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RPG Superstar 2015

A GM's Conundrum: To Kill or Not to Kill?


Advice

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This question specifically concerns a monster/NPC using the Full Attack action. Here's the scenario:

You're running a monster that has 3 attacks -- two claws and a bite -- and it's standing within 5 feet of a PC. It carries out the Full Attack action. You adjudicate its attacks, and the first 2 knock the PC down into negative HP. There are no other PCs nearby to attack: do you carry out the third attack, which has a reasonable chance of killing the PC?

I have my own thoughts on this but want to hear what other people think.

Dark Archive

Kill the PC. Danger is part of the fun of playing.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

It is a conundrum, and it differs between groups quite a bit. I ponder this too. I don't reach consistent conclusions in my games.

Scarab Sages

My DM would.
Then again it's a well publicized fact that I have 6 other characters waiting in the wings so rolling another consists of switching out character sheets. :P


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It depends on the motivation of the monster:

1. Low intelligence should kill to ensure that an enemy doesn't get back up, as well as to whet the appetite for supper

2. Enjoys killing should kill for the pleasure.

3. Anything that can find value in an unconscious but living enemy, whether for slavery or fun, should not kill.

I too am old school. Without the probability of character death, the simulation of danger makes the game less fun.

Shadow Lodge Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014

No one else nearby, then yeah. However if it only takes one attack and the guy's down, and others are in the area, it'll probably move first, to get closer to another opponent. If it's already on the second attack of a full? Finish the attack action, finish the guy off.


Basically? Only if that's what the monster would logically do.

A creature like an owlbear, which is not very bright and motivated by basic urges like acquiring food, would take the last attack and kill the PC.

A creature that's a mindless attack machine, like a zombie, would take the last attack and kill the PC.

A smart creature who intends to continue fighting (or who is cornered) will turn its attention to the others in the party, perhaps taking a five foot step towards one of them if it hasn't already taken one this round. The downed PC is not as much of a threat as the ones still on their feet.

A smart creature who intends to flee in the next round could go either way. Killing the PC would mean one less pursuer. Letting the PC live would mean a distraction to slow up the other PCs, giving the monster more time to flee. I'd just have to make that call based on how the monster would assess its chances at the time.


Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think why it's attacking can be used to answer the question. If it’s attacking for a reason where the PCs death is not required in order to get the desired outcome, then there is no reason for it to kill the PC.


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Yeah. Depends on the monster. Is it a big dumb monster who wants to eat the PCs? Is it defending itself or its young? is it some sort of demon?

Also, it's worth noting that a round is six seconds - not a lot of time to stop and consider the consequences of carrying out the rest of his attacks.

Sovereign Court

Depends on the monster. If it's an intelligent one, of course that it will attack the PC with all the attacks, dropping or not. If it's an animal or a mindless monster, then, i would say that it would redirect it's attention to other, still moving PCs.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

If it's intelligent, it will decide if it wants to make sure the PC stays down. If it's unintelligent, it will keep hitting until the PC stops moving, probably at the start of the next round.


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If you would continue to attack, then why wouldn't you also continue to attack the downed character ('s dead body) on the next round? It's the exact same logic that led you to take the extra attack in the first place.

Either enemies will attack downed PCs or they won't. They have no way of knowing if the PC is actually dead unless they do a heal check or have life sense.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Tales Subscriber

Some things to consider:

Is the creature intelligent? If so, it may stop once the PC is down, recognizing it is no longer a threat. If not, it may finish all of its attacks, then decide the next course of action.

Why is the creature attacking the PC? If it's hungry, it'll finish the attacks, then eat the PC. If it's defending itself, it may stop when the PC is down so it can flee. If it sees the PC as a clear threat, it may attack until the PC is dead (and maybe take a trophy). If it's attacking because the PC did something to anger it, it may continue attacking long after the PC is dead.

Motivation is everything. I don't think there is a clear-cut answer to this question. The GM has to determine the creature's actions on a case by case basis. If the GM determines the creature will kill the PC, then it will keep attacking. If the GM determines the creature will stop, it will stop. There is no right or wrong answer.


I'll point out in this thread that I've seen two opposite responses:

"If it's intelligent, it will use all attacks. If it's not, it won't."

"If it's intelligent, it will move on. If it's not, it will use all attacks."

Just goes to show that we don't all think the same way. I find it interesting that most people have begun with the creature's motivation, regardless of PC death. That's where I would begin too, but only after I've established the players' expectations that I'm running a deadly campaign and won't pull punches for the PCs just because they're PCs.


Is there anyone else within 10 feet? If so, the monster can usually take a five foot step and use its last attack on a second foe.

Does the monster have any reason to take prisoners alive? If so, he might withhold the last attack.

If neither of the above apply, then I cannot think of any reason for a monster not to finish off a downed player character with his last attack.

If you want to prevent such scenarios, consider using hero points (from the Advanced Player's Guide). A player character can survive nearly anything by spending two of them. Of course, since you gain only one hero point per level and can never accumulate more than three of them, this trick can only be used so often -- but it is valuable for saving a player character from an unlucky break.


I think the motivation is the right place to begin. But should we also take into account the frenzy of combat? For example, a Large dragon attacks with 1 bite, 2 claws, 2 wings, and 1 tail slap, all within a 6-second round. And don't forget high-level Monks.

I don't know where I'll fall in the end, but this is the rule I've currently come up with:
1. First, is the monster/NPC trying to kill the PC (to eat it, to assassinate it, etc.)?
2. If not, roll 50/50 chance or some other die roll to see whether they use their remaining attacks.

Silver Crusade Star Voter 2013

It's important to note that some players don't expect to be hit when at negative HP, and also expect to be immune to any AoE damage that might hit their unconscious body. I think if you were fighting someone and they went limp, you would immediately switch to other targets instead of worry about if he's dead or not. My call is that the last attack would be lost as he takes a moment to analyze new targets. A predator would probably finish it's attacks then try to run away with its kill, however.


Just my own take on this: I usually put monsters in one of three categories. Mindless (usually undead), Highly Motivated, and everything else.

The Mindless don't know to stop (mindless, duh). The Highly Motivated will act based on other motivations "Those pesky PCs foiled my last plan..." or "must...eat...now!!!". The rest will generally use survival instincts. Even the dumbest of animals knows to stop fooling with the dead/unconscious thing while there are still threats. There is also the question of can the monster even tell the difference between dead and unconscious in 6 seconds or less while in a battle for its life? In most cases, I think not.

There is also the meta aspect to the question. Regardless of how one may choose to play the monsters, there is the larger question of killing in general. If the party has fairly easy access to Raise Dead, etc. then kill away as death is merely an inconvenience. But there are some serious concerns if the party is say 5th level (too high to have a 1st level replacement PC, too low for Raise Dead). If you allow replacements of equal level (more or less), there isn't much penalty to death - the PCs just roll up a clone or something new. If you don't, you basically kill the game since now there is someone running around who is 4+ levels away from the rest of the party. I struggle with this question more than the one on how to play the monsters.


I have to wonder why this question only occurs with respect to iterative attacks, and not attacks on the next round. The scenario is the same whether or not iterative attacks exist.

The enemy dropped a PC. Should he continue hitting that dropped PC or not? The answer to that question has to be the same *whether or not* iterative attacks exist.


Snex,
The difference is that in the circumstance, the foe can't meaningfully use that 3rd attack on anyone else. It's a different question for the situation:
Foe has dropped the PC opposing him, and nobody is threatening him presently, but there are still active opponents within reasonable range. Do you stop to finish him or move on to another active target?


snex wrote:

I have to wonder why this question only occurs with respect to iterative attacks, and not attacks on the next round. The scenario is the same whether or not iterative attacks exist.

The enemy dropped a PC. Should he continue hitting that dropped PC or not? The answer to that question has to be the same *whether or not* iterative attacks exist.

Actually, I disagree with this comment based on game mechanics. The decisions on actions are a turn-based. The creature decided to attack the PC that turn and has no other targets within 5-feet as per the OP. The decision is to use all or only partial number of attacks on the PC.

Next turn, the monster can charge another PC that threatens it as opposed to continue attacking the down PC. Even mindless monsters would attack moving targets rather than down ones.


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So in other words, you guys are in favor of enemies metagaming based on rules they can't possibly know.

That's a horrible way to GM. Your monsters don't know what iterative attacks, rounds, or any of that other stuff is. Those things are abstractions that let us humans on earth play the game, not mechanics that creatures within the game world should be exploiting even though they have no knowledge of such things.


What would be beneficial for the group? Are you running a game where you want the players to take their characters with depth and growth, or basically walking bags of statistics that can be swapped in like spare parts as needed, with no logic? Uh yeah, you guys run into Marten2, who happens to be out here too....maybe The Computer sent him.

Its learned behavior. If the group learns through experience that every chance to TPK them, the GM will take it, you may end up with things like the same character they wanted to play, just renamed, which ends up being the same as if you didn't kill the first character anyway.

You might also end up with "screw it, i'll just min/max and who cares about history and rp and growth? I want xp and powahs!"

For the most part, for the chunk of players, if this is say, the 3rd time you've killed one of their characters that they spent yknow...a decent amount of time trying to flesh out with history/motivations/rp stuff, they will stop trying. Yes you have the outliers that either never care enough to give histories and 'build' a character, and you've also got the obsessives on the other end of the scale that will always spend days if not more coming up with a fleshed out new char to plop into the mix and don't really care if you've killed the guy. These also happen to tend to be the guys that want to swap out characters IN game even if you HAVEN'T killed off their existing character.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'll jump on the "it depends" bandwagon. But I would expect most creatures probably wouldn't attack again unless seriously mindless or exceptionally bloodthirsty. If the prey is no longer resisting, there's no need to fight it. The idea of wasting an attack is pretty much metagaming and not likely to be an in-character motivation.

If fighting for food, defending your new meal becomes the priority - grab on and hustle away with it or fight off any rivals until you can eat it in an uninterrupted fashion. If fighting to protect territory - stand over the fallen and intimidate with a display. After all, fighting for territory is risky and predators tend to be lazy about pursuing risks if a display will do.

I would probably only really consider finishing off the PC with intelligent monsters who would understand there's can be a substantial dying time as the stricken PC lingers with otherwise fatal wounds. And then he'd probably only butch the PC if unusually spiteful or bloodthirsty.


Snex,
There's a difference between a subsecond followup attack (or an already initiated combination) and having to wind up for another routine.
Also remember that your combat rules ARE the laws of physics in your world. Expecting people not to notice how they work is unreasonable.


EWHM wrote:

Snex,

There's a difference between a subsecond followup attack (or an already initiated combination) and having to wind up for another routine.
Also remember that your combat rules ARE the laws of physics in your world. Expecting people not to notice how they work is unreasonable.

The combat rules are not the laws of physics. They are a model for describing actual physics, and like all models, they only approximate the real thing. Your monsters know about the actual physics, they don't know about the model that earth humans use to play the game.


It depends on how harsh your campaign is, what your players' expectations are, and how well both of those have been communicated.

Fundamentally, this question isn't about rules or monster psychology. If you want your campaign to be the sort of campaign where there is a real possibility of a PC dying in one round of attacks, then play it that awy (and communicate that to your players going in!). If you prefer a more dramatic style, then have him drop to bleeding and let the other characters have to rush in for a desperate rescue before he bleeds out.

Ideally, decide this sort of thing long before you're in that situation. Tell the players when you set up the campaign "This will be gritty and realistic," or "This will be heroic in style." Then make sure they're okay with that style.


Also consider the time impact. Sometimes there may not be any, you might have other character sheets or the player might have them, but if you've killed a PC and this now means they have nothing to do for the rest of the game session other than 'roll up a new character', that can be rather a crappy game experience from a player's point of view.

I'd say not all Players are thrilled about the idea of "Hey why don't you just run this NPC" as a fill-in to make up for twiddle-thumbs time, since its not something they had a hand in creating.

Oh and yeah, it depends. If this is say...a 'first time' game experience for a new player you're hoping to cultivate as a regular? Yeah, how do you think whacking their first character 20 minutes into the game goes?


snex wrote:
So in other words, you guys are in favor of enemies metagaming based on rules they can't possibly know.

What are you talking about? What exactly do you consider metagaming in this situation?

Next turn, the monster can do one of multiple things:
(1) continue attacking the downed character
(2) do nothing
(3) move/charge to attack someone else
(4) withdraw/move away

In the scenario as written, the creature can only do one of two things:
(1) make its final attack
(2) do nothing

Options (3) and (4) aren't available to it, since it has already performed two attacks of a full-attack action.


Are wrote:
snex wrote:
So in other words, you guys are in favor of enemies metagaming based on rules they can't possibly know.

What are you talking about? What exactly do you consider metagaming in this situation?

Next turn, the monster can do one of multiple things:
(1) continue attacking the downed character
(2) do nothing
(3) move/charge to attack someone else
(4) withdraw/move away

In the scenario as written, the creature can only do one of two things:
(1) make its final attack
(2) do nothing

Options (3) and (4) aren't available to it, since it has already performed two attacks of a full-attack action.

Think about what "make its final attack" means in the scenario. "Final attack" of what? An arbitrarily designated 6 seconds in which it can make a full attack. But baddies don't know about these arbitrary divisions of 6 seconds.

The only thing a baddie knows is this: "I hit my enemy. He fell. Should I continue hitting him?" The answer to this question must be the same, whether the baddie is in the middle of a set of iterative attacks or whether he has just finished his last attack of the round and cannot attack again until the next round. Anything else is metagaming based on the concept of a "round" that the baddie knows nothing about.


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If you consider it "metagaming" for a PC or GM to have their characters act upon knowing that they can perform a full-round action or a standard+move action each round, then I think you'll find that everyone metagames all the time.


Option 3 is available if there is an enemy ten feet away (who can thus be reached with a five foot step) and the monster has not already taken a five foot step this round. This possibility should not be overlooked, but it is not guaranteed to be available in any given case. I have a wild rager barbarian who has to keep these options in mind for the opposite reason -- he wants to avoid being forced to attack allies in the event that he finishes off an enemy.


Are wrote:

If you consider it "metagaming" for a PC or GM to have their characters act upon knowing that they can perform a full-round action or a standard+move action each round, then I think you'll find that everyone metagames all the time.

How do you figure? The PC or baddie is just thinking, "I want to hit this guy." or "I want to run up to that guy and hit him." It isn't metagaming at all to make those intentions happen within the rules of the game. It *is* metagaming for the PC or baddie to utilize the concept of a "round" to justify hitting an unconscious body that he wouldn't have otherwise hit.


Kill


It depends. I tend to be generous to my players, but a legit kill against a vindictive or instinctive killer is what it is... an opportunity to remind everyone what they're risking by being adventurers, which is good for morale in the long run.

Yes. Players have more fun if someone dies once in a while.


snex wrote:
Are wrote:
snex wrote:
So in other words, you guys are in favor of enemies metagaming based on rules they can't possibly know.

What are you talking about? What exactly do you consider metagaming in this situation?

Next turn, the monster can do one of multiple things:
(1) continue attacking the downed character
(2) do nothing
(3) move/charge to attack someone else
(4) withdraw/move away

In the scenario as written, the creature can only do one of two things:
(1) make its final attack
(2) do nothing

Options (3) and (4) aren't available to it, since it has already performed two attacks of a full-attack action.

Think about what "make its final attack" means in the scenario. "Final attack" of what? An arbitrarily designated 6 seconds in which it can make a full attack. But baddies don't know about these arbitrary divisions of 6 seconds.

The only thing a baddie knows is this: "I hit my enemy. He fell. Should I continue hitting him?" The answer to this question must be the same, whether the baddie is in the middle of a set of iterative attacks or whether he has just finished his last attack of the round and cannot attack again until the next round. Anything else is metagaming based on the concept of a "round" that the baddie knows nothing about.

The monster/NPC would have a visual or perceptual validation of the state of the PC. A PC with negative hitpoints still breaths and lives until he crosses that threshold. If you are suggesting that he shoudl make a heal sheck to indeed determine that the PC is dead, then shouldn't all PCs have to do the same? Like you said they don't see mechanics they see a person clinging to life or a person with their chest caved in, torn asunder, decapitated, etc...


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Govgrim wrote:
snex wrote:


Think about what "make its final attack" means in the scenario. "Final attack" of what? An arbitrarily designated 6 seconds in which it can make a full attack. But baddies don't know about these arbitrary divisions of 6 seconds.

The only thing a baddie knows is this: "I hit my enemy. He fell. Should I continue hitting him?" The answer to this question must be the same, whether the baddie is in the middle of a set of iterative attacks or whether he has just finished his last attack of the round and cannot attack again until the next round. Anything else is metagaming based on the concept of a "round" that the baddie knows nothing about.

The monster/NPC would have a visual or perceptual validation of the state of the PC. A PC with negative hitpoints still breaths and lives until he crosses that threshold. If you are suggesting that he shoudl make a heal sheck to indeed determine that the PC is dead, then shouldn't all PCs have to do the same? Like you said they don't see mechanics they see a person clinging to life or a person with their chest caved in, torn asunder, decapitated, etc...

How easily could it make that visual validation of the state of the PC in the heat of battle? Probably not so easily that it just gets to do so for free unless it is something blatantly obvious like the PC missing a head or still swinging his weapon around. Think about how difficult it is to tell if a person is dead or alive even in real life. You have to take a pulse at minimum, and even then, you can't be 100% certain. We require doctors for precisely this. You would at minimum need to make a Perception or Heal check, or something equivalent.

And yes, this should apply to the PCs as well. But which PCs actually metagame in this way? In our group, once a baddie goes down, we move on to the next one. Whether he is dead or not is irrelevant to us until the enemy cleric starts bringing them back. It only seems to be GMs who abuse iterative attacks in this way, just to get a kick out of unnecessarily killing a PC.


snex wrote:
Govgrim wrote:
snex wrote:


Think about what "make its final attack" means in the scenario. "Final attack" of what? An arbitrarily designated 6 seconds in which it can make a full attack. But baddies don't know about these arbitrary divisions of 6 seconds.

The only thing a baddie knows is this: "I hit my enemy. He fell. Should I continue hitting him?" The answer to this question must be the same, whether the baddie is in the middle of a set of iterative attacks or whether he has just finished his last attack of the round and cannot attack again until the next round. Anything else is metagaming based on the concept of a "round" that the baddie knows nothing about.

The monster/NPC would have a visual or perceptual validation of the state of the PC. A PC with negative hitpoints still breaths and lives until he crosses that threshold. If you are suggesting that he shoudl make a heal sheck to indeed determine that the PC is dead, then shouldn't all PCs have to do the same? Like you said they don't see mechanics they see a person clinging to life or a person with their chest caved in, torn asunder, decapitated, etc...

How easily could it make that visual validation of the state of the PC in the heat of battle? Probably not so easily that it just gets to do so for free unless it is something blatantly obvious like the PC missing a head or still swinging his weapon around. Think about how difficult it is to tell if a person is dead or alive even in real life. You have to take a pulse at minimum, and even then, you can't be 100% certain. We require doctors for precisely this. You would at minimum need to make a Perception or Heal check, or something equivalent.

And yes, this should apply to the PCs as well. But which PCs actually metagame in this way? In our group, once a baddie goes down, we move on to the next one. Whether he is dead or not is irrelevant to us until the enemy cleric starts bringing them back. It only seems to be GMs who abuse iterative attacks in this way, just to get...

I think we just looped back to playstyle preference.I think alot of times when a pc or npc are dropped below 0 we don't get a detailed description but a your/their (axe/sword/arrow/magic missile)hits, doing X hit points of damage instead of a descriptive of the same attack disemboweling them. Their are injuries so terrible that common knowledge dictates death, no doctor needed.

I am not saying that you don't have a point, only that there are vast ways of playing it. There are no hard and fast rules considering how abstract hit points seem to be in the community.


First: I haven't yet decided what I would do in the given situation. It would likely depend on various things.

Second: It's fairly easy for the monster to determine if the downed character (whether PC or not) is a threat next round, even if they have no way of knowing if he's dead or simply unconscious. If the downed character has done anything between their last round and this one, then they're still a threat. Otherwise, the creature should move on to another target. That means the line of reasoning "if he attacks further this round, then he should continue attacking next round too" is false.

And yes, that also means a character could bluff and pretend to be dead in order to get a creature to move away to more lively targets.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Pawns Subscriber

I have many agreements/disagreements with things stated above, but here's a completely different take for you: It's an animal attacking with both its front paws (claws) and teeth (bite). If you've ever watched a cat, bear, or other creature with such attacks, it's not a 1-2-3 action. The two claws almost always come in simultaneously. The bite is sometimes simultaneous (a cat's pounce) and sometimes comes a split-second later (a cat's pin-and-toss).

But the three attacks are always within a half-second or so of each other, so in this case, with natural weapons that are typically clustered, I'd say the creature goes for the kill because it doesn't have time to do anything else. (And I wouldn't allow a coup de grace, it would just be its natural third attack because it wouldn't have time to know any better.)

If you have a creature using a single attack multiple times (a fighter with multiple attacks), or with attacks that don't make sense to be simultaneous (a dragon's claws and tail), then the creature has enough time to notice that the opponent is dropping and can turn to face the other opponents. And it would be at that point that I'd take motivation into account.

So in response to the original post, I'd try to hit the PC at their flat-footed AC and go for the kill. Which is saying a lot; in the 4 campaigns I'm running, I've killed a total of ONE character, and that was a GM NPC. But I don't see any other choice for such tightly-clustered natural attacks.

Sovereign Court

I usually roll all 3 attacks at once using corresponding dice and tally damage afterwards, but if I didn't, I'd say yeah, gotta go with all 3 attacks for most cases. Now, alternate motives can certainly change that; an intelligent foe might want a prisoner, or even might use the injured ally to bait other PCs into coming to their aid. Even a mindless foe might have reason to stop - a mother bear protecting her cubs could reasonably stop as soon as the threat is neutralized. In general, though, you should usually go for the kill to maintain a sense of tension. (If I don't feel like killing a character for some reason or another, I typically just have a tough enemy spread out his attacks, rather absolutely focusing on one character. Encourage your players to try to distract foes - it gets them more into the battle and gives you an excuse to not kick their asses.)


snex wrote:
EWHM wrote:

Snex,

There's a difference between a subsecond followup attack (or an already initiated combination) and having to wind up for another routine.
Also remember that your combat rules ARE the laws of physics in your world. Expecting people not to notice how they work is unreasonable.
The combat rules are not the laws of physics. They are a model for describing actual physics, and like all models, they only approximate the real thing. Your monsters know about the actual physics, they don't know about the model that earth humans use to play the game.

Snex,

I disagree. They aren't the model for your monster or your PC. They ARE the laws of physics. If you opt not to finish a combination (read, a full attack), you can't meaningfully move---beyond a 5' step). If you opt not to start said combination, you can. This implies a much higher opportunity cost for starting a combination than for finishing one. That cost roughly approximates the intuition of the Player. But for the PC, or the Monster, that is just the way the world works. Assuming that PCs and NPCs won't infer how the world works from their experience and build doctrines and procedures around it is unreasonable.


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snex wrote:

So in other words, you guys are in favor of enemies metagaming based on rules they can't possibly know.

That's a horrible way to GM.

Um, no. And please don't be a jerk.

Game mechanics provide structure to combat. The definition of turn are when the monsters get to make decisions. The OP decided to full-attack with multiple attacks with no other target within 5-foot and reach. The OP asked whether the monster should continue hitting a down character with its 3rd of 3 attacks OR do not attack. The next turn, the monster can decide to do whatever.

Now, insert the advice about monster motivation about what to do next. That is not meta-gaming. It's gaming.

Here's a definition of meta-gaming for you.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
EWHM wrote:

Snex,

There's a difference between a subsecond followup attack (or an already initiated combination) and having to wind up for another routine.
Also remember that your combat rules ARE the laws of physics in your world. Expecting people not to notice how they work is unreasonable.

Not really. The rules are an abstract structure used to operationalize character actions into a conviently adjudicatable format. That's not physics.


I like to think of that final attack as a sync kill. Then again, having my character's die in descriptively gruesome ways appeals to me. If I can't have a heroic death, then I better be a stain.

Grand Lodge

It depends on the monster, and on the situation at the table.

The most important question, first off, is what are the consequences for death?

If you're playing a low-level PFS game where death is permanent and paying for raise dead is too costly, then staying your hand might be the most prudent action.

However, if you play a home game where there's virtually no consequence for death (just start back at or near the average party level with a new character), then I'd say go for the kill.

Also, what's the table etiquette? Is it implicitly understood that players are meant to always win, or are you playing the monsters straight?

For instance, at my tables, I go with a bit of a mix. We play for keeps. If players die, they must start new Level 1 characters if they can't get a Raise Dead. As such, I temper this rule by the fact that my creatures generally leave players alone after they've fallen unconscious.

Star Voter 2014

The Rot Grub wrote:

This question specifically concerns a monster/NPC using the Full Attack action. Here's the scenario:

You're running a monster that has 3 attacks -- two claws and a bite -- and it's standing within 5 feet of a PC. It carries out the Full Attack action. You adjudicate its attacks, and the first 2 knock the PC down into negative HP. There are no other PCs nearby to attack: do you carry out the third attack, which has a reasonable chance of killing the PC?

I have my own thoughts on this but want to hear what other people think.

Let 'em live...unless they have it coming.

In general, I only kill PCs who have brought it upon themselves through negligence or arrogance, and if it's a TPK I try to leave at least one survivor. If a single party member lives, the campaign lives.

Although in point of fact, I am running a campaign tonight that I don't expect everyone to live through, but it's the final battle with a BBEG 6 months in the making...no victory without sacrifice.


Bill Dunn wrote:
EWHM wrote:

Snex,

There's a difference between a subsecond followup attack (or an already initiated combination) and having to wind up for another routine.
Also remember that your combat rules ARE the laws of physics in your world. Expecting people not to notice how they work is unreasonable.
Not really. The rules are an abstract structure used to operationalize character actions into a conviently adjudicatable format. That's not physics.

Bill,

They define the effective physics of the game world. For instance, if you're in 60' range with a clean charge lane, you can charge and make an attack in the space of 6 seconds. If you have no such lane, you can only move 30' and attack. That is a fairly ironclad limit.
Now, what's 6 seconds? It's the amount of time necessary for an archer, for instance, to acquire you as a target and pepper you with an arrow or two. PCs and NPCs are going to twig to this so fast an operationalize their doctrine (ie charge if in x range, double move if in y range, run if in z) very fast. Its also going to affect the military thinking in your world. This is, of course, unless you assume that all of the combats in your world other than the ones you are 'observing' work under different rules, like some twisted Hera's Uncertainty principle...


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
EWHM wrote:


Bill,
They define the effective physics of the game world. For instance, if you're in 60' range with a clean charge lane, you can charge and make an attack in the space of 6 seconds. If you have no such lane, you can only move 30' and attack. That is a fairly ironclad limit.
Now, what's 6 seconds? It's the amount of time necessary for an archer, for instance, to acquire you as a target and pepper you with an arrow or two. PCs and NPCs are going to twig to this so fast an operationalize their doctrine (ie charge if in x range, double move if in y range, run if in z) very fast. Its also going to affect the military thinking in your world. This is, of course, unless you assume that all of the combats in your world other than the ones you are 'observing' work under different rules, like some twisted Hera's Uncertainty principle...

From my perspective, this approaches the rules to RPGs backwards, as if they define everything that is possible. Rather, I approach RPGs from the perspective of asking what the character would do and then apply the rules to put the plan into effect. Players understand the rules, but they are invisible from the perspective of the PCs. PC lives aren't segmented into actions, rounds, and stop-motion animation. One action, on six-second round flows into another, seamlessly.


If there is conscious PC in range, the last attacks should go on him. Monster "motivations" can be justified either way to suit your agenda, and dying is not fun. The threat of dying can be fun, so I'm not suggesting fudging the dice, but you don't need to go out of your way to kill the PC as if to prove a point.

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