Gear destruction: How to handle it?


Advice


I was running a few idea in my head for my next game and by reading my books I was questioning myself. Have you ever destroyed or dispelled something against your players?

I know that if your party is having too much gear for your needs, you can always make some magic items vanish, but in the end I'm pretty sure the players would be pissed.

To all the GM who've already done this: share your experience please. I'm curious


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

I was on the receiving end of a trio of rust monsters. Lost my nice +1 mithral armored coat.


Reminds me of a game where my character essentially had Enlarge Person Permanency'd on and in one round against an enemy I don't think the DM wanted us to fight I got Permanently Reduce Person'd. I just stopped playing the character at that point.

The moral is if you destroy something good the players have with no real reason (or maybe even with a reason, besides talking to them before hand and saying you want to do it for balance issues), they will be pissed.


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

We had a Disjunction go off in a high level Eberron game, once. There was a fair amount of grumbling, but most of our stuff made it through. Due to a GM mistake we all had WAY too much gold, anyway, and it managed to bring us down in line with our APL anyway.

It's something I tend to avoid as a GM, anyway. Most times it seems more effective to damage the pcs or debuff them magically, so I go with that usually. There are occasions where I will threaten with sunder or some Rust Monsters, though. I also tend to run AP's in a rather cut throat manner, so if the option is on the table, I take it and run with it, but will usually plan in some extra gold or goodies to balance it out.


I destroy stuff all the time when i DM. The players know that tools break, sooner or later. Swords sundered, cloaks ruined by vats of acid, spellbooks burned to crisps.

I dont get why many people on this board seem to think a dm that uses sunder is unfair while not killing pcs is being too soft.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

It's good to keep it rare. Sundering a weapon isn't bad perse, since they can repair it. However, if every single encounter has everyone trying to sunder the Paladin's awesome armor, or if suddenly everyone has adamatine swords to break everything, it can get annoying.

As with all things, do it in moderation.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
stringburka wrote:

I destroy stuff all the time when i DM. The players know that tools break, sooner or later. Swords sundered, cloaks ruined by vats of acid, spellbooks burned to crisps.

I dont get why many people on this board seem to think a dm that uses sunder is unfair while not killing pcs is being too soft.

It all depends on the game. Some players are okay with it and if so, that's cool.

However, when you constantly break a player's items, it becomes harder and harder to replace. The same with constantly killing a character over and over again. I can tell you, I've been in a game like that and we've just ended up purposefully killing our characters so that our new ones will have better items. Mind you, our DM gave us horseshoes for treasure because 'it was funny'.

Basically, it's a 'why have nice things when someone is just going to break it' mentality. Also there is a huge metagaming aspect behind it. For example, a wizard only needs his spellbook to prepare spells, not to cast them. So, for the whole day, he can keep it in his knapsack. How can some random muggle know this mage is a wizard and try to steal a book he's never seen? Yet time and again, I see DM have thieves in combat grab the spellbooks because they somehow knew they were wizards.

Now if your party is getting plenty of treasure and can replaces such things, then it's not really a big deal. Again, like with all thing, moderation is key.


I think you should sunder someone's heirloom weapon at least once. Just to send a message. At the moment you sort of get the feeling that people are using this as a half price exotic weapon proficiency. Reminding them that you take a big risk by building a character around a single item rebalances the trait.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Foxdie13 wrote:

I was running a few idea in my head for my next game and by reading my books I was questioning myself. Have you ever destroyed or dispelled something against your players?

I know that if your party is having too much gear for your needs, you can always make some magic items vanish, but in the end I'm pretty sure the players would be pissed.

To all the GM who've already done this: share your experience please. I'm curious

My brother was playing an undead antipaladin of quite a bit of strength. He had a nice set of masterwork full plate armor, and an adamantine sword that he had picked up off an enemy. The party consisted of two evil characters (my brother's antipaladin and the barbarian who was also undead) and a neutral strix psychic warrior. A motley crew to be sure, but they weren't actually doing anything wrong at the time. They were framed for destroying the caravan they were guarding (it was actually taken out by an avalanche orchestrated by the real bad guys); and the BBEG's people had spread word of deeds they hadn't committed, and told that they had undead in their ranks (undead are extremely frowned upon in the kingdom, due to religious reasons).

The kingdom's templar inquisitors (not the class, just the profession) hunted them down and found them in the wilds. Clearly outnumbered by the eight templar who came to get them (and they had heard that the Templar were pretty tough fellows), they first tried to convince them of their innocence, but weren't getting very far. So the Strix tried to appeal to their sense of honor. He asked if instead of coming to blows about it, if they could just match one of the party members against one of the templar who came along. The party had two mummies and the psychic warrior, and when the Templar agreed, the party figured maybe they would expect the party to pick one of the mummies (being mummies are pretty strong) and instead chose the psychic warrior. The psychic warrior ends up fighting one of the sorceresses in the group, and ends up getting blasted half to death with scorching rays. Before getting knocked unconscious, the Strix psychic warrior holds up his hands and takes it like a man. "Okay, okay, I give. You got me." he says, holding his hands out for the manacles. He is escorted up onto a wagon whilst complementing his opponent on the asswhupping he had received.

At this point, the barbarian goes back on the party's promise, and demands that he will fight them himself, as he's not going to go anywhere with them! So the barbarian mummy pulls his greataxe and gets ready to throw down. At which point the commander and his right hand (two paladin/warriors) step up and smite him into dust. The Strix facepalms and asked to have some of the mummy's ashes gathered up into an envelope so that he could have some words with him later.

Apparently figuring he would do better than the Barbarian, the Mummy Antipaladin (who had not yet got his version of divine grace) up and decided he was going to fight his way out as well. He challenged the Paladins who defeated the Barbarian, but one of the sorceresses grabbed the Paladin by the shoulder and was like "I got this". So there he was, staring down this girl half his size, his sword in hand. However, much to his surprise, the first action was followed by my saying those terrible words no player wants to hear...

"I need a will save."

Biff city, population him. Suddenly he was caught rigid in the inquisitor's hold undead spell. He was like "uh-oh", but that's not where it stopped. She was not amused by the party's antics, nor their going back on their word, nor the barbarian injuring the Paladins, nor the antipaladin being somewhat obstinate. He was expecting to get plowed with a barrage of scorching rays like the other sorceress did to the Strix, but oh no; this was much worse.

"I need a will save."

Shattered goes his sword, fracturing into countless pieces across the ground. "Oh no!" he calls out. She was hitting him where it hurt. What could she do that would be worse than that!?

"I need a will save."

Oh, the armor too. Peachy. Now we have a big held half-nekkid mummy standing there. They tied him up and locked him in a trunk. The Strix asked for the shards of the adamantine sword, because he kept insisting there was some sort of mistake and that they would get it sorted out like adults later. Incidentally, the antipaladin took it like a man (very cool since he was only 12 at the time). He facepalmed and said "Is there any way to get my sword fixed if we make it out of this alive?". Fortunately make whole says yes. ^-^

My own piece of advice for keeping your gear intact.
1) Carry plenty of spares. No matter how valuable, powerful, or expensive, it can be lost, stolen, or destroyed (destroyed being the easiest and most likely). Even the one ring was lost and eventually destroyed by a pair of halflings. If it can happen to Sauron, it can happen to you.
2) Don't piss off enemies who can cast shatter repeatedly. Do it even less if they can also cast dispel magic.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I'll admit, sometimes players get uppity and cocky and need to be dropped a couple of pegs. Killing one is the biggest extreme, but breaking some weapons or armor can really drive home the danger.


I have run a 3.5 game where a 16th level PC lost every single piece of equipment he had due to a protracted wrestling match with an advanced black ooze.

Anybody ever play the old 2E module Nightmare Keep? That module was designed to destroy everything the players were carrying and to then destroy the players utterly. I ran it once with 22nd level characters that I let them make up specifically for the module. They completed about 2/3 of the adventure before being TPK'd. Before the unavoidable TPK they had to remove all remaining equipment from each character and pile it up to redistribute items amongst themselves because some had weapons but no armor and others had armor and no weapons, etc.... They did this three times during the module. Hands down the toughest module I have ever seen. It made the H series look like Keep on the Borderlands.


Pathfinder Pawns, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Did anyone ever consider that maybe it's not the players who are getting uppity and cocky (I believe that's called "having fun"), but the GM who is becoming drunk with power?

It's not a competition between the players and GM, you know.


Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
peterrco wrote:
I think you should sunder someone's heirloom weapon at least once. Just to send a message. At the moment you sort of get the feeling that people are using this as a half price exotic weapon proficiency. Reminding them that you take a big risk by building a character around a single item rebalances the trait.

You do know that the heirloom weapon trait has been hit with the nerf-zooka, right ? Excuse me, I mean errata'd.

@others: I see threads from time to time about how to make magic weapons singular and something a player will want to hang onto over time. This sort of thing runs at counter-purposes to that. If players expect a lot of gear attrition, they're not going to be come attached or even particularly interested in any one piece of gear.


Ravingdork wrote:

Did anyone ever consider that maybe it's not the players who are getting uppity and cocky (I believe that's called "having fun"), but the GM who is becoming drunk with power?

It's not a competition between the players and GM, you know.

I approach the game like I approach life. You're not taking any of your gear with you when you die. Items, no matter how useful or how favored by your characters, are only items. They are merely tools. They can be lost, they can be broken, and they can be stolen (though honestly most items are damn hard to steal since they're too large for Slight of Hand, and slipping an alarm stone or similar into your pouch is a good way to screw with pickpockets).

Item destruction is--as much as people hate to admit it--a very viable tactic against characters with particularly powerful gear. Especially at higher levels as stuff like dispel magic becomes more common, or is even possessed by outsiders as at-will abilities. The fewer spare weapons of similar power you possess, the more attractive weapon destruction can be. If your party's Legolas-clone only has one nice bow, then turning that bow into splinters is going to squash his effectiveness.

Even if you're not trying to kill someone, breaking items is often enough to get some people to surrender. This is a tactic often favored by good guys. I call it the "Jedi effect". In Star Wars, instead of cutting down lots of enemies, many Jedi will take advantage of the fact their sabers ignore hardness and slice up the blasters of enemies. With nothing more than their hands to fight with, many enemies will outright surrender (or at least be a lot easier to subdue).

It's not likely to be something that occurs in every fight; but I would urge people not get too quick to judge a GM harshly over some malformed notion that the GM isn't being fair. If the GM is being a good GM and following the rules, you'll get your WBL back anyway.


You misunderstand me, RD.

I have yet to break a single piece of player equipment this year.

The poor 16th level character who wrestled that ooze had a bad day with the dice. He only survived due to GM mercy.

The Nightmare Keep module called for 18th to 22nd level characters. My players had PC's of that level that they had been playing for two years.
I insisted thst they NOT use their dearly loved PC's in that module and made them generate new 22nd level characters just for that murder-fest of a scenario. Also, that happened more than ten years ago and I do not recall any other such equipment destroying rampages by monsters that I used in between. Simply a single sundered item here or there. Maybe one or two per year of game play. (and I make sure they get the opportunity to replace the item!)

I do not coup-de-grace players who are below 0 HP.

I do not try to assassinate PC's with death effects (ala the Assassin PrC) delivered upon their sleeping bodies.

I do not try to steal spellbooks or holy symbols unless the players are captured or their spellcasters have already (on several occasions, at least!) been EXCEPTIONALLY successful at derailing an intelligent bad guys plans.

I do not target familiars, unless the player places it in harms way.

I DO routinely target animal companions and mounts though, admittedly.

I am far from being an adversarial GM, who, drunk with his own power lures poor unsuspecting PC's to their dooms amid piles of sundered equipment.

Silver Crusade

The best way to humble a player isn't to break his toys, but make him realize his toys aren't that great.

If you mean to drive the point that the Fighter's large +1 Adamantite Falcata of Brilliant Energy isn't always going to be the answer, just make challenges and encounters where such an item probably won't be the solution. Don't make a player mad, make a player think.


Volkspanzer wrote:

The best way to humble a player isn't to break his toys, but make him realize his toys aren't that great.

If you mean to drive the point that the Fighter's large +1 Adamantite Falcata of Brilliant Energy isn't always going to be the answer, just make challenges and encounters where such an item probably won't be the solution. Don't make a player mad, make a player think.

Brilliant energy weapons suck anyway. Unless you're fighting heavily armored humanoids, you get virtually no benefit, and in exchange you fork over many thousands of gold pieces to have the honor of being unable to hurt undead and constructs; one of which is arguably the most common enemy type in the game based solely on undead to other-ratio of creatures (since virtually every non-construct is also a potential undead in some form or another).

Want to prove that +1 adamantine brilliant energy falcata is useless? Put a door in front of them. The adamantine quality is useless because it can't hurt objects. On the other side of that door, put a low CR zombie, which is likewise just as immune.

Brilliant energy sucks. Get one of these instead! :P


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Ravingdork wrote:

Did anyone ever consider that maybe it's not the players who are getting uppity and cocky (I believe that's called "having fun"), but the GM who is becoming drunk with power?

It's not a competition between the players and GM, you know.

Nope! Definitely not the latter. Mostly since I'm already drunk on rum n coke ;)

I actually actively try not to screw over players with things such as save-or-die spells, or sundering their spellbook. And I at the very least give out a lot of treasure mostly in gold since I'm admittedly bad at just giving out magic items. And I do love making my players feel like heroes. But sometimes, and is happens every so often, you just kind of get way ahead of yourself and start fighting reckless. I actually did that in a recent game of Jade Regent with my bard and boy did I learn my lesson when we got to the second to last boss of the book. Luckily I had a witch that healed me and force fed a potion down my throat.

I think it is healthy to have some easy encounters and it is healthy to have a near death, or a broken (but mind you, not destroyed) item here and there. It does ground you a bit back in the verisimilitude of the setting and actually does help you to roleplay a bit better. I feel that when there isn't any danger, there isn't any challenge and many players end up getting bored and have this 'tank and spank' mentality. So I do like to spice things up with terrain, ambushes, scary monsters, and natural hazards. I'll also admit it hurts my pride a tad when players steamroll things a bit... :) But I always try to be fair with my games. If I do disable someone (like sundering a weapon), I always make sure they have access to other tactics and such. And I do drop hints here and there.


This thread kind of reminds me of Baldur's Gate I. During that game, there is a problem with the iron in most weapons, so all the weapons effectively have the fragile weapon quality (it wasn't called that, but basically your sword might break while you were attacking). Magic weapons didn't have that problem, but early in the game I always carry some spare weapons. ^.^"


stringburka wrote:

I destroy stuff all the time when i DM. The players know that tools break, sooner or later. Swords sundered, cloaks ruined by vats of acid, spellbooks burned to crisps.

I dont get why many people on this board seem to think a dm that uses sunder is unfair while not killing pcs is being too soft.

My feeling is “easy to get, easy to loose”.

After all loosing all equipment is about the same thing as receiving a level drain, allot depend on how hard it is to replace things.
If one has toiled long and hard to get something, of course one is going to be annoyed if the GM takes it away.
On the other hand in a campaign were loosing a fight is likely to end up stripped of equipment and ransomed for about WBL, it is perfectly fine.
In the later case player will complain, until they (6th level characters) find out that taking the BBG alive allow them to ransom him for 80 000 GP…
At that point one gets players that will never kill anything they can conceivably capture instead.

Silver Crusade

Ashiel wrote:


Brilliant energy weapons suck anyway. Unless you're fighting heavily armored humanoids, you get virtually no benefit, and in exchange you fork over many thousands of gold pieces to have the honor of being unable to hurt undead and constructs; one of which is arguably the most common enemy type in the game based solely on undead to other-ratio of creatures (since virtually every non-construct is also a potential undead in some form or another).

Want to prove that +1 adamantine brilliant energy falcata is useless? Put a door in front of them. The adamantine quality is useless because it can't hurt objects. On the other side of that door, put a low CR zombie, which is likewise just as immune.

Brilliant energy sucks. Get one of these instead! :P

I can't tell if you're ignoring the point of my argument. Perhaps I should have just replaced the "+1 adamantine brilliant energy falcata" with the obligatory "uber-powerful solves-all-problems beat-stick".


In 30 years of running campaigns I have rarely destroyed, stolen or otherwise made a PC's equipment unusable. When I have done so, it has been because it was critical to the plot, and I was sure the player was mature enough to handle it.

On the other hand, as a player I have had my stuff destroyed, stolen or otherwise made unusable many times. But not lately.

In one campaign my GM arbitrarily had all of the PC's reduced to being naked and enslaved. He thought it was awesome. The players all hated it.

On occasion I have had a GM provide my character with an overpowered item. In those cases I have worked with the GM to either reduce the power of the item, or to replace it.

Taking a PC's stuff is a very drastic step to take in a campaign. It should be weighed very carefully and the GM should be absolutely sure that doing so will not cause the player to become frustrated and not have fun.


Volkspanzer wrote:
Ashiel wrote:


Brilliant energy weapons suck anyway. Unless you're fighting heavily armored humanoids, you get virtually no benefit, and in exchange you fork over many thousands of gold pieces to have the honor of being unable to hurt undead and constructs; one of which is arguably the most common enemy type in the game based solely on undead to other-ratio of creatures (since virtually every non-construct is also a potential undead in some form or another).

Want to prove that +1 adamantine brilliant energy falcata is useless? Put a door in front of them. The adamantine quality is useless because it can't hurt objects. On the other side of that door, put a low CR zombie, which is likewise just as immune.

Brilliant energy sucks. Get one of these instead! :P

I can't tell if you're ignoring the point of my argument. Perhaps I should have just replaced the "+1 adamantine brilliant energy falcata" with the obligatory "uber-powerful solves-all-problems beat-stick".

Nah, just thinking out loud. :P


Adamantine Dragon wrote:


Taking a PC's stuff is a very drastic step to take in a campaign. It should be weighed very carefully and the GM should be absolutely sure that doing so will not cause the player to become frustrated and not have fun.

Not necessarily, it is all about expectations.

If players expect every other adventure to start with them waking up hung over in a jail cell after partying away their last possessions it is not really a problem.
So if a GM at a beginning of a campaign informs the players that “nude in jail” is going to occur every now and then in the campaign the players will accept it.

But that only works if there is an expectation that it is not really that hard to replace (more or less) what is lost. So there really need to be a common level in a campaign, either equipment should the hard to get and not lost, or easy to get, but also easy to loose.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
Adamantine Dragon wrote:

In 30 years of running campaigns I have rarely destroyed, stolen or otherwise made a PC's equipment unusable. When I have done so, it has been because it was critical to the plot, and I was sure the player was mature enough to handle it.

On the other hand, as a player I have had my stuff destroyed, stolen or otherwise made unusable many times. But not lately.

In one campaign my GM arbitrarily had all of the PC's reduced to being naked and enslaved. He thought it was awesome. The players all hated it.

On occasion I have had a GM provide my character with an overpowered item. In those cases I have worked with the GM to either reduce the power of the item, or to replace it.

Taking a PC's stuff is a very drastic step to take in a campaign. It should be weighed very carefully and the GM should be absolutely sure that doing so will not cause the player to become frustrated and not have fun.

I'll admit, when it comes to weapons, I'd rather disarm than sunder. I find that temporary disabling is much more palatable to players than total destruction. I'll sunder armor but only when it actually makes sense in the combat. Like a pissed off Gargantuan Magma Elemental cracking full plate like a nut to kill the guy that just stole his treasure. I mean, hell, there are so many ways around things like casting and heavy armor that sundering is a very rare thing that happens.

I've only imprisoned my players once and it was after a TPK. The big bad guy wanted to keep them alive to execute them in front of his kingdom. It led to an awesome escape sequence where the rogue broke everyone out and grabbed their stuff, then let out all of the other prisoners as a diversion. In the end, it did help to dispel any poor feelings from the TPK and wasn't forced or arbitrary. Of course, if you want to begin the game with the characters imprisoned, it is important to let them know before hand.

As with all things, it's best to do it in moderation.


Foxdie13 wrote:

I was running a few idea in my head for my next game and by reading my books I was questioning myself. Have you ever destroyed or dispelled something against your players?

I know that if your party is having too much gear for your needs, you can always make some magic items vanish, but in the end I'm pretty sure the players would be pissed.

To all the GM who've already done this: share your experience please. I'm curious

Of course. It'd be rather silly to have things like rust monsters and not use them.

In our current campaign, the party wizard lost his crossbow to a rust monster halfway through the first dungeon. It's a standard hazard of fighting them.

That said, don't sunder unless it makes tactical sense from the NPC's perspective. Most NPCs fight to win, not soften up their opponents for someone else. So most NPCs are going to try to kill the enemy as quickly as possible. If they want the enemy to be sans weapon, they will likely disarm, as it is more likely to work (no item hp to worry about). If they want the enemy to be sans armor, they may try to sunder it after a while, but most won't as they probably won't live long enough to enjoy the benefit.

Now the mage with the rod of cancellation, on the other hand. . . . If I ever want to give a PC that rod, it wouldn't be improper for me to introduce it in the hands of an enemy. Keeping the rod would be a reasonable reward for avoiding it. (It would, of course, be proper to leave a clue as to the rod's presence and effect, for fun's sake; I don't like making players feel helpless.) And while I won't go out of my way to do it, if the party settles for relatively cheap permanency + greater magic fang rather than an amulet of mighty fists, they will only have themselves to blame when the BBEG wizard opens the battle with a standard debuff opener, greater dispel magic, and splats the buff. But only if I would have had the BBEG do that regardless of the buff, or if the BBEG somehow learned of the buff specifically, e.g., through divination.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

Also, the amount of times you sunder really needs to make sense. I can imagine a rage filled behemoth would try and smash someone's armor over and over again. But a seasoned warrior would try once and if it didn't work, he'd switch to a different tactic.

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder First Edition / Advice / Gear destruction: How to handle it? All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.