle a burning building was to do their searching of said building with a mildly increased sense of urgency (but no putting out fires or just not going inside in the first place).

After they all died, I felt bad and handwaved it so they could try to finish (which I shouldn't have done). Then they marched into the final encounter and got mowed down in a few rounds because apparently the best way to defeat a high-damage BBEG is a direct confrontation with little thought to tactics or self-preservation.

In retrospect, I sort of wonder if that group of players (or at least one of them) was under the impression that encounters are designed such that you're supposed to be able to march into them like they're some kind of standardized arena, slug it out, and consistently come out on top. :/

** RPG Superstar 2014 Top 16, RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16

For the record, I don't think I even got a turn against the BBEG, and neither did Kyra. And I had no idea that we could lose all of our turns to choking on smoke.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

RainyDayNinja wrote:
For the record, I don't think I even got a turn against the BBEG, and neither did Kyra.

Yeah, you were kinda both doomed on that one due to being humans with divine classes. Parani and her birdie got a surprise round, she had Favored Enemy (human) +2 (which extends to her bird), and she hates religion and therefore targets folks like paladins and clerics first.

The surprise round crit didn't help much, either.

Quote:
And I had no idea that we could lose all of our turns to choking on smoke.

Okay, to be fair, that was an epic string of single-digit Fort saves for the whole party. On the other hand, non-fresh PCs (such as the wizard and oracle) easily could have brought air crystals or potions of air bubble and negated that entire aspect of the encounter. Keep that in mind for future characters. ;)

Grand Lodge ****

Previous post should probably be spoilered...

*

Just because a PC doesn't have an air crystal with them, they're hardly "asking" to be killed in a scenario.

I'd say most PCs don't carry any such thing. Most players aren't even AWARE. The people on this forum are a very small select group of people, I think we lose sight of that at times.

To be fair, most encounters you can just "slug it out" in PFS. It's rare that there's any kind of trick to any encounter.

When I said I wanted the challenge level of scenarios increased, I was hoping for something interesting (<<< more important than anything) and challenging (like a boss that would last 3+ rounds and do at least a little damage), but I hope the trend isn't to reward non-optimal builds/play with TPKs.

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

What's an air crystal?

*googles*

Oh. Hmm. Who knew?

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Jason S wrote:
Just because a PC doesn't have an air crystal with them, they're hardly "asking" to be killed in a scenario.

Good thing nobody said they were.

Quote:
I'd say most PCs don't carry any such thing. Most players aren't even AWARE.

This is why I preach the gospel of air crystals to everyone I meet at the table. :)

Quote:
To be fair, most encounters you can just "slug it out" in PFS. It's rare that there's any kind of trick to any encounter.

Mr. Slugfest in this situation was a low-level full caster. And he approached each NPC with what seemed like an attitude of "either I get to kill him, or he spoonfeeds me the ticket to the next guy I do get to kill". :/

Silver Crusade **

Err... what exactly did you google? I can't seem to find the air crystals. What are they and what book can I find them in?

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Fromper wrote:
Err... what exactly did you google? I can't seem to find the air crystals. What are they and what book can I find them in?

They're from the PFS Field Guide (not to be confused with the PFS Organized Play Guide!) for 50gp a pop.

It's a wad of alchemically-grown crystals that you put in your mouth. Each round that you spend a free action to chew on them, they release breathable air into your mouth, giving you an air supply for up to 10 rounds total.

They don't release air when you're not chewing, which is both a blessing and a curse:
You can stick it in your cheek before going underwater, hold your breath for a while, and then start chewing, so you can stay under for a long time.
You can keep an unused portion (like if you get back to good air before you run out) and use the rest later.
If you're unconscious or otherwise kept from taking a free action, you don't get air out of them that round. So if you're relying on them for air while underwater, don't get KO'd or you'll drown!

Andoran ***** Venture-Captain, Minnesota—St. Paul

Jason S wrote:


When I said I wanted the challenge level of scenarios increased, I was hoping for something interesting (<<< more important than anything) and challenging (like a boss that would last 3+ rounds and do at least a little damage), but I hope the trend isn't to reward non-optimal builds/play with TPKs.

I don't think that is going to be the case at all. But what it does sound like, is you want nothing but the sweet spot, and everything else you are going to be wholly unhappy with. You can't build cooky cutter adventures that only produce a particular level of challenge to every group that will possibly be involved in said encounter and also have them be interesting.

And if you knowingly create a sub-optimal build, then you should be prepared to be "on-your-game" for creative strategy and tactics. If you try to take a sub-optimal build and play them like an optimal build, then you will probably not fair nearly as well.

If you are a new player who has a sub-optimal build because you don't know any better. Well not fairing too well, and then getting advice on how better to build your character, is the process of learning.

*

Andrew Christian wrote:
I don't think that is going to be the case at all. But what it does sound like, is you want nothing but the sweet spot, and everything else you are going to be wholly unhappy with.

No. Many boss fights (played RAW) in previous seasons were over in 1 round (sometimes even before the boss could act). And that was true for several scenarios. When it's that easy, it doesn't make for good gaming.

Just seems like the challenge level has been bumped up significantly, from a point where you don't take damage to TPK level. Normal gamers are getting slaughtered. "Quest for Perfection #1" is insane imo, wrong class mix and it's over for everyone. It just sounds like there will be no room for non-optimal gaming in the future. Just an observation.

Silver Crusade ****

I don't feel the focus is going to be at "optimal" gamers, but that the "useless" builds and I use that term liberally will not fly. I view the field is a 3 tier field. Useless, normal, and Optimized.

A good example of a normal character would be the Pregens. If you're as good as the pregens, you're doing alright.

If you're worse than them, then it's time to rethink the way you build your characters or take a bit more effort in building them to have some kind of effect.

If you're "optimized", then you've got the power and then some to take on the challenges you face. These characters will tend to carry the group. I've seen maybe 1 in 10 players in my experience are truly optimized. 3 of 10 are useless, and 2 of those 3 are due to inexperience and I sit down and coach them. The last one is aware that they're running a "risky" game.

The other 6 of 10 are in various levels of "Alright". They can do what they're designed to do, and aren't completely screwed if they don't have the "right" skillset for a situation.

NOTE: I am stereotyping, and I am aware there are exceptions to my broad generalizations.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I also think it's not just about builds and optimization, but also how you play. Doesn't matter how much DPR you can put out if you rely on a veritable arena setting to do it. Simply buying a handful of cheap items to cover extraneous circumstances will help enormously regardless of your optimization level.

For instance, do you have a ranged weapon?

"But I'm a melee guy!"

I pinned a druid to the wall with the create pit spell yesterday. What could have happened was three people playing firing squad on the guy and more than likely dropping him. Instead, three players told me they carried no ranged options whatsoever, they spent a round just sort of sitting there wondering how to get past my pit, and the druid almost got away (we had to go chase him down).

Then someone ambushed us from a rooftop. I was able to engage him immediately, while three of my allies had to go searching for a way up (though instead they found more ambush). We could have overwhelmed that guy (or forced him to retreat) if everyone had spend a handful of gold on javelins or sling bullets or something.

The enemies are no longer walking into your arms for you to deal with as you see fit. You have to deal with terrain and tactics now, and you have to be ready for different kinds of situations.

Qadira ****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

yeah, and sometimes you just slip.

Playing in a game resently with my son at the table and we got hit with poison. Son says to me, "remember to take your anti-toxen!" and I have to admit that I had forgotten to get it for this character... who happened to be 4th level. Son stops what he is doing to stare at me and says "who are you, and what have you done with my father!".

Yeah, bought it ASAP after the fight. Sigh. What what you say around your kids, it comes back at you at the oddest times.

Andoran ***** Venture-Captain, Minnesota—St. Paul

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jason S wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:
I don't think that is going to be the case at all. But what it does sound like, is you want nothing but the sweet spot, and everything else you are going to be wholly unhappy with.

No. Many boss fights (played RAW) in previous seasons were over in 1 round (sometimes even before the boss could act). And that was true for several scenarios. When it's that easy, it doesn't make for good gaming.

Just seems like the challenge level has been bumped up significantly, from a point where you don't take damage to TPK level. Normal gamers are getting slaughtered. "Quest for Perfection #1" is insane imo, wrong class mix and it's over for everyone. It just sounds like there will be no room for non-optimal gaming in the future. Just an observation.

I disagree. I’ve seen this play out twice now with sub-optimal group mixes and they won the day, handily, with good tactics and smart play. If you just trounce into the clutches of the BBEG, then yeah, your stupid and you die. I have no sympathy for those who want to play stupid and always win, but then complain when the encounters are too easy. Then complain that when they are heard, and encounters are made tougher, that they can’t play stupid anymore.


Andrew Christian wrote:
I have no sympathy for those who want to play stupid and always win, but then complain when the encounters are too easy.

I don't have sympathy for this guy either. Mostly because I don't think he exists.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

hogarth wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:
I have no sympathy for those who want to play stupid and always win, but then complain when the encounters are too easy.
I don't have sympathy for this guy either. Mostly because I don't think he exists.

At least, not since a couple weeks back when I ran GMG.

Qadira ****

hogarth wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:
I have no sympathy for those who want to play stupid and always win, but then complain when the encounters are too easy.
I don't have sympathy for this guy either. Mostly because I don't think he exists.

heck, met him lots of times. I've even seen him grow up and become the judge... talk about a nightmare!

Qadira ** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, Contributor

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Jason S wrote:
Just seems like the challenge level has been bumped up significantly, from a point where you don't take damage to TPK level. Normal gamers are getting slaughtered. "Quest for Perfection #1" is insane imo, wrong class mix and it's over for everyone. It just sounds like there will be no room for non-optimal gaming in the future. Just an observation.

As an author, this bothers me. It can be a fine line between a challenging scenario and an abattoir. Next season things are going to get a little tougher for six player parties.

Is it possible a big part of the problem is the fact that season zero and to a lesser extent season one were so easy? In other words, players got a little soft when there wasn't much challenge?

*****

Andrew Christian wrote:
Jason S wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:
I don't think that is going to be the case at all. But what it does sound like, is you want nothing but the sweet spot, and everything else you are going to be wholly unhappy with.

No. Many boss fights (played RAW) in previous seasons were over in 1 round (sometimes even before the boss could act). And that was true for several scenarios. When it's that easy, it doesn't make for good gaming.

Just seems like the challenge level has been bumped up significantly, from a point where you don't take damage to TPK level. Normal gamers are getting slaughtered. "Quest for Perfection #1" is insane imo, wrong class mix and it's over for everyone. It just sounds like there will be no room for non-optimal gaming in the future. Just an observation.

I disagree. I’ve seen this play out twice now with sub-optimal group mixes and they won the day, handily, with good tactics and smart play. If you just trounce into the clutches of the BBEG, then yeah, your stupid and you die. I have no sympathy for those who want to play stupid and always win, but then complain when the encounters are too easy. Then complain that when they are heard, and encounters are made tougher, that they can’t play stupid anymore.

When I played this one, our not-terribly-optimized group (half of whom were level 2 or 3 at 4-5) actually wound up splitting the party and we still beat that boss encounter without anyone dropping (to be fair, the module's pre-written tactics mandated a change of targets based on what our group used, which likely wound up saving one PC from being knocked out).

Maybe it's more of a challenge at 1-2 for a party of all 1s?


Jiggy wrote:
hogarth wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:
I have no sympathy for those who want to play stupid and always win, but then complain when the encounters are too easy.
I don't have sympathy for this guy either. Mostly because I don't think he exists.
At least, not since a couple weeks back when I ran GMG.

Someone complained about both of those diametrically opposed things during the same game? Impressive!

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Too easy, not too hard, Hogarth. The sentence is not made up of diametrically opposed opinions.

Andoran

His name was Robert Paulson!


Derwalt wrote:
Too easy, not too hard, Hogarth. The sentence is not made up of diametrically opposed opinions.

You're right, of course. But then again, I think it's insulting and strawmanning to say that someone "wants to play stupid".

Maybe I seem a bit touchy, but from my point of view, I would be happy always winning (I like it when the good guys win) and I have probably remarked that a particular encounter (not a scenario, mind you, but an encounter) was too easy. So I bristle a bit at the thought that Andrew might be calling me stupid behind my back. Oh sorry, my playing is stupid.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

hogarth wrote:
But then again, I think it's insulting and strawmanning to say that someone "wants to play stupid".

You didn't see how my brother played. ;)

*****

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

FWIW I know several players who play stupid just to increase the challenge of a scenario. I also know that one of those players wants to play stupid and yet still expects to win.


I guess I just find it depressing that most of my Pathfinder Society experiences are pretty fun, but just about every thread in the PFS forums seems to degenerate to "Stop having fun the wrong/stupid/easy way!!"

Qadira ****

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I actually saw the following happen (I was the judge).
4 players sitting around a table in a shop with thier judge discussing what sub-tier of the Tier 1-7 they will play at. APL is a solid 5 (maybe 5.25), but they know how they all play, playing together many times. SO, they are deciding to play up when in walks player XX (late as usual), also well know to everyone - who they all know has a 7th level character. Eyes shift around the table.

Player AA says, "Playing down."
Player BB says, "don't want to risk it, I don't have the PP to bring me back. Down for me to."
Player CC says, "hate to argue with the crowd, besides I don't want to die again, tier 3-4 for my vote."
Player DD says, "heck - lookes like 3-4 then."

Player XX grumbles and goes back into the other room to play at the other table.

Player DD sighs in releif and says - "up then?" glances around. Everyone nods. "We're sub-tier 6-7 then." And that's the way they played it. Because they know Player XX.

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
hogarth wrote:
"Stop having fun the wrong/stupid/easy way!!"

Of all the "few" PFS sessions I've been a part of, I can count on two hands how many of them I found unenjoyable. (wish it was one hand)

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

...Wow.

EDIT: Ninja'd. That was to nosig, not Kyle.

*

Andrew Christian wrote:
I disagree. I’ve seen this play out twice now with sub-optimal group mixes and they won the day, handily, with good tactics and smart play. If you just trounce into the clutches of the BBEG, then yeah, your stupid and you die. I have no sympathy for those who want to play stupid and always win, but then complain when the encounters are too easy. Then complain that when they are heard, and encounters are made tougher, that they can’t play stupid anymore.

If you have 6 players, it should be a fun scenario.

If you have 4 players, I seriously doubt they were suboptimal. If you took the pregens: Valerous, Merisiel, Kyra, Ezren, their DPS isn't strong enough. I'm 99% sure I could TPK them in either subtier. No matter how you played. Oh and the BBG can outrun you too. Chances are pretty good that he'll be able to sneak up on them too. I gotta wonder if GMs factored in Power Attack with both his melee and range attacks, I doubt it. An extra +6 damage at subtier 1-2 changes everything .

I don't find that the average PFS player is "tactical" at all, so maybe your players are different than the ones I've seen at conventions. So I guess TPK them? I think that's what makes Perfection 1 a bad introduction to PFS.

Dennis Baker wrote:
Is it possible a big part of the problem is the fact that season zero and to a lesser extent season one were so easy? In other words, players got a little soft when there wasn't much challenge?

It's possible some PCs are soft, however I think some scenarios might be getting over tuned. I won't know for sure until I GM them. It's not going to (hopefully) affect me since I somewhat optimize, but it will affect the society as a whole. Season 0 (and some encounters in season 1) were so easy it wasn't even fun. You don't want that but imo you also don't want 1-2 bad dice rolls to result in a TPK. It's definitely a balancing act. (Balancing act for both writers and GMs in how they implement it).

nosig wrote:
Player DD sighs in releif and says - "up then?" glances around. Everyone nods. "We're sub-tier 6-7 then." And that's the way they played it. Because they know Player XX.

Sounds like they don't like player XX, as opposed to his 7th level PC being a liability.

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