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GM hitting a man when he is down!?


Pathfinder Society GM Discussion

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Andoran *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Personally for myself I feel it is bad form for a GM in a PFS game to finish off a character that went into negative hitpoints with their remaining attacks once they are down, unconscious and bleeding unless there are extreme circumstances. As examples:

Dying PC caught in an area effect spell, channel etc...
Monster specifically called out to do so in tactics (looking for food, etc)
A PC who is shown during the battle to continually come back up and is too dangerous every time and the monsters are smart enough to catch that, though this should be rare.

I am curious how other GMs feel about this? I don't get to play often and I experienced this at GenCon while playing there and was so surprised when it happened.

Is it something I should expect from most GMs or did I run into a rarity?

Don't get me wrong I have killed PCs before, even killed one with 1 hp left with a rend from a Gug (I blame Kyle!), but I have never killed a PC once he was down and out of the fight when it did not match the above examples, and even then it was only when the body was in an area effect.

PS to the above GM, though I did not agree with you doing the above, I still enjoyed the game you ran and would like to thank you for bringing the game to the hotel when we ran out of time in the PFS room.

Andoran

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Dragnmoon wrote:

Personally for myself I feel it is bad form for a GM in a PFS game to finish off a character that went into negative hitpoints with their remaining attacks once they are down, unconscious and bleeding unless there are extreme circumstances. As examples:

Dying PC caught in an area effect spell, channel etc...
Monster specifically called out to do so in tactics (looking for food, etc)
A PC who is shown during the battle to continually come back up and is too dangerous every time and the monsters are smart enough to catch that, though this should be rare.

I am curious how other GMs feel about this? I don't get to play often and I experienced this at GenCon while playing there and was so surprised when it happened.

Is it something I should expect from most GMs or did I run into a rarity?

Don't get me wrong I have killed PCs before, even killed one with 1 hp left with a rend from a Gug (I blame Kyle!), but I have never killed a PC once he was down and out of the fight when it did not match the above examples, and even then it was only when the body was in an area effect.

PS to the above GM, though I did not agree with you doing the above, I still enjoyed the game you ran and would like to thank you for bringing the game to the hotel when we ran out of time in the PFS room.

Attacking an unconscious enemy is tactically a bad move. There are other threats your immediate area that should be considered over an unconscious/dead PC (ESPECIALLY the guy who keeps making people stand back up.)

In the case of 'But I still have one attack in my full attack left and no one within a five foot step!' it's still pretty shoddy especially since these NPCs are unaware of the rules that govern them. Forgo'ing an attack and stepping towards another player taunting them adds to the roleplaying immersion of the game while putting your extra attack into a downed PC 'just because you don't want to waste it' usually comes from GMs who play against the players instead of with them.

I have seen this very few times.

**** Venture-Lieutenant, Canada—Winnipeg

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My personal opinion on this matter is to try & put myself in the shoes of the creatures that are fighting for their lives. I tend to agree with your examples and have a few other instances where it has come up.

These are rare examples & I would agree that targeting downed players is not a normal part of combats I run.

If combat has moved and an evil or intelligent melee enemy is now outside the range where he can reach a standing adversary then in those rare instances they will follow the "do something useful every turn" and a downed player becomes fair game.

If an enemy has the opportunity to use a downed player as a hostage (came up in Shades of Ice part 2 last time I ran it) if the players continue to engage in combat then the downed hostage would end up paying the price.

Constructs with only one player in range,,,,this is the one really hard, one do they attack rather then move or move on to a standing foe. "Normally" I would continue to attack the closest foe regardless of condition because that's how I think they would act but I have in the past & may in the future have constructs move on to the next threatening target.


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I see it differently.

Scenario: Monster is doing a full attack action (3attacks) against a lone PC (lone = nobody within a 5foot step). 2nd attack drops the PC and it has only one left.

Why would the monster stop attacking? If you are fighting someone how long does it take you to realize they are going down? Wouldnt you have put in a couple of extra attacks before you realize they are dropping? I wouldnt. With another threat in the area I might pause while attacking to see how effective I am being but otherwise I will focus entirely on the creature I am facing.

Other scenarios would have other results.

If there is another threat within easy reach then no, the monster should not beat a downed PC unless it is appropriate for that monster to do so.

Sometimes, it just sucks to be on the receiving end of this.

- Gauss

Andoran *****

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If it is in-character for the NPC to do so, do not hold back. Use the stat blocks to inform your choices.

Grand Convocation:
When GMing the Grand Convocation, I ran the Into The Vault mini-adventure. The construct at the end of module used paralysis to coup de grace enemies. The first table's fighter failed the Fort save against the paralysis. If his allies had not felled it with their AoOs, the fighter would have died.

Lantern Lodge **

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Dragnmoon wrote:

Personally for myself I feel it is bad form for a GM in a PFS game to finish off a character that went into negative hitpoints with their remaining attacks once they are down, unconscious and bleeding unless there are extreme circumstances. As examples:

Dying PC caught in an area effect spell, channel etc...
Monster specifically called out to do so in tactics (looking for food, etc)
A PC who is shown during the battle to continually come back up and is too dangerous every time and the monsters are smart enough to catch that, though this should be rare.

I am curious how other GMs feel about this? I don't get to play often and I experienced this at GenCon while playing there and was so surprised when it happened.

Is it something I should expect from most GMs or did I run into a rarity?

Don't get me wrong I have killed PCs before, even killed one with 1 hp left with a rend from a Gug (I blame Kyle!), but I have never killed a PC once he was down and out of the fight when it did not match the above examples, and even then it was only when the body was in an area effect.

PS to the above GM, though I did not agree with you doing the above, I still enjoyed the game you ran and would like to thank you for bringing the game to the hotel when we ran out of time in the PFS room.

When I play PFS the GM has fallowed those three things.

I got downed in an AOE later died with one character. I also got Cu De Graced {sp} and lived!!! as another. (The chances of me living were slim.) Honestly though The only thing I found bad about the above was that the character was killed at Gen Con. Any PFS Con playing resulting in death sucks because if you play in your local area unless you can revive that character things now become, bring player X back to appropriate level compared to group. So he can join us.

***

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I think it is the job the Judge to play the NPCs to the height of their intelligence. If it's a big dumb animal, it should act like a big dumb animal. If it's a hyper-intelligent, sentient being, it should act hyper-intelligently.

I also think it is the job the players to not put themselves in a position where such a tactic is likely. As an example, I was playing a scenario where the party was divided, fighting enemies at the top of two towers. I was alone with another player in one tower, and I went down. The other player turned invisible, leaving me with two mooks. So one of the mook starts a Coup de Grace on me.

It got interrupted by a third player, but I wouldn't begrudge the Judge even if my PC had died because it made sense given the circumstances. I was playing dumb and the other guy was playing selfishly. Charging into every fight an worrying about tactics later is a good way to lose a character.

That said, crits happen, and in the case of the remaining attack, it depends on the situation. Big dumb animal will probably switch attacks to try to take down all of its perceived threats. Intelligent enemy who sees that the party has been healing itself the entire time? Yeah, he's probably going to try to knock the guy out of the fight permanently.

*

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Dragnmoon wrote:
I am curious how other GMs feel about this? Is it something I should expect from most GMs or did I run into a rarity?

I think it's bad form, but you see a lot of GMing styles when you're at Gencon, and not all of them are "good" (at least in my mind). If you have a player leaving your table unhappy, you are at least partially (and maybe totally) responsible. This is especially true of GMs that do everything to the letter of the law, and in your case the creature had another attack so he/she felt compelled to use it.

As GM, I can probably kill any PC if I set my mind to it, especially melee PCs, and especially if they go down. Killing PCs is easy.

As a GM I might take another attack, depending on the creature, depending on what it is and if there is someone else that it can attack within range (or whether it can move still). Basically, if it can do something else useful instead of autokilling the downed PC, it will do it. It depends though.

Overall, I think your GM was rare from what I've seen.


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Jason S:

If a PC jumps on a dragons head while the dragon is in the water and gets drowned and then leaves the table unhappy how is that even partially my fault? I did not make the PC jump on the dragon's head.

BTW, except for the leaving the table unhappy this pretty much happened. I have a player who is extremely gung-ho.

Player's actions have consequences. Blaming the GM for the logical conclusion of those actions does not mean the GM is responsible. If a GM started coming up with ways to save the player because of an error the player made then we doesn't he just play the Player's character?

Yes, be forgiving and all. Yes, if you can mitigate things a bit. But, 's!&$ happens' and one of those things that happens is death.

Note: I am not referencing PFS when I say this. I am speaking in general. While I know PFS modules are less dangerous than many APs that does not mean there are not gung-ho players out there who still manage to get themselves killed.

Note 2: I am not directly referencing the OPs situation in my response to you. I am just responding to the general principle that it is always partially the GM's responsibility. I can only agree with this is if we define responsibility as 'I am your GM and if it were not for my being here you would not had the opportunity to play let alone the opportunity to die.'

- Gauss

Andoran ****

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If a player was down and out already, I would not attack them. Bad form and no real reason to do so. If they get caught in an area of attack spell, then that is just bad luck. A bad guy only attacks a threat.

On the other hand, when I am running the monsters I choose who the attacks are going to and then roll them all as attacks first and then then resolve damage. In some cases the second of the four attacks killed the PC, but how would the monster know this as it is attacking with four arms? Combat should be quick and a mortally wounded PC isn't going to drop in a millisecond and give the bad dude an opportunity to hit a new target. I have the PC's tell me who they are attacking first and then roll. Not first roll, hit, 12 damage, "Is he dead?" no, second attack, hit, dead, third attack to fighter behind him. Seems too unrealistic to me.

PC's would seldom croak if I pulled the second and third attack after the first one left them at -1. My two cents.

Silver Crusade ****

Dragnmoon wrote:


Is it something I should expect from most GMs or did I run into a rarity?

In my experience its fairly rare but not unheard of. One of the places where one can expect significant table variance.

I think that the great majority (certainly including me) more or less do what you do. Kill downed PCs only when it makes clear sense, erring on the side of mercy in ambiguous cases.

There is also a bit of a "Well, did they ask for it element?" to it in my experience. If a character went out of their way to get into trouble then GMs seem to be a tad more likely to kill them like this. But if they were the victim of bad luck then they seem to be a touch more merciful.

Andoran *

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Playing the game that realistically using a "what would the monster do" approach can make it a miserable experience for the players. I think very few players enjoy their characters dying. A playing dying from make poor choices is one thing, but arbitrarily killing them is another.

As the teller of the story, you have several option to make the adventure harrowing and suspenseful without killing the fun. Some GMs seem to almost gloat about being "killer GMs". I find myself having more empathy for the players and their experience, and I don't have fun if they don't have fun. I have had a player hit by a heavy pick critical( x4) at level 2, clearing having enough damage to kill them. I chose to put them down at -9 hp and the creature moving on to the next opponent. Killing them off does nothing to help the gaming experience. Sometimes it sounds like some GMs treat it like GM vs Players deathmatch.


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Death sucks, but without death where is the challenge? I like PF because it has taken the sting out of death but it still sucks. Now it feels like the 'right suckage'.

- Gauss

Andoran *****

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Shar Tahl wrote:
Killing them off does nothing to help the gaming experience.

It can help make the world feel that much more real, where death is a real possibility, and adventuring is actually a very dangerous profession.

Andoran *****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Cards, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Dave the Barbarian wrote:

If a player was down and out already, I would not attack them. Bad form and no real reason to do so. If they get caught in an area of attack spell, then that is just bad luck. A bad guy only attacks a threat.

On the other hand, when I am running the monsters I choose who the attacks are going to and then roll them all as attacks first and then then resolve damage. In some cases the second of the four attacks killed the PC, but how would the monster know this as it is attacking with four arms? Combat should be quick and a mortally wounded PC isn't going to drop in a millisecond and give the bad dude an opportunity to hit a new target. I have the PC's tell me who they are attacking first and then roll. Not first roll, hit, 12 damage, "Is he dead?" no, second attack, hit, dead, third attack to fighter behind him. Seems too unrealistic to me.

PC's would seldom croak if I pulled the second and third attack after the first one left them at -1. My two cents.

I am confused Dave, you start saying it is bad form, then go on an describe doing exactly what I say is bad form for a GM to do.

At first I was not going to begrudge you with running your monsters deciding what they do with all their attacks before they roll, but then you go on and say you make you players do the same thing. By the rules they don't have to do that, what you are doing is a House Rule, house rules can't be used in PFS and I respectively ask you to consider that.

PFRPG Core pg 187 wrote:
You do not need to specify the targets of your attacks ahead of time. You can see how the earlier attacks turn out before assigning the later ones.

And how would a monster know if a character is down and out of combat? I think falling down unconscious is a dead give away....


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My experience has taught me that the threat of death is the important part of the game, not the death itself. You only need enough death to create a suitable level of threat that shows that the player's actions have consequences. One issue is that eveyone's threshold is different, but in general, most people hate loosing things, like characters, that they've put work into.

I've found that NPCs who know the world and its workings, tend to finish off characters if it'll remove a threat (or at least make it harder to make that character a threat again) if the removal doesn't place them in further danger. I can understand not wanting the final attack to kill the player outright, so if they're separated enough from the player group, I could see the villain forgoing the final attack that should mechanically kill them, to make a coup de grace that will almost certainly do the trick. More cinematic in my mind.

Most animals won't risk significant harm to themselves unless they are direly hungry, sick, frightened, or defending the young. It's too difficult to heal from such wounds and leaves them less able to defend themselves. When talking about food and depending on the animal (or monster), I'd see them as likely trying to feed on the character or drag the body off elsewhere to feed in peace. Sick animals often have poor judgement, frightened ones lash out until allowed to remove themselves from the situation, and those defending the young lash out until the threat is gone.

Frankly, I see it more boiling down to the DM's style. Everyone plays and runs games differently. Even those DMing styles that I might not like are still good styles, because they fit a different personality type and play style.

Cheliax **

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For PFS I follow the tactics listed for the monster. I never initiate a coup de grace or use a death effect/animate dead unless the scenario specifically calls for it. As for finishing off unconscious players with iterative attacks or what have you, it depends. A couple of instances I've had happen/seen happen:

1. Party separated, lone PC gets attacked by a stupid beast out for food. Tries to fight it alone, gets smacked around. Why would the beast do anything but eat him?

2. 5 PC's against a big bad with more intelligence. One PC stabs it with the only thing capable of killing it; it's going to go all out on him.

3. Creatures like Shadows whose only goal is to drain the vitality of others and make more of themselves. It's going to keep attacking the same thing until it's drained, or the thing that subjects it to it's greatest weakness.

4. Intelligent monsters against a group of PC's. They do stop attacking downed characters because they are no longer a threat, and move on to the remaining PC's. However, if downed PC's keep coming back and it's not possible to remove the source of healing, then yes, they are going to make sure someone stays down. Likewise, if you are brought back to consciousness and are on 2 hp, prone, and swing at something... I'm going to smack you.

I try to play my monsters like I think they should be played. I don't go out of my way to kill players, but I've seen an alarming amount of 'coddling', where GM's simply and utterly refuse to kill PC's. Death is part of the game. If you take away the risk, then to me that kills a lot of the fun. Not everyone is like that of course, and there is nothing wrong with preferring a 'softer' approach.

Silver Crusade **

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Dragnmoon wrote:
Dave the Barbarian wrote:

If a player was down and out already, I would not attack them. Bad form and no real reason to do so. If they get caught in an area of attack spell, then that is just bad luck. A bad guy only attacks a threat.

On the other hand, when I am running the monsters I choose who the attacks are going to and then roll them all as attacks first and then then resolve damage. In some cases the second of the four attacks killed the PC, but how would the monster know this as it is attacking with four arms? Combat should be quick and a mortally wounded PC isn't going to drop in a millisecond and give the bad dude an opportunity to hit a new target. I have the PC's tell me who they are attacking first and then roll. Not first roll, hit, 12 damage, "Is he dead?" no, second attack, hit, dead, third attack to fighter behind him. Seems too unrealistic to me.

PC's would seldom croak if I pulled the second and third attack after the first one left them at -1. My two cents.

I am confused Dave, you start saying it is bad form, then go on an describe doing exactly what I say is bad form for a GM to do.

At first I was not going to begrudge you with running your monsters deciding what they do with all their attacks before they roll, but then you go on and say you make you players do the same thing. By the rules they don't have to do that, what you are doing is a House Rule, house rules can't be used in PFS and I respectively ask you to consider that.

PFRPG Core pg 187 wrote:
You do not need to specify the targets of your attacks ahead of time. You can see how the earlier attacks turn out before assigning the later ones.

And how would a monster know if a character is down and out of combat? I think falling down unconscious is a dead give away....

Agreed. Multiple attacks do NOT happen simultaneously, as stated in the Core Rulebook quote above. You can even 5 foot step between attacks to switch enemies if you want.

As for attacking PCs when they're down, how would the enemy know if the PC is dead or just unconscious? Normally, that should take a heal check, which most NPCs aren't going to waste time on in the heat of battle.

If they have reason to believe the downed PC might get healed and come back, maybe they'll finish them off, but only if they have a reason to think that PC is a major threat, and they don't have better things to worry about.

In other words, I agree with the original poster. I don't go out of my way to kill PCs as a GM. Most NPCs will see the PCs who are still on their feet participating in the battle as the most immediate threat.


I don't GM often, but my take on it (and generally, how we do it here.)

If a creature knocks someone down to unconsciousness and has remaining attacks, I try to get it towards someone else, five foot step if I need to. If it has no other targets it can take the rest of it's attacks on, it just stops. If it was just the first attack, then they move to something else.

Yes, it could be construed as metagaming, but honestly, meh. However, they die from a lucky critical on an attack, terribly sorry, can't stop that.

*

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Gauss wrote:

Jason S:

If a PC jumps on a dragons head while the dragon is in the water and gets drowned and then leaves the table unhappy how is that even partially my fault? I did not make the PC jump on the dragon's head.

I think you're referring to my statement that "it's at least partially the GMs fault if a player goes away upset"?

Sometimes people get upset and there's nothing you can do, but it's the GMs job to smooth things over and make an enjoyable experience for everyone, no matter what happens. Often that has a lot with BEING FAIR, giving them benefit of doubt, and communicating with the players.

Gauss wrote:
Yes, be forgiving and all. Yes, if you can mitigate things a bit. But, 's+!! happens' and one of those things that happens is death.

Of course. I've killed PCs but the players knew it was FAIR and everyone went away happy.

Gauss wrote:
Player's actions have consequences. Blaming the GM for the logical conclusion of those actions does not mean the GM is responsible. If a GM started coming up with ways to save the player because of an error the player made then we doesn't he just play the Player's character?

You're putting words in my mouth. I think it's equally bad "saving a PC", especially when it's obvious. There should be consequences.

However, GMs shouldn't be killing all helpless PCs wherever possible. When it's a grey area, you don't necessarily have to destroy PCs.

Personally I want to encourage heroic actions, not punish them. On the other hand, I punish stupidity. It's not black and white, it's subjective, and it's case-by-case.

Gauss wrote:
I am just responding to the general principle that it is always partially the GM's responsibility.

Whenever I GM I always think of things I can improve. An unhappy player is a red flag that it's likely you can probably do something better. If you have unhappy players, maybe you're doing something wrong.

Gauss wrote:
I can only agree with this is if we define responsibility as 'I am your GM and if it were not for my being here you would not had the opportunity to play let alone the opportunity to die.'

On the other hand, if you don't have players, you also don't have a game.

GMs are important but not that important, there are a million ways to entertain yourself now, people don't need to put up with bad GMs. Don't overestimate your importance.

Andoran

I came to Gencon hoping to get my dwarf killed at Gencon. Nobody would oblige me. :-(

**

For everyone saying that continuing to attack a downed opponent is "normal," please try to remember back to when a PC continued to attack a downed foe. I know I've only seen it a couple of times from the players.

There are special cases that this may occur. Animals trying to eat something, or maybe some hungry undead. However, there should be hints of this earlier, as it builds suspense and whatnot. Plus, continuing attacking a downed opponent is rare enough players deserve some warning before it happens.


Jason S:

I was not trying to put words in your mouth. I was just extending the line of thought. I recognize there are limits to responsibility. I was trying to illustrate the need for those limits by using examples of why the limits need to be there.

I do think one point needs clarification: An unhappy player is not an automatic red flag that the GM did something wrong. Of course, it is likely that the GM did something wrong, just not automatic. There are all sorts of players and some of them are just unhappy people.

- Gauss

Andoran ****

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I had a PC attacked by a DM when he was down and as a result, killed.

And this is a group with no healers so there'd been no 'up down yoyoing'.

And I hadn't hurt the BBEG at all.

And the NPC's tactics say nothing about focusing down and killing one PC above all others.

And my PC hadn't really done much the whole mod (it's not like he'd shown himself to be a threat via scrying or something).

And the DM in question was a Venture Captain.

Needless to say, I do not play at that Venture Captain's conventions anymore and, in general, avoid playing within their region.

Silver Crusade **

At Dice Tower Con in Orlando in July, local Florida Venture Captain Kristy held a GM 101 session. The PC jumping on a dragon's head as an example of player stupidity reminds me of something she recommended.

If a player wants to do something outrageous (and/or stupid), give them the "You can do that, but..." response. Don't outright prevent them from doing something stupid, as that stifles creativity and upsets the player. But if there's an obvious possible negative outcome to their creative approach, point it out to them and give them a chance to change their mind before doing it.

ie "You can jump on the dragon's head, but do you have a plan if it submerges in the water? Is your PC a good swimmer in all that armor? Are you sure you want to do this?" Then let them change their mind and do something else instead if your warning convinces them it's a bad idea.

I've actually played at Kristy's table and seen her use this approach. We had an enemy alchemist throwing bombs down at us from the crow's nest of a ship, and our alchemist wanted to throw his own bombs back. Her response was along the lines of "You can do that, but if you miss, that bomb has to land somewhere, so you might hit yourself or one of your allies." He went for it and hit my PC instead of the bad guy. The alchemists throwing bombs back and forth that way ended up reminding me of Spy vs Spy from Mad Magazine. It was silly and unsuccessful, but fun. And because she warned him in advance of the possible negative consequence, nobody had any reason to get upset, and we all took it in stride.

Sczarni ***

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I see no reason why wild animal or enraged monster would stop attacking player to be honest however I would never coup de grace or most likely finish player unless forced by tactics of creature.
I prefer leaving them to bleed out and get lucky on Constitution checks.

This thread seems to much to be honest. If you had major fun at table with that GM I just don't see it how can u doubt at him then, sure you might be sad or frustrated, but that's how it goes.

Players died in 3.5 and they will keep dying in PF also.

Grand Lodge **

If you want to talk about hitting a player when they're down... Another player and I lost our PC's yesterday when the DM used a 4d6 AoE special ability 6 times over 3 rounds. (There were two of the mobs.)

We are in a hedge maze, stuck in the first of five possible 1 square wide paths through the brambles. The monsters opened from surprise within the brambles with a full attack action. We each had three attacks come at us, each with a possible 2d6 sneak attack damage. Due to reasonable AC and poor rolls by the DM, this was less than effective, but one of the attacks did hit me for 9 damage.

The next round each monster each began unleashing volley after volley of a 15' cone 4d6 special attack, Reflex save for half. We took 6 of these attacks over 3 rounds, despite both being incapacitated after the first two volleys on the 2nd round. My unfortunate companion died on round 3 when bursts three and four hit, but thanks to considerable healing & expenditures of consumables, my companions managed to get me to live until the last burst (6).

24d6 AoE (Or 3 rounds of 8d6 AoE) damage into a group of level 3 adventurers. My third level Druid had 25 hit points, and basically the best saves possible at that level, 6 Fort, 4 Reflex, 8 Will. The other player's Inquisitor was level 2. The special attack which was used had a limit of 3x per day.


Dragnmoon wrote:

Personally for myself I feel it is bad form for a GM in a PFS game to finish off a character that went into negative hitpoints with their remaining attacks once they are down, unconscious and bleeding unless there are extreme circumstances. As examples:

Dying PC caught in an area effect spell, channel etc...
Monster specifically called out to do so in tactics (looking for food, etc)
A PC who is shown during the battle to continually come back up and is too dangerous every time and the monsters are smart enough to catch that, though this should be rare.

I am curious how other GMs feel about this? I don't get to play often and I experienced this at GenCon while playing there and was so surprised when it happened.

Is it something I should expect from most GMs or did I run into a rarity?

Don't get me wrong I have killed PCs before, even killed one with 1 hp left with a rend from a Gug (I blame Kyle!), but I have never killed a PC once he was down and out of the fight when it did not match the above examples, and even then it was only when the body was in an area effect.

PS to the above GM, though I did not agree with you doing the above, I still enjoyed the game you ran and would like to thank you for bringing the game to the hotel when we ran out of time in the PFS room.

I don't see the difference between killing you when you have 10hp left, and killing you when you are down to -3. As for killing a PC when they are down I think that if a GM looks at that and that alone he is metagaming, and not playing the NPC's realistically. In other words it should depend on the situation. If it is an animal it will probably start eating you which translates into killing you. If the enemy is tactical and he does not think you have a healer in the party then the smart thing is to move on to another party member. If there is a healer, then you kill the down PC now so he does not reenter the fight and stab you in the back later. Personally I try to run the NPC's realistically. I understand nobody want to die, but it is a part of the game, and I would hate to be given a freebie.

*** RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Another aspect is that the coup de gracie might provide an opportunity to *save* a PC, and add tension. (if they're paying attention that is)

I ran Murder on the Silken Caravan years ago, and the Hobgoblin dropped a PC. I announced he'd do Coup de Gracie on the fallen foe. Two players got the hint and attacked him (since Coup de Gracie is a full round action if they'd dropped him, dead hobgob, live PC). If the rest of the party had been paying attention they would have a) stopped the death, and b) learned that double teaming is good.

To use a theatrical example, look at Highlander. When Kurgan is about to coup de gracie Connor in the 1500s, he fails because his brothers bullrush/grapple Kurgan and ruin his attempt.

Silver Crusade ***

I run whatever tactics fit the encounter or monsters. The great majority of time it's a bad move to waste an action on finishing off a downed character. Exceptions include those mentioned by Dragnmoon, although I don't think that even a hungry animal would finish off an unconscious person if there are clear and presents threats still up. A channeling healer in the opposing party can make it incredibly difficult to keep opponents down, and this could provoke intelligent monsters to finish off foes.

Coup de grace is sometimes a valid tactic, too, but mostly a waste of time. I've used it sometimes, for example in Quest for Perfection pt. 1

Spoiler:
the creatures paralyzed by the yeti will be back in action after one round, so they must be finished off if the boss can do so without provoking an AoO.

I admit that I tend to be merciful to first-timers in particular, though.


TriOmegaZero wrote:
Shar Tahl wrote:
Killing them off does nothing to help the gaming experience.
It can help make the world feel that much more real, where death is a real possibility, and adventuring is actually a very dangerous profession.

It also helps to make them better gamers, well some people anyway. Some just never learn though. I often died when I first started playing. Each time I learned a new lesson though.

It is not bad form to kill a PC, nor is it good form. It is just something that happens. I do realize that playstyle is not for everyone but neither is saving a PC what everyone likes either. It is often a good idea to ask the GM how he runs his games so you know if you want to sit at his table or not.


Furious Kender wrote:

For everyone saying that continuing to attack a downed opponent is "normal," please try to remember back to when a PC continued to attack a downed foe. I know I've only seen it a couple of times from the players.

There are special cases that this may occur. Animals trying to eat something, or maybe some hungry undead. However, there should be hints of this earlier, as it builds suspense and whatnot. Plus, continuing attacking a downed opponent is rare enough players deserve some warning before it happens.

My players will ask me if the bad guy is dead. I now allow them to make heal checks to see if the bad guy is dead or not, but if they have a full attack action you better believe all of those swings are taking place unless I say the monster is dead.

PS:I have ran for several players over the years. This seems to be the norm.

***

Matthew Morris wrote:

Another aspect is that the coup de gracie might provide an opportunity to *save* a PC, and add tension. (if they're paying attention that is)

I ran Murder on the Silken Caravan years ago, and the Hobgoblin dropped a PC. I announced he'd do Coup de Gracie on the fallen foe. Two players got the hint and attacked him (since Coup de Gracie is a full round action if they'd dropped him, dead hobgob, live PC)..

A full round action is resolved on the characters turn. It is not the same as a spell with a casting time of one round.

Andoran *****

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Endrian wrote:
A full round action is resolved on the characters turn. It is not the same as a spell with a casting time of one round.

If I understand Matthew correctly, he told the players they could tell that next round the hobgoblin would be coup de gracing the PC. Giving them a round to move in and do something about it. If nothing else, moving to melee would grant them AoOs when the hobgoblin took his CdG attempt.

Qadira ***

"don't kill them, they're worth more alive" - slaves are valuable.

If the PC is down, why take the time to kill him in the middle of a fight? You can always kill him later. and slower.

Also, how do the PCs treat downed foes? did they kill them out of hand? Do the "monsters" know this? If a bad guy Mook knows the PCs kill downed foes, I would think they would "return the favor". If they have heard that the PCs stablized downed mooks, maybe they'll return the favor? After all, it is easier to make living captives dead than to make dead captives living.

*** RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

3 people marked this as a favorite.

Actually it's a bit of both. a) I took it that it was the same as a spell casting time (so I goofed, GM mistake to the players' advantage) and b) during that time they could position so when I'd make the roll everyone got an AoO.

The idea was that the players would have an 'oh crap' moment. I was already playing up the lawful evil alignment. It scared the wizard when he threw magic missile and the head hobgoblin orders "Wizard! Counterbattery fire!" and the two bowmen turned to him...

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Feral wrote:

I had a PC attacked by a DM when he was down and as a result, killed.

And this is a group with no healers so there'd been no 'up down yoyoing'.

And I hadn't hurt the BBEG at all.

And the NPC's tactics say nothing about focusing down and killing one PC above all others.

And my PC hadn't really done much the whole mod (it's not like he'd shown himself to be a threat via scrying or something).

And the DM in question was a Venture Captain.

Needless to say, I do not play at that Venture Captain's conventions anymore and, in general, avoid playing within their region.

Yikes.

--------------

Basically, I think it comes down to in-character motivations and out-of-character motivations. I don't think Dragnmoon's list of acceptable circumstances was meant to be exhaustive; he was just saying "If there's no in-character reason for the monster/NPC to kill a downed PC, should the GM make them do it anyway?"

The answer is no. If the monster/NPC seeks a kill, fine. If the GM seeks a kill, that's bad.

Andoran ****

Jiggy wrote:
The answer is no. If the monster/NPC seeks a kill, fine. If the GM seeks a kill, that's bad.

That's basically what it boiled down to.

Also, it wasn't the final attacks of a full attack sequence or anything. It was a fresh round and my PC was down from the previous round. There was literally no reason for the NPC to go out of his way to attack me again.

I spoke to Brock about it at NeonCon and he said he'd speak to the VC in question. The VC in question then told me they would talk to me later.

I saw the VC several times throughout that NeonCon but I never got that talk.

I'm willing to cut my losses and walk away, but I just wanted to do my due diligence and warn people off from playing with the VC. Keep this is mind folks, VCs are just people like the rest of us; Some of them are great and some of them are awful and should be avoided at all costs.

Grand Lodge **

I have a few personal views on when it is acceptable to finish a downed opponent.

1. A chaotic Evil NPC may take a demented joy in continuing to attack a downed opponent, prodding the PC's to action.

2. An animal or pack of animals looking for sustenance would definitely try to drag off a downed opponent, breathing or not. (undead as well)

3. If the domain of an NPC deity is a God/Goddess of death, would it not be his/her duty to make the necessary offering?

4. If the NPC is a ranger, and the PC character is the favored Enemy, you get no mercy.

5. If a PC that deals serious damage gets healed back to his feet, he gets no mercy when he pops back up against the same opponent.

6. If the NPC statblock in the scenario dictates he should attack downed opponents.

7. Some constructs are programmed to kill intruders.
This list by no means exhaustive, and other scenarios are definitely reasonable, just a few of my views on appropriate times.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Amazing how the OP basically asks "if there's no in-character reasons to do X, should the GM do it anyway?" and then the majority of the replies are "here's an in-character reason to do X".

That type of thing seems to happen a lot around here...

Shadow Lodge ***** Venture-Captain, Washington—Eastern Washington aka WalterGM

Jiggy wrote:
"if there's no in-character reasons to do X, should the GM do it anyway?"

No. The GM should play in-character as much, if not more, than the players.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Thanks Walter! :D

I agree.

*** RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Jiggy wrote:

Amazing how the OP basically asks "if there's no in-character reasons to do X, should the GM do it anyway?" and then the majority of the replies are "here's an in-character reason to do X".

That type of thing seems to happen a lot around here...

Jiggy,

While I don't think that's directed at me, it does hit on part of my guiding 'out of character actions'.

I explained Saturday, I use three sets of rules when I GM. The RPG rules, and the rule of cool, and the rule of funny.

In my above example, having the hobgoblin take a full round to coup de gracie the downed hero a) was in the rules (you can do this) and b) kept him from jumping to attack another PC (I was rolling hot, and they had scimitars). It also allowed a 'rule of cool' to give the PCs a 'big damn heroes' moment of allowing them to save the PC (so that didn't work, still).

Saturday, there was some question on whether the darkness would drop after the LBEG dropped. they'd already countered it with light sunrods etc. I said "eh, rule of cool, it doesn't affect combat at this point, sure." If it had effected combat, I'd have looked it up.

Likewise, why did the mite use prestidigitation to make the one guy's armor blue? Because he wasn't going to be able to do anything. So it was more of a 'screw you, I've an action and an at will ability!' Plus it was funny.

The negotiation between the mite and the PCs? Again, played for rule of funny Mites could have shanked the humans to try to extort the gnome sorcerer's surrender, but it's more fun to have them lie, badly.

"What do you want the gnome for?"
"We want to have her for dinner!" *elbow jab* "I mean over for dinner, my buddy makes a nice Holinase sauce."

It gave some funny RP oportunities at the table, kept the mites from dying horribly, set the gnome up for her own moment of glory (ruined by bad saving throws) and kept the game moving. And gave me a chance for a bad pun. "There's no race like gnome for the Holinase."

Likewise, that the BBEG a) recognized three of the characters and b) rolled really hot against two of them fit in the rule of cool. When I get lucky and down one of his killers, then tear through another, he didn't stop to coup de gracie, or hunt down the archer wounding him, he was going to attack the eildion because it was between him and the third character. It wasn't rational, it wasn't tactically sound, it was a cool moment of character. It also lead to some awesome moments at the table.

Osirion ** Venture-Captain, Canada—Atlantic Regions aka Nuit

I find myself agreeing on both sides and am curious about the scenerio and the situation before casting what I would do in such a situation.

Generally speaking, if the attacher is not a dumb animal, or a raging humanoid, there is no reason to hit something that is not a threat.

Granted, this is PFS, and great care must always be given to the idea of useless death (Tasha Yarr syndrome) versus heroic death (Samurai syndrome) versus stupid death (Leeroy Jenkins syndrom).

In this situation, player certainly did not feel heroic. But, what are the specifics?

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

@Matthew Morris - Good for you, but what's any of that got to do with the post of mine you quoted?

Shadow Lodge *****

The price is $5 a pound.

Andoran

You just ask yourself "What would BBEG do?"

Then you do that.

Shadow Lodge *****

Man, GMing is easy!

*** RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

Jiggy wrote:
@Matthew Morris - Good for you, but what's any of that got to do with the post of mine you quoted?

Re the first sentence. :P

"While I don't think that's directed at me, it does hit on part of my guiding 'out of character actions'."

I don't think GMs should justify hitting a man when he's down, unless there is a good reason (scenario says "NPC targets man when down") or there is a good OOC reason ("Here's your big damn heroes moment.")

I was just (in an overly verbose way, I'll admit) saying that I hope you don't include me in the "I'll kill 'em and give reasons to justify it for the evil" group. There is a time and a place to target a downed foe. Sometimes it's for the plot.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Matthew Morris wrote:
I hope you don't include me in the "I'll kill 'em and give reasons to justify it for the evil" group.

I spoke of no such group. My post was talking about people repeating information already contained in the OP's question instead of answering the question.

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