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A Monster's Ability to Kill in a Single Round...


Gamer Talk

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Is it over powered and unbalancing for a monster to be able to deal enough damage to kill a PC in a single round? I am not talking about its DPR, but if it rolled well enough to hit with all of its attacks and just above average on damage. In this scenario it would kill the PC. Would this be too much?

I ask because this was a likely scenario in a session I just ran. One of the players picked up on it and offered constructive criticism. It was argued that having something that dangerous was a bit unbalanced and overpowered. I didn't offer a counter to it, and merely thanked them for their thoughts.

However thinking about this, I can see why such an encounter should happen from time to time. Without the element of real threats of danger, is the game a real challenge? I am not saying every encounter needs to be like this, as they each need to offer a different kind of challenge.

I did actually drop one PC into negatives after four successful attacks, and they were built to soak up damage. The other PC that is commonly on the front lines would probably be dropped after two or three successful attacks. The other PCs would have definitely be dropped after two attacks. They were able to drop the monster after about four rounds.

So is such a possible scenario too much?


I think it's good every now and then to make the PCs think to themselves 'Maybe we should run'. Otherwise, I feel, the game becomes a stale series of winning...

Some of the most memorable encounters are the ones you just manage to scrape through. Where the rogue is rolling heal checks to stabilise the fighter and the cleric.

So no, I dont think its to much to throw in a high stakes 'death is likely' battle very rarely.


What if you are not playing for the challenge?

Taldor

I've had it happen. Mostly from a PC who was a little too squishy getting in close without thinking about it.

Had a Gunslinger/Monk who walked to close to a Clockwork Guard and took a X3 crit halbard in his gut.

Dead from damage alone.

Osirion

1 person marked this as a favorite.
CalebTGordan wrote:

Is it over powered and unbalancing for a monster to be able to deal enough damage to kill a PC in a single round? I am not talking about its DPR, but if it rolled well enough to hit with all of its attacks and just above average on damage. In this scenario it would kill the PC. Would this be too much?

I ask because this was a likely scenario in a session I just ran. One of the players picked up on it and offered constructive criticism. It was argued that having something that dangerous was a bit unbalanced and overpowered. I didn't offer a counter to it, and merely thanked them for their thoughts.

However thinking about this, I can see why such an encounter should happen from time to time. Without the element of real threats of danger, is the game a real challenge? I am not saying every encounter needs to be like this, as they each need to offer a different kind of challenge.

I did actually drop one PC into negatives after four successful attacks, and they were built to soak up damage. The other PC that is commonly on the front lines would probably be dropped after two or three successful attacks. The other PCs would have definitely be dropped after two attacks. They were able to drop the monster after about four rounds.

So is such a possible scenario too much?

Such a scenario should occur from time to time. It encourages players to invest something in defense instead of relying on pure DPR to win every encounter.

Taldor

Tactics count for a lot, especially awareness of positioning and reach.

Otherwise you'll end up like my player. Having your PC reanimated as a clockwork zombie with a bug in his head.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Count me on board with the "there has to be some risk or it doesn't matter" crowd.

Bug out and run is one of my best things (often to the irritation of the overly-noble "but we're the heroes" crowd I'm with).

If you're not aware enough of when things are getting too sticky, death is the least of your worries.

When you discover the opposition is too big and bad, run away, do some research and preparation, then go back and kick @$$ on the nasty thing standing in between you and your rightful property...

But some monsters are >gasp< DANGEROUS. As it should be.


Yar.

I'd say it's time to have a gaming group talk about game expectations.

You expect the game to be a challenge from time to time, where the PCs may have to think before they act or act with sound tactics in mind in order to survive.

This player (appears to) expects to be able to show up and play a game without having to wrack his brain or worry about death and survivability. He just want to have fun, whacking away at something of a level appropriate challenge (aka: easy) until he is declared victor.

While I personally like living worlds where things can be dangerous, and if you're a level one fresh from the farm adventurer who walks up and spits on an ancient red dragon, you're gonna get stomped by an ancient red dragon! I also like tactics and being challenged from time to time. I do find challenges to be fun (in moderation, of course). I do find a thrill in facing down something tougher than I am, the rush of the lucky or well played win, the crush of defeat, the need to flee in order to come back and fight another day (when better prepared), and so forth. But Nepherti makes a very good point: not everyone likes this. Some people play just to play, have fun, relax, get away from the challenges of everyday life by not being overly challenged by the game, etc.

It is obvious (to me) that you and your player are expecting different things from the game. I strongly suggest talking about game expectations with the group and coming to a consensus about what the game is going to be.

~P


I imagine that 'unbalanced' and 'overpowered' complaint came with a bit of a whine... at least that's how I hear it in my head. :)

The answer revolves around agreed upon expectations and context.

NOTE: Just because a player expects every battle to be a 'fair fight', does not make it reasonable or the default play mode. And in a 'realistic' campaign, that expectation is silly. In the 'real world' people do get outclassed and overmatched. Some yutz walking out onto the Serengeti plain runs into a pride of lions. He is lunch. The lions don't all of a sudden turn into geriatric, toothless runt-lions because that's what he can handle with his walking stick.

~ Expectations ~

So, what expectations did you set for the game before play? If you told your players that you were going for a 'realistic' fantasy campaign without 'training wheels' then they should expect that they will be outgunned at some point, that they will need to retreat from time to time, and that they will need to make smart combat choices.

If you and your players agreed that every combat would be a walk-over and all your baddies would be underpowered... then yeah, you took it a bit too far.

~ Context ~

Context is also important. If they knew what/who the baddie was, chose to walk into the fight, and had open lines of retreat that they chose not to use... then your baddie wasn't 'overpowered', their thinking was 'underpowered'. Now, had you trapped them in a room with a baddie that was virtually guaranteed to one-shot each of them, had flight 120' and gaseous form so they couldn't escape or evade, and forced them into the fight - they would have cause for complaint. To me, the simple fact that the characters won the battle with only one or two of them going unconscious and no one dying indicates you gauged their power levels and capabilities correctly... hence, the encounter was balanced (unless you had to do massive fudging to keep them alive).

Shadow Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Quote:
So, what expectations did you set for the game before play? If you told your players that you were going for a 'realistic' fantasy campaign without 'training wheels' then they should expect that they will be outgunned at some point, that they will need to retreat from time to time, and that they will need to make smart combat choices.

I wonder what it says about me that my "training wheels" campaign involved the level-2 party stumbling onto a Dire Moose...


It says you'd be fun to play with. ;)

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

To be fair, thelauer wasn't complaining. Their comments merely got me thinking a bit.

Our game is a modern game where I have changed the health rules. You have vitality and wounds, with wounds equal to your Con score (plus a few other small numbers if you have the right level/feats/powers) with Vitality equal to twice that number. They rarely increase without taking feats or using powers.

Massive damage is any amount of damage that matches or exceeds your Con score, and if you fail a save it bypasses vitality and skips to wounds (or to your negative health if you have no vitality.)

To help keep one shotting down I also made a rule that the maximum number of damage dice a power can have you roll is five. That means a fireball would stop at 5d6, for example.

The player was concerned because the monster was potentially putting out more damage in a single round than any of the powers could. I can see their point, and have made adjustments, but in my game death is going to become more and more likely. As health and massive damage thresholds are rarely increasing, higher amounts of damage are likely to kill people. Indeed, the players have one shot NPCs because of this issue.

But that isn't the reason for this discussion. You have already answered my question.

I like challenges both as a GM and a Player. As a GM, the challenge is to provide memorable, challenging encounters that push the players to think less with their dice and more with their imaginations. It should go without saying that the challenge is to do so in a way that people won't be killed in unfair ways.

As a player, I like challenging fights that I can contribute in. If I can't do anything useful or if I feel that I can't be effective, I don't like the encounter. I hate it if no one in the party can be effective. If a monster can kill me in a single round, I figure that out pretty quickly and try to change how I deal with it.

In this game I am running, I a going to make a few changes. But that doesn't mean things are going to be any less deadly. I guess I will have to talk to the group and find out just how they feel about that.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Anyone ever run into a 2nd ed Beholder? Death Ray, 'nuff said.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Orthos wrote:


I wonder what it says about me that my "training wheels" campaign involved the level-2 party stumbling onto a Dire Moose...

Moose!

I had a PC in a game I ran years ago that worshiped the moose god. It would have been hilarious to have the party encounter a dire moose.


Orthos wrote:
Quote:
So, what expectations did you set for the game before play? If you told your players that you were going for a 'realistic' fantasy campaign without 'training wheels' then they should expect that they will be outgunned at some point, that they will need to retreat from time to time, and that they will need to make smart combat choices.
I wonder what it says about me that my "training wheels" campaign involved the level-2 party stumbling onto a Dire Moose...

Nothing good, considering we handled that just fine and nearly lost the magus to a pack of weasels.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I think 1-round PC squashes are a good thing. "It builds character."


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I don't like single-hit kills for the same reason I don't like save-or-die spells. I'm playing a game with hit points, because I want well-paced combat. If I wanted realism, I'd play GURPS.

And it's not about player entitlement or anything like that. I occasionally overmatch my players without using single-hit kills; the difference is that my players have an opportunity to realize how scary my monsters are before one of their PCs is suddenly pancaked.


Tequila Sunrise wrote:
...my players have an opportunity to realize how scary my monsters are before one of their PCs is suddenly pancaked.

Mine do too. I call it a perception check (followed by a knowledge check to see if they know why it is scary and what to do about it).

All seriousness aside, how can we say that save-or-die spells and one hit kills are any more or less realistic than real-world injuries?

You can fall 3' and die... or only be slightly injured. Is that because getting shoved over and falling on a table has a really swingy damage rating, or is it a disintegrate style mechanic?

You can get shot by a 9mm pistol once and die instantly... or you can be shot 9 times by a 9mm pistol and live. Is that because some rapper with a silly name like Tupac has more hit points than most people, or because a 9mm pistol is a save-or-die and he got lucky on his saves?

I get that you were saying you prefer to have combat with a more predictable pace, and that's fine... just be careful of how you use the word "realism" when you are talking about RPGs, almost every time it is used it is not actually applicable. Such as GURPS being no more, or less, realistic than Pathfinder in and demonstrable way when it comes to the rules - setting, maybe, but not the rules.


Tequila Sunrise wrote:
I don't like single-hit kills for the same reason...

That's fine but that wasn't the OP's scenario. He/she wrote, "...if it rolled well enough to hit with all of its attacks and just above average on damage."

To me that reads like the baddie has more than two attacks and none of them are 'gimme' hits. So it isn't a 'one shot kill'. We don't really know what the odds of all those 'to hits' are. Personally, I think if the player is going to run the numbers as a basis for a complaint about the scenario then every factor should be averaged to create a realistic baseline... so if the monster needs a roll of 10 to hit (50%), then the argument should be based on only 2 of its 4 attacks connecting.

The other factor the player seems to have ignored is the DM. I think a good number of DM's will opt to split up a monster's attacks among multiple players to prevent a character from getting wiped out in a single round.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
stormraven wrote:

...

To me that reads like the baddie has more than two attacks and none of them are 'gimme' hits. So it isn't a 'one shot kill'. We don't really know what the odds of all those 'to hits' are. Personally, I think if the player is going to run the numbers as a basis for a complaint about the scenario then every factor should be averaged to create a realistic baseline... so if the monster needs a roll of 10 to hit (50%), then the argument should be based on only 2 of its 4 attacks connecting.

The other factor the player seems to have ignored is the DM. I think a good number of DM's will opt to split up a monster's attacks among multiple players to prevent a character from getting wiped out in a single round.

Actually I was splitting up attacks, but it wasn't to prevent character death. It was because I felt is was in line with the monster's fighting style.

It was a ghoul that I toughened up and gave some levels to. It had two claws and a bite. The claws ended up having a slightly higher chance to hit and a bit more damage than the bite, as well a a rend ability that added 1d6 points of damage if both claws hit. If the ghoul was surrounded they would attack one target with a bite and use the claw attacks on the strongest target.

In this case, because of the target choices, the bite needed a 12 or higher to hit and the claws (which targeted a high defense character,) needed a 14 to hit.

Only two of the PCs enter melee, with the other three standing back. The three standing back would have been killed in a single round for sure. The high defense character took four successful attacks (and a single rend) with above average damage before they dropped to negative. The other melee PC would have dropped with just three, but took only one bite hit. It was the later PC that made the comment about foes that could kill you in a single round.

A discussion and agreement has been made since then.

But you are right. I wasn't talking about one-hit kills, just really deadly encounters.


If a creature has the capacity to rip you to pieces if you get into melee range then most smart characters would endeavor to stay out of its reach, possibly using things like tanglefoot bags ect to slow it down then hitting it with range weapons.

I've been playing shadowrun of late, and almost any foe can take you down or at least critically wound you in a straight fight (Don't care how much magic or aug you have, unless you're a minmaxed damage sponge then getting hit with full auto is going to hurt). What I have noticed that this means is that the players have to think their way through almost every fight (and avoid fighting if possible), and adapt to situations far more than in normal pathfinder.

So in summary provided you don't give your super-monsters an instant kill radius too big for your players to be tactical with it then let it be dangerous. it'll encourage them to think outside the box.


AaronOfBarbaria wrote:
Tequila Sunrise wrote:
...my players have an opportunity to realize how scary my monsters are before one of their PCs is suddenly pancaked.
Mine do too. I call it a perception check (followed by a knowledge check to see if they know why it is scary and what to do about it).

Good for you? Sometimes players don't have the advantage of skill checks before getting ambushed by a foe. Sometimes skill checks don't tell them squat.

AaronOfBarbaria wrote:


I get that you were saying you prefer to have combat with a more predictable pace, and that's fine... just be careful of how you use the word "realism" when you are talking about RPGs, almost every time it is used it is not actually applicable. Such as GURPS being no more, or less, realistic than Pathfinder in and demonstrable way when it comes to the rules - setting, maybe, but not the rules.

Yes, we all know that 'realism' gets misused in gamer discussions. I'm using it the way that certain other posters have been using it; that is, realism means the potential for sudden random death.

stormraven wrote:
Tequila Sunrise wrote:
I don't like single-hit kills for the same reason...
That's fine but that wasn't the OP's scenario. He/she wrote, "...if it rolled well enough to hit with all of its attacks and just above average on damage."

Does a PC have the chance to react [read: take his turn] before being potentially pancaked? If no, then it's an effective one-hit kill. If you prefer though, feel free to mentally replace "hit" with "round."

stormraven wrote:
The other factor the player seems to have ignored is the DM. I think a good number of DM's will opt to split up a monster's attacks among multiple players to prevent a character from getting wiped out in a single round.

Yes, CalebGordon played the monster as if its attacks said "The ghoul can't attack one target with all attacks," which neatly solves the problem.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Okay, moving on...

Say the party did have advanced warning of some kind. Say for example the beast was witnessed tearing buildings in half with a single stroke of its claws and bodies litter the streets it rampaged. Eye witness accounts can give enough information to tell the party what it was and how big.

The party then goes hunting and finds this beast, but in a place where ranged attacks would probably be unlikely, like a dense forest or underground.

I think in that scenario, the deaths that could happen would be on the players and not the GM. Especially if the party did little or no preparation for the fight and treated it like every other foe they have come across.


CalebTGordan wrote:

Okay, moving on...

Say the party did have advanced warning of some kind. Say for example the beast was witnessed tearing buildings in half with a single stroke of its claws and bodies litter the streets it rampaged. Eye witness accounts can give enough information to tell the party what it was and how big.

The party then goes hunting and finds this beast, but in a place where ranged attacks would probably be unlikely, like a dense forest or underground.

I think in that scenario, the deaths that could happen would be on the players and not the GM. Especially if the party did little or no preparation for the fight and treated it like every other foe they have come across.

Hm, that would depend on what level the PCs are and how well the DMs expresses the potential for one-shot death. If the PCs are very low level, then yeah they should probably realize the pancake potential that goes along with a monster that smashes whole buildings.

But once the party gains a few levels, such a description becomes less concrete. Big creatures can be found at just about any CR, and DMs often don't base their descriptions on average damage values vs. hardness & building hit point values. And what is the hardness and hit point value of a building anyway? That's a rhetorical question; my point is that a group of players might take such a description as the DM simply setting the mood for his next planned encounter.

If the players know their DM well enough to recognize a clear warning, or if the DM outright says "This monster you want to hunt down has enough muscle power to one-shot any one of you," then yeah, any splattered PCs that result are on the players.

Shadow Lodge

If GMs didn't SERIOUSLY nerf the tactics used by every BBEG ( and the overwhelming number of sub-bosses as well ), then EVERY campaign would end in a TPK.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Seriously. I was just looking at a few of the Pathfinder AP BBEGs and thinking the same thing. These guys are tough!


That depends on the PCs confronting the BBEGs.


SO, on the other foot... how often do PCs one-round kill their opponents?

Yeah, yeah, the PCs are the protagonists of the story. Whatever. But really, how often do PCs beat a level-appropriate encounter down in a single round? I've seen a LOT of that, and one of the reasons that the Reactionary Trait (and Warrior of Old) and Improved Initiative Feat are so damn popular is that winning initiative often=winning the fight.

I'm not arguing that PCs shouldn't be bad ass... but they shouldn't be surprised when the opposition is ALSO rather bad ass.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

We also have 5 vs. 1 frequently. All too often Pathfinder APs have, "Runs away when they reach 20 HP," in the moral section. All to often they reach that point but have three PCs acting before they do that make sure they don't have the chance to run away.

A foe needs to be dangerous and hard to kill to stand against five powerful people.


I don't like PCs pancaking level-appropriate foes as much as I don't like the reverse.

CalebTGordan wrote:
A foe needs to be dangerous and hard to kill to stand against five powerful people.

And/or have minions to soak a few attacks. :)

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