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Roleplaying NPCs as they would act vs pulling punches for PCs


Advice

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Sczarni

Pretty self explanatory. E.g., Older dragons are incredibly intelligent creatures and very familiar with magic. They would recognize spell casters as the biggest threat (In 3.5 I used the argument a dragon knows a spell caster can render them immobile with a single touch [Shivering Touch]) and so will attack the spell casters first either in melee or with a breath weapon.

E.g.2, A cyclops in Pathfinder has the ability, as an immediate action, to once a day look into the possible futures and choose the exact result of one die roll before the roll is made. Per the stat block, they wield large greataxes, 3d6+7 damage, x3 on a crit. Given their limited intelligence I would think a cyclops would use this ability to grant himself a nat20 on an attack roll out of sheer anger at the PCs.

In both these examples, I feel the Role play aspect is accurate in the enemies' actions, however playing monsters accurately like this has led to the demise of many PCs and, at times, entire groups. I don't necessarily want to start holding back and walking on eggshells all the time because I worry the PCs will get too used to having their hands held when they get to the big leagues, but at the same time, they aren't getting to the big leagues. Any ideas?

Edit: In re-reading, I supposed I should clarify in my dragon example, when I say older dragons, I mean young or adult-ish dragons. Mid CR range or so. Not necessarily wyrms.


Are the cyclops waiting for PCs to show up? Maybe, being a creature with a regular life outside of waiting for PCs to kill them, they get in the habit of using them on important skill checks made in day to day life.

And dragons? Well, an old dragon SHOULD be deadly.


Has it been made clear that the cyclops ability auto-crits? I would not think that choosing a 20 is the same thing as rolling a 20.

Silver Crusade

He could use it to get a nat 20 on the attack roll, and have to confirm normally, or use it on a confirmation roll to ensure the threat is a crit. It makes it so the roll is considered to have been a 20, the same as rolling it. A cyclops can also use it to auto-pass a save.


Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The cyclops would at least still have to confirm the crit, and has already spent the "choose the roll". Even so, hope you've got fortification.

Silver Crusade

Corren28 wrote:


E.g.2, A cyclops in Pathfinder has the ability, as an immediate action, to once a day look into the possible futures and choose the exact result of one die roll before the roll is made. Per the stat block, they wield large greataxes, 3d6+7 damage, x3 on a crit. Given their limited intelligence I would think a cyclops would use this ability to grant himself a nat20 on an attack roll out of sheer anger at the PCs.

I learn something new about the Pathfinder rules every damn day.

Regarding your question. The "I think the NPC would do this" is often an excuse to do some specific tactic that the DM desires but that may not make sense for the character.

With the Cyclops example this monster lives a life of hunting and killing and eating. Some days he needs to use his power to kill for food and others he needs to make a new weapon. If it is once per day he might have used it. If he has not used it he might want to save it. They have an INT of 10 and Wis of 13. That is actually nice an average so they can have the foresight to want to save powers for potentially more productive uses. If the Cyclops is able to easily handle the PCs then he would probably never use it. If the fight gets a little desperate for the Cyclops he would probably bust it out immediately.

Regarding the dragon let us use the Adult Red Dragon as a comparison point. He is one or two hundred years old. He has survived several fights with adventurers. He has perhaps fought a barbarian who frothed at the mouth and sliced him up for a while before the dragon ate him. He also faced a clever wizard who summoned creatures to do his fighting. He has seen a gamut of tactics and attacks. He assumes that prepared groups might have some fire protection and might use Dispel Magic to drop that so he can catch more people with his breath weapon. He would probably Haste himself first and then dispel magic. If caught out in the open his first action might be to cast invisibility and fly up. Then see what the group does in response.

My point is that you can't tailor NPC tactics to your group's make up. We know characters and groups can be quite varied so NPC will not necessarily know what to expect unless they have previous intel.


What I would do is find out why the party keep dying. Is it bad tactics, bad luck, and so on. If you can help them become better players, assuming they are interested in doing so, then you won't have to hold back.


I think I have my monsters act in appropriate ways all the time, but sometimes I choose actions that would favor the PCs.

Last session the PCs fought a Raksasha. He was a villain from a PC's backstory, and they'd been hunting him in the swamp. They found him standing on a tree branch, and when combat began, he approached it playfully. He could've just nuked them with Lightning Bolts from the start, but I figured he'd want to save spell slots. So he cast an Acid Arrow on the cleric, and cast a Silent Image of a huge stone covering the pit trap that the Magus fell into (which the cleric managed to spellcraft, drat!)

Getting to the more relevant part, most of the party was melee and couldn't reach him. The cleric tried to command him off the branch, but his SR and will saves were too tough to beat. I expected the PCs would attack the branch instead of him (a scorching ray, an enlarged monk punch) to get him off, but after 2-3 rounds it didn't happen. I thought it would be perfectly reasonable for him to leap down himself to attack the PC who was his hated enemy in melee. I knew it was tactically the worst thing he could do, but even for a smart enemy like a Raksasha, I could see pride clouding his judgment.

So I do pull punches, if I can see it as an appropriate way of RPing the NPC.


Off-topic:Rakshasa are terrible in melee. I never use them alone because even though they have good defense they offense sucks.

PS:I am speaking of the one in the first bestiary.

On topic:
I have had proud NPC's, but they normally come out guns blazing(figure of speech), expecting to kill the party quickly which gets them in trouble due to wasting resources assuming the party can weather the strom. Others toy around with the party until they take a good hit(does not have to be hit point damage), and then the gloves come off.


Definitely not the best in melee, but not incompetent either. Full BAB, four attacks per round. Pretty weak damage per hit, but still. And with those defenses, they can afford to go into melee.


wraithstrike wrote:
What I would do is find out why the party keep dying. Is it bad tactics, bad luck, and so on. If you can help them become better players, assuming they are interested in doing so, then you won't have to hold back.

It's also possible they're playing in character and not always using the most optimal tactics for that reason. Like the proud Rakshasa. PCs can make similar mistakes.

The other thing you can do is rather than kill them using high end enemies using the best tactics, pit them against smart, but weaker enemies. Tucker's kobolds would be the extreme example. This lets you not pull punches but still let them survive.
Mix those up with dumber but tougher creatures.


That is true Jeff, but in that case the GM can ask the players to be more tactical if they can survive, but choose not to, and he feels it is killing his games.


Petty Alchemy wrote:
Definitely not the best in melee, but not incompetent either. Full BAB, four attacks per round. Pretty weak damage per hit, but still. And with those defenses, they can afford to go into melee.

They can last longer in melee than many other monsters, but it is only a matter of time before they die, unlike when someone fights a giant, they know the giant might kill them first. More than likely they will also be getting double teamed, and if they fight a high AC combatant they might have a hard time hitting.

Sczarni

Thanks for all the input guys! It's appreciated.

Quote:
My point is that you can't tailor NPC tactics to your group's make up. We know characters and groups can be quite varied so NPC will not necessarily know what to expect unless they have previous intel

I agree wholeheartedly, and I don't necessarily want to tailor an encounter specifically to kill the PCs, nor do I need to. There are enough deadly monsters in PF that can do that on their own.

Quote:
So I do pull punches, if I can see it as an appropriate way of RPing the NPC.

As do I. I've had villain NPCs beat the PCs to negative hp before and then left them, considering them a non-threat and leaving them alive as a sign of his "generosity" and superiority. The issue, I feel, is when the pendulum swings the other way. When what an NPC or monster would do, IC, would cause the death of the PCs.

As an example of something that actually did happen, the PCs were shipwrecked on an island and exploring their surroundings in search of water. On the other side of the island they spotted the remains of another shipwreck. One of the players in the group is playing an Undine and can breath underwater, so the party took a small boat to the wreck and the Undine dove down on his own to check it out. Waiting for him was a Giant Moray Eel. The PC failed his perception check so didn't see it coming. The eel made his bite attack, made the grab check, and dealt enough damage in two rounds to kill the PC outright.

There were no feelings, no rage, no nothing. It's just an animal that found it's next meal. In my opinion, that's exactly how the encounter should have gone considering what happened. The rest of the group, though, called BS. To save all the bickering and infighting I agreed to rewind things and let the party continue on the adventure as if the encounter had never happened seeing as how the wreck was not integral to the story. Having said all that though, I'm worried they're going to get used to having punches pulled for them when they come upon tougher encounters that they can't bypass or skip later on in the adventure.


I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.


I would've been upset about that giant moray eel too, since it sounds like there was no foreshadowing of danger.

It could've been good to let the player see some eels swimming around in the distance, maybe see them preying on fish and show off what powerful predators they are.

You could also consider that the eel had probably never seen humanoids before, or at least not an Undine. The player looked nothing like its typical prey, so why would it risk something it has never seen before instead of eating typical prey.

I'll be honest, I don't know how eels think. I'm just pretending it's like some land-based predators.


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I only pull punches when i feel i've made a mistake as the gm. This usually comes from simply making the encounter harder then I intended. Especially at higher lvls the cr's I find aren't always a good indicator of how hard encounters will be. This is especially a problem with one group I play with who don't optimize well. I'm not going to TPK them because i thought they could take on more then they could or gave them a hurdle they realistically couldn't meet.

If the mistake is on the PC's side I'm far less merciful but my PC's know that in advance. In our groups opinion if there is no fear of death combat gets stale. Its a pet peeve of mine when the GM constantly saves the party with role playing from NPC's that makes no sense(NPC have personalities act in accordance with them and that's the end of it). So generally play your npc's and let the dice fall as they will.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16

NPCs can also act on mistaken assumptions. Take that old dragon as an example: He may have fought and defeated several parties of adventurers over the years, but he is unlikely to have faced a party as determined and capable as the PCs. (Such a party would likely have slain a younger dragon.)

Based on that, the dragon may underestimate the danger an enemy caster represents, instead remembering how easily an elven wizard (Level 7, Con 8, 21 hp) dropped when it breathed on him. The wyrm might remember the savage beating he received before he was able to finish off an enemy fighter (a Con 20 half-orc, also level 7, 80 hp) and focus his efforts on negating that threat.

A monster may also have different priorities than players expect. The dragon might choose to keep a party member alive (for a while...) so that he can quiz him about current events, force him to cast some spell the dragon hasn't mastered, or entertain himself for a few days with riddle games. Then again, maybe he's just not very hungry and wants to keep someone in his larder until he feels a bit peckish.

Silver Crusade

Corren28 wrote:

Waiting for him was a Giant Moray Eel. The PC failed his perception check so didn't see it coming. The eel made his bite attack, made the grab check, and dealt enough damage in two rounds to kill the PC outright.

There were no feelings, no rage, no nothing. It's just an animal that found it's next meal. In my opinion, that's exactly how the encounter should have gone considering what happened. The rest of the group, though, called BS.

Because it was BS. That creature seems like it was set there only for the Undine and thus should be something more his speed and not a one-two killing machine. Some foreshadowing would be expected for such a powerful creature. For example the smaller fish might suddenly disappear.

I get the feeling you are trying to play a naturalistic world instead of a fantasy adventure world. Set expectations for your group and see what their expectations are.

Andoran

Ah, context, you set everything right.

@karkon: The OP was explaining an encounter from the Skulls and Shackles AP. It was not a BS situation. The moray eel was there for any old character to find, it was not a specific 'trap' for the Undine. Also, the OP said the character blew his Perception check. That was the 'warning', and it was missed. Blown checks which equal death happens. A lot.

If you want further clues, consider this: a shipwreck is a perfect spot for fish to hide/congregate/breed/etc. Where there are fish/prey, there are predators.

Anyway, I agree 100% with your last sentence. "Set expectations for your group and see what their expectations are."

Sczarni

karkon wrote:
Corren28 wrote:

Waiting for him was a Giant Moray Eel. The PC failed his perception check so didn't see it coming. The eel made his bite attack, made the grab check, and dealt enough damage in two rounds to kill the PC outright.

There were no feelings, no rage, no nothing. It's just an animal that found it's next meal. In my opinion, that's exactly how the encounter should have gone considering what happened. The rest of the group, though, called BS.

Because it was BS. That creature seems like it was set there only for the Undine and thus should be something more his speed and not a one-two killing machine. Some foreshadowing would be expected for such a powerful creature. For example the smaller fish might suddenly disappear.

I get the feeling you are trying to play a naturalistic world instead of a fantasy adventure world. Set expectations for your group and see what their expectations are.

Spoiler:
It's the Skull and Shackles AP. I didn't put the Eel in there, the AP did. There were no smaller fish to disappear before the PCs eyes. I didn't set it there specifically for the Undine, nor was I the one to make the decision for the Undine to go alone. The rest of the party sat up in the boat. The eel may not have necessarily wanted to eat the PC, but undeniably, the PC was intruding on what the eel considers it's home, and as such the eel is defending it's territory. Part of me wanted to shrug my shoulders and call him stupid for going off on his own, but on the other hand I don't see how the party as a whole could have saved him before the eel swam off or died.
Quote:
It could've been good to let the player see some eels swimming around in the distance, maybe see them preying on fish and show off what powerful predators they are.

As I said, he failed his perception check and thus, saw nothing.

Quote:
Especially at higher lvls the cr's I find aren't always a good indicator of how hard encounters will be.

I am agreeing with this more and more the longer I play. On that same note, it's probably fair to say only one person in our group has any real experience with Pathfinder. The rest of us, well, we played the Carrion Crown Part 1 AP and party wiped on one of the "bosses" and started Skull and Shackles. The player who has played before keeps going on about how much more powerful the PCs are in Pathfinder so I've been hesitant to dial the monsters back, hence my question I guess.

I suppose instead I should have asked if people feel some of the monsters in the APs and in the Bestiary are a bit too tough for their CR rating, to be a bit more clear on my meaning.


karkon wrote:
Corren28 wrote:

Waiting for him was a Giant Moray Eel. The PC failed his perception check so didn't see it coming. The eel made his bite attack, made the grab check, and dealt enough damage in two rounds to kill the PC outright.

There were no feelings, no rage, no nothing. It's just an animal that found it's next meal. In my opinion, that's exactly how the encounter should have gone considering what happened. The rest of the group, though, called BS.

Because it was BS. That creature seems like it was set there only for the Undine and thus should be something more his speed and not a one-two killing machine. Some foreshadowing would be expected for such a powerful creature. For example the smaller fish might suddenly disappear.

I get the feeling you are trying to play a naturalistic world instead of a fantasy adventure world. Set expectations for your group and see what their expectations are.

Scouting ahead is dangerous. Scouting ahead when the rest of the PC's will have a hard time helping the scout is even more so.

If you leave the group and get caught by yourself it's deadly. Encounters don't scale themselves down like a video game if you went alone.


I thought you meant that he failed his perception check to spot the eel sneaking up on him. Did he roll so poorly that he couldn't see anything in the water? I meant showing off eels in the distance so that he would know he is in dangerous waters, much like you might foreshadow wolves with letting the PCs hear a howl not too far off, then they still fail the perception check to notice the wolves as they fall upon them.

Silver Crusade

Corren28 wrote:

I suppose instead I should have asked if people feel some of the monsters in the APs and in the Bestiary are a bit too tough for their CR rating, to be a bit more clear on my meaning.

...
As I said, he failed his perception check and thus, saw nothing.

When I played through Council of Thieves it seemed kinda swingy. Some fights were too damn easy and others were to damn hard.

Still as DM you can adjust. Unless that giant eel was integral to the story you could have put him off until there were more PCs.

The perception check is irrelevant to my point. You could have given him the foreshadowing and then called for a perception check after giving him some time to choose to bug out. I have killed quite a few characters but nobody had a reason to complain because I made certain they were warned about very dangerous encounters in game (and sometimes out of game).

The game exists to have fun and you seem more concerned about if a monster or NPC is acting within character. You could have chosen for the Giant Moray to just be curious and swim near him for a while. The Moray could have recently eaten and not been interested right now. Heck even if the AP specifically calls for the moray to attack as DM you have the right to change it so you don't kill players willy nilly.

You seem to lean toward reasons for creatures to attack and use their strongest powers. If you are going to try a naturalistic view like that then you need to consider other options. Makes the game more interesting. An encounter with something can be scary even if it never attacks especially for a lone PC.

You could have had it swim toward him slowly and move into combat time. If the PC stays and attacks then the moray attacks too. If the PC runs maybe the moray follows him to chase him out of his domain but does not attack. There are so many ways to handle this that do not require attacking.


In the Eel example I would never kill a PC because of a failed check like perception. Maul the hell out of him maybe but that's harsh because the dice went against him. This is why i role behind a screen so if that encounter would have killed him I would have fudged the rolls. He didn't necessarily do any thing wrong. He was doing his job and got unlucky and I wouldn't punish him for it.

Then again I've played in groups that would kill him. If that's cool with your PC's fine but i think most people probably would be put out by that result.

Andoran

What is the make up of the party: Classes, Levels, AC's hp's ?
Is the problem TPK, or the elven wizard with no con and no hp?(which can arguably help lead to the TPK).

Would you say that they are smart players that run into a string of bad luck, or that the encounters have just been too powerful for them?

If they are at a level where they are facing Dragons and Cyclops, they should have a means to escape (Dimension door, word of recall, teleport etc..). If a couple party-members escape, they can come back with help (even to the extent of dead PCs playing some of the NPC 'rescue-squad').

Pulling punches as mentioned above, is usually necessary when the DM has made an error in setting up the encounter (blatantly overpowering it).

The key to a good encounter is good story writing. It's nice when the party can find clues to character-flaws that a boss-figure may have (Megalomanic, Monologer, Narcissist...).

Many times a boss/sub-boss likes to leave traps, or show up for part of a fight only to exit and show up again later. The story can have scenes written where the boss is a very busy guy, so if it looks like his monsters are getting the upper hand, he'll ride off to take care of other business. But if his goons are loosing, he'll summon some more or stay for the fight.

There are many plot devices that you can use. But if you feel that something like a cyclops 'crit-ability' is over-weighing the balance, then only use one cyclops, with other monsters as his back-up.

An ambush of 20 Drow Ranger-archers with truestrike, is way over-powered even if the CR says it's underpowered.

The mark of a good GM, is telling a good story without making things too easy or too hard, and as you know it's a bit tricky.

So just write a story, where your storyline allows you to either 'pull-punches' or 'punch-harder' intelligently.

Great encounters usually end with Whew and Wow :!)

-Good luck Corren

PS watch Dorkness Rising again lol


Far be it for me to tell anyone how to run a campaign or how to play, however... The very first thing you might want to ask yourself is this:

Are you playing with your players, or against them?

You see, the DM is all-powerful. If what drives you as a person and as a DM is to compete against your players, then it's quite easy for you to start designing encounters and campaigns in such a way that it might no longer be exactly fair. If you, as a DM, want your players dead, then they're dead, period.

If you're playing with your friends, however, and you mainly want everyone to have fun, then it's quite OK for you to "pull your punches" if you see your player group getting in over their heads.

Quite often the blame for the circumstances the players find themselves in can be found not only with the players, but with the DM, and often more so.

Sure, if a player decides, at level 1, to go challenge some dangerous looking adventurer to a fight, only to realize this adventurer was ten or fifteen levels higher than him, then you can only hope that he learns from it. However, who put the adventurer there? You see my point?

If you're playing against your players then by all means, drop dragons in front of them left and right. If you want to lead a fun campaign for your players, a campaign they'll have a chance of getting through, then you'll have to be a bit more of a mastermind.

My motto would be something like "Challenge your players. Don't kill your players."


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Sydänyö wrote:

Far be it for me to tell anyone how to run a campaign or how to play, however... The very first thing you might want to ask yourself is this:

Are you playing with your players, or against them?

You see, the DM is all-powerful. If what drives you as a person and as a DM is to compete against your players, then it's quite easy for you to start designing encounters and campaigns in such a way that it might no longer be exactly fair. If you, as a DM, want your players dead, then they're dead, period.

If you're playing with your friends, however, and you mainly want everyone to have fun, then it's quite OK for you to "pull your punches" if you see your player group getting in over their heads.

Quite often the blame for the circumstances the players find themselves in can be found not only with the players, but with the DM, and often more so.

Sure, if a player decides, at level 1, to go challenge some dangerous looking adventurer to a fight, only to realize this adventurer was ten or fifteen levels higher than him, then you can only hope that he learns from it. However, who put the adventurer there? You see my point?

If you're playing against your players then by all means, drop dragons in front of them left and right. If you want to lead a fun campaign for your players, a campaign they'll have a chance of getting through, then you'll have to be a bit more of a mastermind.

My motto would be something like "Challenge your players. Don't kill your players."

Hmmm.

I'm not a PC killer. We're finished part 2 of an AP just this week, with zero PC deaths. Last one, I think one PC died for the whole thing. I like my players (they're all close friends) and I like the characters they make. I get stressed when their PCs are close to death. But I kinda ham it up, and my players tend to assume that I'm out to get them in a friendly kind of way. So they take lots of precautions with any encounter.

But I wouldn't have wound back the eel encounter. Your players did something dumb, and one of them copped the consequences. Winding back the lock was BS, or more to the point, them expecting that you should retcon their mistake out of existence was BS - you acted very graciously. If I were you in that situation, I would have spread my hands, grimaced with genuine understanding, and moved on. But then my players would never complain, they would see their error and not do something that silly again.

I think it's a very real fear you have, that they won't learn from their mistakes if they never cop the consequences.

But, to do a complete about-face, I suppose the game is all about having fun, and the GM's job is to ensure everyone has fun. I guess I'm just lucky that my group is full of people that a) like the challenge and want to improve, and b) enjoy the game and don't really have a concept of dying as "losing" so long as we're all having fun and telling a good story.

In closing, I think you were commendably sensitive to your group's feelings in that situation. But I doubt they'll ever become superior tactical players. And that's ok too.


"Roleplaying NPCs as they would act vs pulling punches for PCs"
This is similar to the player line, "but it's what my character would do" to justify selfish and jerky behaviour. Is that really the ONLY thing your character would CHOOSE to do? Is a full out, no holds barred, attack to kill really the ONLY thing a monster/npc will do? A random encounter will be different than a BBEG which the party has been chasing for 10 levels.

Corren28 wrote:
As an example of something that actually did happen, the PCs were shipwrecked on an island and exploring their surroundings in search of water. On the other side of the island they spotted the remains of another shipwreck. One of the players in the group is playing an Undine and can breath underwater, so the party took a small boat to the wreck and the Undine dove down on his own to check it out. Waiting for him was a Giant Moray Eel. The PC failed his perception check so didn't see it coming. The eel made his bite attack, made the grab check, and dealt enough damage in two rounds to kill the PC outright.

Had you already told the party, the waters are dangerous and full of predators. If so, going off alone was stupid and the character deserved to "sleep with the fishes". If you had not made it perfectly clear that the waters were dangerous, then I think you should have "pulled your punch". Maybe have a bigger fish come along and attack the eel (or whatever). Use this as the chance to tell him, going off alone on this island is suicide.

Sir_Wulf wrote:

NPCs can also act on mistaken assumptions. Take that old dragon as an example: He may have fought and defeated several parties of adventurers over the years, but he is unlikely to have faced a party as determined and capable as the PCs. (Such a party would likely have slain a younger dragon.)

Based on that, the dragon may underestimate the danger an enemy caster represents, instead remembering how easily an elven wizard (Level 7, Con 8, 21 hp) dropped when it breathed on him. The wyrm might remember the savage beating he received before he was able to finish off an enemy fighter (a Con 20 half-orc, also level 7, 80 hp) and focus his efforts on negating that threat.

A monster may also have different priorities than players expect. The dragon might choose to keep a party member alive (for a while...) so that he can quiz him about current events, force him to cast some spell the dragon hasn't mastered, or entertain himself for a few days with riddle games. Then again, maybe he's just not very hungry and wants to keep someone in his larder until he feels a bit peckish.

Good point.


wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.

I suppose my above post is all about this. Though it's not the truth, I've given my players the impression that I'm happy to kill their characters, if not actively striving for it. So they're expecting nasty stuff all the time, and so think hard about how to approach stuff :) When in fact, I just like filling their little hearts with fear, because that tension is part of what the whole group finds enjoyable. I get attached to their PCs too, and don't really like killing them at all.

But I don't let them make huge mistakes and then wind back the clock to avoid the consequences. If even a gross error like that doesn't lead to a PC death, what does?

Sczarni

Quote:

"Roleplaying NPCs as they would act vs pulling punches for PCs"

This is similar to the player line, "but it's what my character would do" to justify selfish and jerky behaviour. Is that really the ONLY thing your character would CHOOSE to do? Is a full out, no holds barred, attack to kill really the ONLY thing a monster/npc will do? A random encounter will be different than a BBEG which the party has been chasing for 10 levels.

This works both ways though. Some time ago they were fighting a spider in its web and the fighter took a few too many hits and failed a few too many saves and his strength dropped to 0 from the poison. Instead of finishing him off or dropping him into the expanse below, I just stuck him to the web, because that's what a spider would do.

Quote:
Use this as the chance to tell him, going off alone on this island is suicide

Judging from this sentence alone I'm going to assume you've not played through the S&S module. The whole island was a death trap from the moment they set foot on it. They were almost eaten by giant frogs, fought ghouls on like three separate occasions, had to deal with mosquito swarms infested with ghoul fever which were immune to all weapon damage, and a devilfish that had already killed the party three times (we kept redoing the fight because none of us, myself included, really wanted to start over). After all this has transpired, he made the choice to go off on his own.

On a side note, I want to thank you guys for all your input. I actually did send out a mass email to talk to them a bit about what to expect and what my take on these modules are. As I said, we're all fairly new to Pathfinder so a lot of the problem may be that they're still in the 3.5 mindset. Hopefully we can work something out. ^.^


wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.

I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.


johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.
I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.

I'm confused. Which random encounters are you talking about? I don't think the giant eel was a random encounter - it was part of the AP, yes?

Sczarni

littlehewy wrote:
johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.
I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.
I'm confused. Which random encounters are you talking about? I don't think the giant eel was a random encounter - it was part of the AP, yes?

Yep. In fact, everything they've fought has been part of the AP. I've not used the random encounter table at all in any module so far.

Shadow Lodge

johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.
I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.

You haven't played Kingmaker, have you? That's pretty much exactly what happens throughout Chapter One, with just a few scripted encounters in certain locations. Most of the Obituaries thread for deaths in the first chapter is "I rolled a shambling mound/will-o-wisp/trolls/werewolf on the random chart".


Chaos_Scion wrote:

In the Eel example I would never kill a PC because of a failed check like perception. Maul the hell out of him maybe but that's harsh because the dice went against him. This is why i role behind a screen so if that encounter would have killed him I would have fudged the rolls. He didn't necessarily do any thing wrong. He was doing his job and got unlucky and I wouldn't punish him for it.

Then again I've played in groups that would kill him. If that's cool with your PC's fine but i think most people probably would be put out by that result.

He was not punished. It was just a result of the die.

I also don't see it as him dying because of the failed perception check. That is why he was attacked. He died because he could not escape the grapple.

He also went solo by not staying in the boat. Splitting the party is often seen as a mistake.


johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.
I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.

I did not say random encounters happen often. I was only saying that if the GM is willing to allow them to die during such an encounter that such things will be known if the lethality of the game is discussed up front. Some players only expect to be allowed to die in important fights, and some thing the GM should never allow them to die.

PS:Most AP's have a random encounter chart that tells you how much to roll on it. When traveling they give you a percentage chance to have an encounter, and then you roll on a chart. I tend to ignore the chart since I don't care for random encounters, and it does not help the players since I don't use XP.


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Never pull punches.

Ever.

Pulling punches with the NPCs just makes the PCs feel like they're being led along the Yellow Plot Road, and it makes them disrespect the world they're playing in.

If the PCs need some kind of miraculous help, then have it be from some other unforeseen circumstance that breaks in their favor, and make it seem like the dice dictated it, instead of you.


littlehewy wrote:
johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.
I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.
I'm confused. Which random encounters are you talking about? I don't think the giant eel was a random encounter - it was part of the AP, yes?

I meant random encounter from the players perspective. There is no particular reason a giant eel that 2 shots players would be hanging out in this spot of the ocean.


wraithstrike wrote:
johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.
I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.

I did not say random encounters happen often. I was only saying that if the GM is willing to allow them to die during such an encounter that such things will be known if the lethality of the game is discussed up front. Some players only expect to be allowed to die in important fights, and some thing the GM should never allow them to die.

PS:Most AP's have a random encounter chart that tells you how much to roll on it. When traveling they give you a percentage chance to have an encounter, and then you roll on a chart. I tend to ignore the chart since I don't care for random encounters, and it does not help the players since I don't use XP.

I know most AP's have them and I ignore them too. I have no problem rolling to see what players fight, but I don't like how AP's will have players randomly stumble across difficult monsters.

If I stumble across CR9 monsters roaming the wild, then logically other people should stumble across them to, which leads me to wonder how peasants even exist in a world where monsters that can 1 v 10 them are this common.

Heck, a CR9 monsters could reasonable wipe out small villages. It makes sense as a part of a quest to save a village, but doesn't make sense as a random encounter.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
wraithstrike wrote:
He also went solo by not staying in the boat. Splitting the party is often seen as a mistake.

This!

I have very few character deaths in my campaigns, but the few that happen are because of character stupidity. For example, about six years, the last pc death, the new player to the group was playing a rogue. They were in the Outer Fane of the Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, which was a difficult module, when he decided to go exploring by himself. Well, he walked into a small dragon's lair (part of the module) which would have been a tough but win-able battle for the group. He died, a horrible death.

The newbie just said, "lesson learned" and has never agreed to splitting the party or other RST (really stupid things) since then.

-- david
Papa.DRB


johnlocke90 wrote:
littlehewy wrote:
johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.
I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.
I'm confused. Which random encounters are you talking about? I don't think the giant eel was a random encounter - it was part of the AP, yes?
I meant random encounter from the players perspective. There is no particular reason a giant eel that 2 shots players would be hanging out in this spot of the ocean.

Alright listen carefully. It was not a random encounter. They were running Skull & Shackles, which is a dangerous island/jungle type adventure, and it has already been stated that it was played as written.

The player in question did something stupid and dangerous and thus paid the price. It makes perfect sense that a wrecked ship would have become the home of some new creature.

Also keep in mind not everyone plays Pathfinder like a video game or story time. Bad things happen players when they fail, players can die, and players have to earn victory.

I mean if there is no threat of death or failure then it's not much of a "game" anymore. At that point it's just a group of friends making up a story. (Not everyone wants to be handed victory.)


johnlocke90 wrote:
I meant random encounter from the players perspective. There is no particular reason a giant eel that 2 shots players would be hanging out in this spot of the ocean.

Ah, gotcha.

Well, I see where you're coming from, but...

I haven't got the AP in question, but from the descriptions on this thread it sounds like the island was meant to be a bit of a meatgrinder, or at least a tough slog. You know, roughing it, surviving in the natural world, dog eat dog... While that might not be everyone's cup of tea, if that's the point of that part of the plot line, then that's how I'd run it.

And I'd never foresee one PC electing to go down by himself. Rule of RPGs: if there's something to be investigated, fair chance something dangerous will be present (or, always take backup!).

But again, horses for courses. The fun's the thing :)


johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
johnlocke90 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
I think you should give expectations up front. If they can die in any encounter then tell them that or at least talk to them to come to a compromise about how deadly the game should be.
I would call BS simply because random encounters shouldn't happen that often. IMO, pathfinder shouldn't be treated like a video game where you will just stumble across big monsters every so often. Particularly because of how lethal encounters in pathfinder are.

I did not say random encounters happen often. I was only saying that if the GM is willing to allow them to die during such an encounter that such things will be known if the lethality of the game is discussed up front. Some players only expect to be allowed to die in important fights, and some thing the GM should never allow them to die.

PS:Most AP's have a random encounter chart that tells you how much to roll on it. When traveling they give you a percentage chance to have an encounter, and then you roll on a chart. I tend to ignore the chart since I don't care for random encounters, and it does not help the players since I don't use XP.

I know most AP's have them and I ignore them too. I have no problem rolling to see what players fight, but I don't like how AP's will have players randomly stumble across difficult monsters.

If I stumble across CR9 monsters roaming the wild, then logically other people should stumble across them to, which leads me to wonder how peasants even exist in a world where monsters that can 1 v 10 them are this common.

Heck, a CR9 monsters could reasonable wipe out small villages. It makes sense as a part of a quest to save a village, but doesn't make sense as a random encounter.

The ecology of fantasyland does not work out well at all if you try to put it in a real world. There was a long thread on it a while back. It is one of those things you that just have to use blinders for.


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It's a preference thing. Talk with the players about how they like their game and so on. I myself is in favor of never pulling the punches, heck I am very reluctant to play under a GM who fudges ever.

Taking back what has happened in my opinion should only happen if something was run against the rules or something and it had a major effect.

I like game worlds that are independant of the PCs, meaning that the captain of the royal guard is not level 8 because that would happen to be suitably challenging encounter for the characters he is level 12 because his job is to protect the king and they are going to get the best for the job they can.

I am getting off topic here. It all comes down to what people at the table like, this should be talked before even deciding on what game they are playing.

Oh and I at least try my best to play the npc's according to their personality and abilities. Dragons are old and smart they will act accordingly, luckily for adventurer's they also tend to be egoistical.


The OP was absolutely right to have the eel attack. This wasn't arbitrary, this was a planned location. The players knew this was a dangerous place already YET they foolishly let someone go off on their own to solo a fight or more. He deserved what he got. Players will respect your world more if you don't hold their hand through all the dangerous parts.

Realism view: Eels are ambush predators that lurk in hiding till something wanders close and then they attack and eat whatever it was. They aren't very picky about what they eat either. A giant eel would need a big hiding place... oh something like a shipwreck would be perfect.

Gamist view: Planned areas like shipwrecks are expected to have both treasures and monsters. Those monsters will have a CR aimed at challenging the whole party. It would be suicide to fight such an encounter alone.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Pawns Subscriber
Aranna wrote:

The OP was absolutely right to have the eel attack. This wasn't arbitrary, this was a planned location. The players knew this was a dangerous place already YET they foolishly let someone go off on their own to solo a fight or more. He deserved what he got. Players will respect your world more if you don't hold their hand through all the dangerous parts.

Realism view: Eels are ambush predators that lurk in hiding till something wanders close and then they attack and eat whatever it was. They aren't very picky about what they eat either. A giant eel would need a big hiding place... oh something like a shipwreck would be perfect.

Gamist view: Planned areas like shipwrecks are expected to have both treasures and monsters. Those monsters will have a CR aimed at challenging the whole party. It would be suicide to fight such an encounter alone.

I *really* like Aranna's "Gamist view".

Take anyone who's gamed for more than 5-10 sessions. Say, "You find a shipwreck. What do you do?"

I game with three different groups and three different GMs. If any party member in any one of those sessions were to say, "I go down alone to explore the shipwreck," the rest of the group would wince, say, "Wow! I hope you didn't like that character much," and laugh at the inevitable death.

We are an astonishingly death-intolerant group (2 permanent character deaths in around 150 sessions), but this was such an obvious set-up not a single one of us would have batted an eye when the PC got bit in half.

So I'm going to disagree with anyone calling BS. The world is a dangerous place. Don't wander off alone into dark caves, shipwrecks, or haunted houses. Heck, last session my fighter went alone with an innkeeper into his wine cellar in the middle of town and the GM and the rest of the party said, "Are you crazy? Going alone into a wine cellar?"

RPG worlds are just like that. Go off alone = Die horribly.


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In regards to the cyclops example in the OP, I feel like their clairvoyant power (I forget the name) is factored into their CR, and if the ability isn't available for reasons that have nothing to do with the encounter where the PCs find it, then there should be a slight reduction in reward. A free nat-20 once a day at a time of your choosing is significant, especially for enemies that PCs will likely only encounter once.

Wizard blows his last meaningful spell on the cyclops? Nat-20. Cyclops needs to deal with that heavily armored fighter or beef-stick barbarian? Nat-20; confirmation roll pending, that's 9d6+21 damage, barring power attack or other circumstances. Fortitude save to avoid death from massive damage because he failed to use his Nat-20 on the save vs the wizard (or maybe the rogue ganked him for massive damage!)?

The possibilities are many. I for one think that if you DON'T use the abilities in a stat block for reasons other than "the creature never had a chance to" then you're playing the creature at a lower CR. Lower CR = less experience, etc.

That said, I deliberately use higher CR creatures all the time and leave off certain abilities, just to spook my players.

Silver Crusade

The threat of death makes the reward of success sweeter.

Funny, I am planning out a Cyclops encounter also. They make a great monster for the scenario, and how fun is it going to be to have them rumble ominously "I have seen the hour of my death... and yours" before wading in to attack?

Now, their ability is totally brootal (and James Jacobs did allude to it being able to trigger a crit threat or confirm a crit, but not both.) I think the only way to be fair about it is to give the party some forewarning, and let them choose whether or not to face the cyclops or run.

Anyone making a sufficient knowledge check could get a hint as to the rules. They should also have plenty of forewarning when they see 10' tall, one-eyed giants with freaking great axes. That should be as intimidating as heck, and if they decide to charge in where they don't have the advantage, the PCs may pay for it.

Make the cyclops seem sinister, and if the PCs are smart, they should be able to set up the battle where they have the advantage in terrain, timing (attacking while they sleep, for instance) and preparedness. After all, if they can use some choice spells to force saving throws on the Cyclops, they may use up their ability before swinging the axe.

Dragons should make players quake in fear. They are also intelligent, greedy, and vain. Recently we played vs a dragon that trashed the party - 2 party members fleeing, 1 dead, and 2 as good as dead. They happened to be the Bard and the Rogue, who threw themselves at the mercy of the dragon and concoted a story of a fabulous, difficult to find treasure in the nearby hills. They ended up captured, stripped of possessions, and very frightened, but were able to escape once they had tricked the dragon into exploring a Hill Giant cave we had passed on the journey in.

While they should definitely act in their best tactical interest, intelligent or highly disciplined opponents may allow surrender, retreat, or other methods of quitting the field.


Foghammer wrote:


That said, I deliberately use higher CR creatures all the time and leave off certain abilities, just to spook my players.

I like that idea.

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