TPK in First Steps, Part I: In Service to Lore


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Liberty's Edge 1/5

So my I ran my first PFS home game, and while everyone had a great time, the final encounter went against them. All but one PC went down, and the final guy ran for it. Everyone in the group is an experienced player so there are no hard feelings, but I have two questions.

Some plot details within:
Since the gang's objective was robbery, not murder, I didn't coup-de-grace anyone and everyone stabilized, so there were no deaths. But they did strip the PCs of everything. Do I now tell the players they have actually lost all their gear, and force them to buy all their equipment again? This was my original thought, but when I started to fill out the chronicles, I started second guessing myself. There is nothing written about what occurs if the outlaws win, so it's a judgment call. This is a serious setback for 1st level characters on their first outing. I'd appreciate some other opinions.

And secondly, Act 3 of the scenario requires the group to retrieve a map from an Osirion nobleman, which they did. But the map was on one of the characters that fell at the end, so it was stolen along with that character's gear. They got the map but failed to return with it to the Grand Lodge. The RAW (Reward As Written) says "If the PCs retrieve the map of the Salhar family vaults, give each PC 82 gp."

I see this in two possible lights. First, the task was to simply pass the nobleman's test and retrieve the map thus securing his permission for the PS to explore his family's vaults. So they were successful and should get the reward. On the other hand, they lost the map so the PS no longer has it to use when exploring the vaults. So in that sense, they failed and should not get the reward.

Nothing in the scenario actually says "return the map to us" or anything similar. It only ever says "retrieve the map". So should I reward them or not?
They succeeded at the other three tasks so the prestige points are not an issue. They have met the success requirements for the scenario. Only the gold reward for this one act is in question. Again, I would just like some other opinions.

Silver Crusade 5/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This happened with my group as well. I did not kill anyone, and ruled they found the Paracountesses item, got googly eyed and bolted leaving the otherwise inexpensive beginning gear. I ruled that the Osirian was a pass fail, and the only part they failed was the paracountess. Thus as written, they passed.

The Exchange 4/5

This has happened to my tables 3 times. In each case, I steal a weapon from everyone, the Osirian map, and the item from the Paracountess (which reduces the party a PP). I also reduce the amount of gp they get at the end.

It is a nasty encounter, probably too much for an intro scenario.

Liberty's Edge 1/5

Dan Luckett wrote:
This happened with my group as well. I did not kill anyone, and ruled they found the Paracountesses item, got googly eyed and bolted leaving the otherwise inexpensive beginning gear. I ruled that the Osirian was a pass fail, and the only part they failed was the paracountess. Thus as written, they passed.

I can see why you ruled in that way. The assignment in the player handout specifies,

more plot details:
"retrieve the item in her possession." And the in text of the scenario the paracountess advises, "not trying to tamper with the case when bringing it back to the Grand Lodge." So in that case they failed to get the McGuffin back to where they were supposed to. However, in my case, the PC that got away had the box on him, so the thieves didn't get it.

The assignment for the Osirion says, "the Pathfinder Society needs to obtain permission to delve the Salhar ancestral vaults." Which they successfully did. It further states, "you will receive an official charter and detailed map." But that seems an afterthought, an incidental of the actual goal. So your pass/fail attitude has some merit.

Liberty's Edge 1/5

Joseph Caubo wrote:

This has happened to my tables 3 times. In each case, I steal a weapon from everyone, the Osirian map, and the item from the Paracountess (which reduces the party a PP). I also reduce the amount of gp they get at the end.

It is a nasty encounter, probably too much for an intro scenario.

Another good thought.

getting tired of spoiler tags now:
The final encounter is a hit and run in a public place. They probably won't take the time to thoroughly strip the PCs. Grabbing weapons, packs, and pouches is probably all they would take the time to do. My original thought of them taking everything, including armor is probably unrealistic. The map was actually stuffed down the front of the PCs shirt (roleplayed as a woman hiding something in her cleavage) and probably would not have been taken. I'm beginning to lean toward the loss of items that could be quickly snatched, and dropping the problem of the map so they would get the reward.
Grand Lodge

why is everyone whispering?:
Well, I'd think in public they might roll them, but not strip them.

as to the map, Nothing says they have to return it, and the Society can verify that they do have permission to explore. this simply means they have to explore from square one, rather than having the mapping done for them. Perhaps reward them, but make it a reduced reward?

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/5 **

Similar stuff:
Same happened twice to my groups.. one group played smart and brought back to Grand Lodge the box and the papers after they got them so when they ended almost-TPKed, they didn't loose anything important (but didn't get full cash) and in fact earned full credit.

The other group didn't do that, lost most of the mission stuff and earned only 1PP.

Silver Crusade 5/5

Honestly, if that alley were 5' wider, it probably wouldn't be so brutal. If I run it again, the alley will be wider instead of using the provided map.

5/5

Dan Luckett wrote:
Honestly, if that alley were 5' wider, it probably wouldn't be so brutal. If I run it again, the alley will be wider instead of using the provided map.

See this and this. If you're going to do it, do it, but don't promote it.

5/5 *** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

Actually I think the message is don't do it, but if you do, don't promote it.

Silver Crusade 5/5

Hmm...reading Daigle's comments regarding that encounter it makes sense from his point of view. It seems 50/50 on if the party gets owned or not. That just seems really bad form for an intro quest. Not that he intended it that way, but we are playing with color spray, and forcing the party into color spray formation.

Scarab Sages 4/5 5/5

Dan Luckett wrote:
Hmm...reading Daigle's comments regarding that encounter it makes sense from his point of view.

Where are these comments sir? I would like to peruse them myself...

5/5

Joseph Caubo wrote:
It is a nasty encounter, probably too much for an intro scenario.

I would have to disagree with this. I've run this a few times, and while it was far from a cakewalk (usually i can knock about half of the party unconscious), i don't think it's too much. it is very challenging, and in my opinion, a great way to make players think tactically.

also, as for the alley being five feet wider: if that were the case, it would be a lot more deadly. one of the main effects of the cramped space is that there are a number of synergistic effects that the NPC party isn't able to use to their fullest extent.

Liberty's Edge 1/5

Matthew Starch wrote:
Joseph Caubo wrote:
It is a nasty encounter, probably too much for an intro scenario.

I would have to disagree with this. I've run this a few times, and while it was far from a cakewalk (usually i can knock about half of the party unconscious), i don't think it's too much. it is very challenging, and in my opinion, a great way to make players think tactically.

also, as for the alley being five feet wider: if that were the case, it would be a lot more deadly. one of the main effects of the cramped space is that there are a number of synergistic effects that the NPC party isn't able to use to their fullest extent.

I'm with you on that. In my case, both groups were bottle-necked into a 10' wide section of the alley and the NPCs were unable to act as their tactics sections outlines. The two melee opponents were in front and beat the snot out of the PC's front line in the surprise round. The obscuring mist prevented the two casters from doing anything. The TPK was the result of the ambush advantage coupled with the PCs not having a channeling healer. They just couldn't handle the damage that was dealt to them. A wider alley would have allowed the NPCs to use their tactics as written and it would have been that much worse.

Silver Crusade 5/5

My group got bottle necked in front of the 5' wide, wizard moved in bam, whole party aside from the rogue in back out from color spray. NPCs promptly stomped the snot out of him.

2nd Group: 50% of the party out due to color spray. Some crappy rolls on my part and they managed to have one person standing at the end, and with 1 hp.

Shadow Lodge 4/5

The way I see it, the encounter emphasized how important Perception is. Since only PCs who recognize the baddies can start in the surprise round, it's much more important for the players to make those checks earlier in the scenario.

I wonder if the same people saying this encounter is too hard, are the same people saying most scenarios are too easy. Sure is hard to find a balance, especially at low tier.

Liberty's Edge 1/5

Well, encounter difficulty aside, my main concern at the moment is the consequences of the PCs failure. What happens when a PC dies is well documented, but there is nothing about PCs being robbed blind. It seems straight forward to simply make them buy equipment all over again, but it just feels strange to fill in the Items Bought section of the chronicle with everything from a backpack on up.

I'd also like to note the difference in player reaction between the two events.
Character dies: "Damn. Can't afford to be raised. Time to make a new character."
Character robbed: "What! They took my weapon? And all my gold? Aw, come on! Dammit!"

:-D

The Exchange 4/5

I wouldn't steal everything from the players, just their weapon they have on them and the items they need to bring back to Ambrus. When thinking about this in game time, there really isn't that much time for the baddies to do more than just this. Besides, if they steal their weapons, they don't have to worry much about retaliation from the PCs.

Shadow Lodge 4/5

What's the issue? Just note it on the chronicle sheet like every other item and condition lost/found/bought/sold. They aren't expected to get all the PA all the time, nor all the gold all the time. If they'd rather make a new character than suffer a setback, maybe this isn't the right game for them. DM coddling isn't the answer. (Not saying you or anyone else in this thread is doing this, just saying.)

Dark Archive

This one encounter was brutal, We had 6 players and 2 went down(not dead). If we had 4 players it would have been 2 down and most likely 2 dead. I don't like this one and I don't think I would ever run it with the wrong party.

Sovereign Court 4/5

Buh, that last encounter has been really fun for most groups I've witnessed. None have perished though. Once it was really close.

And I agree the robbers shouldn't attempt to kill them, just take their most valuables (no armor though, that's too hard to take off quickly) and flee, letting the characters to lie in pools of their own blood. Stabilization would be near automatic, maybe within 1d4+1 rounds. It's Absalom, a bustling city, and eventually someone will come to them and tie their wounds.

Liberty's Edge 1/5

I ran this for the first time just last week with a party of 4 (Rogue, Gunslinger, Oracle, Ninja). I realize this wasn't an optimal party. We almost had a TPK. The Orcale and Ninja went down and the other two were close, but no one died. It looked like it was going to be a total wipe until the dice starting going in the party's favor.

I'm a little wordy:
My question however is what to do if the party doesn't go down the alley. I guess I must have done something wrong to tip it off, but these players knew that going down that alley was a bad idea. I told them that tons of people were going down the alley so it wasn't exactly deserted, but 3 of the players were still unwilling to go down. The other players definitely came from the if-there's-an-encounter-there's-treasure-too school of thought. They decided to wait out the street performers, figuring that they might as well enjoy the show and that it can't last forever.

I told them it was getting late and Valsin would like to have everything back today. They opted to back track. I could exactly tell them there was no nearby way around this block in a city of over 300,000 people. I didn't want them to miss out on the experience though so I had the robbers trail them and attack them on the streets in a less crowded neighborhood, chasing bystanders away with the Obscuring Mist.

The fight took place in a more open spot which helped their wizard stay away from the fight and their rogue set up sneak attacks. I agree with the previous poster that the cramped quarters are generally to the PC's advantage, especially if they can do something about the wizard before she throws color spray.

tl;dr = Did anyone else have trouble with the players trying to avoid the final encounter? Should I have just let them? This was my first time GMing (or even playing) PFS.

3/5 5/5

Oddly enough, we got through using their own tactic first - my wizard got higher initiative than their wizard so after most of our group ran up & attacked I used arcane bond to color spray the bad guys - all failed their saves except the wizard who threw a color spray right back at us. Our two rogues were the only ones of our party who saved, but they flanked & sneak-attacked the crap out of her on their turn. I didn't even know it was the planned method of attack of the other wizard, it just seemed to be the best for the situation (which it apparently was).

5/5

I have fortunately not been in this position GMing FS1.

I can see how this can end badly, but would avoid any PC deaths if at all possible. If e thugs win I think they should rob any cash carried by the PCs and the items they are bringing to Ambrus Valsine. Robing the PCs of their gear can effectively amount to the death or early retirement of characters. FS1-3 is supposed to get PCs startedin the PFS not to be an admission test.


2 people marked this as FAQ candidate. Answered in the FAQ.

Once upon a time, back when Joshua Frost was in charge, he commented that he was going to work on official rules for what to do in situations like this or in ones like where the PCs maybe are not killed, but rather are sold into slavery, etc. But he never put out an official reply before he stepped down as PFS head.

But regardless, I would not take anything from the characters unless they were all dead, and that would just be fluff, since the characters in this scenario could not afford a raise dead to begin with. As Diego and others have said, if you are robbing them of all their gold and valuables, you may as well have killed them too, since to some people the characters are now not worth playing, especially if you do it in a higher level scenario where something like this would put them so far behind on wealth that they could no longer survive.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I've run this one like five times and played it several. I've never had a TPK, but have had a couple close calls. Hiwever, I have seen a couple folks get one-shot killed by battle-ax critical. It's a tough fight.

As a GM, who may be looking to barely fudge in his players' favor, look hard at the halfling's initiative. Every nasty encounter I've run or played in has come down to him beating the party in initiative.

I prep initiative cards before games, but otherwise roll in the open. Changing initiative 21 to 11 for Ledford can make all the difference in the world.

Scarab Sages 5/5

The Sweater Golem wrote:
Did anyone else have trouble with the players trying to avoid the final encounter? Should I have just let them? This was my first time GMing (or even playing) PFS.

When I run this section I just move them down the alley as part of the narration. If someone were to chirp up you've got a couple options. Ultimately, the encounter could happen anywhere so they could avoid the alley, but get jumped later on. Otherwise, you could point out that they've been cutting through side roads the whole time and you're just setting the scene. I generally find anytime you start drawing a map (or in the case putting down tiles called 'ambush sites') somebody is going to start metagaming. If the goal of the game was to avoid conflict it'd be pretty boring.

The Exchange 4/5

I just wanted to note some text from the scenario that will help any GMs coming across players with the spider sense about not going down this particular alley. If you read the text after the box text, you'll notice that it gives you some pretty good atmospheric ideas as to how the PCs get funneled down this alleyway.

Spoiler:
Deandre Dulay used a contact in the rebellious art group known as the Jocund Pranksters to stage an event in the adventurers’ most likely path. While the Jocund Pranksters create their chalk and illusion spectacle and jam traffic flow to side alleys, Deandre’s gang surrounds the PCs in the crowd that makes its way around the obstruction, planning to jump the PCs when they get out of sight from the crowd. Other people take this shortcut as well, and the group of thug adventurers blends into the crowd until throwing the alleyway into a hazy fog by casting of obscuring mist. Once that happens, the common citizens flee, leaving the alley clear for both groups to deal with each other.

Silver Crusade 5/5

I got roped into running this again next week Friday. We'll see if I brutalize a 6 party group this time.

Silver Crusade 2/5

Running it tomorrow, I'll tell you how it turns out!

Grand Lodge 2/5 RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

KILL THEM ALL

Wait, was that out loud?

Silver Crusade 5/5

Jiggy wrote:
KILL THEM ALL

I'm not Spartacus, and you're not my wife.

Grand Lodge 3/5

Spoiler:
There seems to be a lot of colour spraying going on. In the tactics as written Halli only uses colour spray when engaged in melee, otherwise she stays back and acid rays.

If the party is close enough to trigger that I would have expected most of the thugs to have been down. Ledford on the other hand...

Silver Crusade 5/5

Kyle Baird wrote:
Dan Luckett wrote:
Honestly, if that alley were 5' wider, it probably wouldn't be so brutal. If I run it again, the alley will be wider instead of using the provided map.
See this and this. If you're going to do it, do it, but don't promote it.

One of my groups, having spotted the bandits and smelling ambush, made an effort to avoid back alleys, so I had the encounter take place on a wider street. I don't suppose this is considered GM modification as such?

Also, I agree that playing this encounter by the given tactics makes it less brutal: the sorcerer is a coward and won't run into melee range to cast color spray.

Silver Crusade 2/5

I played it straight, and had 4 of 5 party members down. The last one grabbed the mission critical items and made like a track star back to the grand lodge. So, 4 of the players got robbed relatively blind, losing their weapons and 50% of the gold they had on them at that point in time. They did get full exp and PA. Now, as for First Steps part 2...good heavens. Thats a full write up, and i've got to be on the road again to GM in 4 hours.

Paizo Employee Director of Game Development

Callum Prior wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
I'd have to agree. While the encounter and the NPCs can be a bit tough, the tactics were written to certainly give the PCs an edge. Halie stays back and only color sprays if folks get close, and Deadre will kill her own "allies" if they turn tail and run according to their Morale sections.
Grand Lodge 5/5

Pathfinder Maps, Pawns, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Maps Subscriber

I played as a player once, and the GM made a mistake (discovered later as my brother was going over the scenario the next day as he is prone to do). He added rage on top of the Halfing's already raged stats. He got initiative and one-shot dropped my fighter (but he still survived.)

The GM didn't do this on purpose, he just didn't read the stat block fully to see it had his non-raged stats later.

In my opinion, a tier 1-2 scenario should NEVER have a x3 crit. The risk of 1 shot DEAD (negative constitution) is simply too high. Especially on a raged barbarian.

Terek

Silver Crusade 5/5

Terek wrote:

I played as a player once, and the GM made a mistake (discovered later as my brother was going over the scenario the next day as he is prone to do). He added rage on top of the Halfing's already raged stats. He got initiative and one-shot dropped my fighter (but he still survived.)

The GM didn't do this on purpose, he just didn't read the stat block fully to see it had his non-raged stats later.

In my opinion, a tier 1-2 scenario should NEVER have a x3 crit. The risk of 1 shot DEAD (negative constitution) is simply too high. Especially on a raged barbarian.

Terek

I one shot deaded a level 4 with a greataxe once with a barbarian. It happens.

Silver Crusade 2/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Having thought about it, that combat is a deathtrap. The mage can cause serious trouble, in that her tactics inevitably result in her being in melee, and the tight ally favors the enemy way too much. Plus, it felt like a heck of a railroad to force the players into an alley. Half the problems could be solved by widening the map by one square, allowing the party to have more maneuvering room.

The Exchange 5/5

Heck, everytime I run this I feel like just haveing all the PC's roll save's verses death. Roll a 1 you're PC is dead, roll a 2 you're robbed of everything. anything else - here's your AR thanks for playing....

I hate to see this encounter in a INTRO mod. 1 time in 20 we're teaching the new guy that you have lots of fun till you die. End of game - come back next week.

end of rant now. sorry

Silver Crusade 2/5

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I didn't kill them. The fighter took a series of full action withdraws (someone paid attention as an initiate!) and as soon as he got to the street, starting taking full action runs, making like a track star back to the lodge. He came back with reinforcements, and the PC's were left in the ally unconscious and robbed of easy valuables. And left with a paranoia of clustering up and started their own Rules of Combat. (Love you guys!)

Rule 1: Kill the mage.
Rule 2: Never cluster or line up. I don't care if its "Just a door".
Rule 3: I don't care how weak it looks, it could be deadly.
Rule 4: Never *ever* trust a Ghoul.
Rule 5: If a Venture Captain or Faction head warns you about something...PAY ATTENTION.
Rule 6: Running is always an option.

In regards to rule 2, one character literately started saying "Hey now...why are we in fireball/lightning bolt/color spray formation? Scatter up."

Sovereign Court 4/5

Really odd. Local players and GMs alike like the scenario because of its dangerous encounter. Especially in an intro scenario. It's challenging where as most scenarios are not.

Silver Crusade 2/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Challenge is good. Funneling first session of PFS *EVER* players into a whole mess of color sprays, well, its a bit much.

Sovereign Court 4/5

Alexander_Damocles wrote:
Challenge is good. Funneling first session of PFS *EVER* players into a whole mess of color sprays, well, its a bit much.

I admit the color spray is ridiculous, then again it's the spell's, not the encounter's, fault. A group of pathfinders encounters their evil counterpart, a group of four evil mercenaries and/or robbers, each fitting to their classic roles.

Thing is most encounters should be like this. The enemies should not consist always of just one type be it melee, ranged, flying or whatnot.

Silver Crusade 2/5

Oh, I agree that the enemies are fairly alright. Its combining one of the best 1st level spells with the terrain that is ideal for it. Now, couple with stacking the terrain so the PC's cant use their weight of numbers, and well it gets ugly for first timers.

The Exchange 5/5

it doesn't help that the PC have just finished (in the same day) 4 other encounters, 2 of which are clearly combat incounters. It could easily be that the PC will be going into this encounter with only almost no spells.

1/5

Terek wrote:
In my opinion, a tier 1-2 scenario should NEVER have a x3 crit. The risk of 1 shot DEAD (negative constitution) is simply too high.

I suspect that's the reason why "stock" Monster Manual orcs in D&D went from greataxes in 3E to falchions in 3.5. 4d4+8 on a crit (and critting on 18-20) will still hurt a lot, but it's not likely to be an insta-kill the way 3d12+12 was. :-D

2/5

Oh yeah - that alley was great... until the clerics on both sides kept rolling 2's to hit each other. The longest, least effective 1st level combat I've ever seen. All I know is that my dice I used for GMing better be rolling sweet this weekend when I play... or they are facing a melting!

Liberty's Edge 2/5

Just ran this today. I found the sexual bedroom odd for the very first PFS introductory scenerio. I'm no prude and such references have a long history in this game we love (DnD/PF). However, putting this in a scenerio targeted for new players is a bad idea.
Just my 2 cents.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
marv wrote:

Just ran this today. I found the sexual bedroom odd for the very first PFS introductory scenerio. I'm no prude and such references have a long history in this game we love (DnD/PF). However, putting this in a scenerio targeted for new players is a bad idea.

Just my 2 cents.

It actually goes a very long way toward explaining the Cheliax faction missions that players get. Frankly, without this introduction, one might be very confused as to why a player's faction head is calling them a "Sweet little morsel" and promising to share the pleasure of the lash.

However, with that said, I have definitely tamed that scene down for younger audiences (and ramped it up for my home group to meet their quota of innuendo and lasciviousness).

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