All my plans! Ruined!


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Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
xanthemann wrote:
TriOmegaZero wrote:
xanthemann wrote:
Has anyone looked into the Advanced Game Masters Guide? Even the pros recommend some fudging by the GM for the sake of the campaign/story.
Counterpoint.
Nice counterpoint!

:)

Silver Crusade

Orc Boyz wrote:


see im in the boat that if you should die, you should die. the gm shouldnt save me by cheating. also when the gm rolls behind a screen and a warrior npc saves against blindness/deffness, bestow curse, flesh to stone, and hold person wasting 4 rounds in a row, then fails something minor just to save his precious npc... that will get a table flipped in my games.

Since we already saw a lot of big bads failing their saving throws in our games, I don't have any issue with it. The DM understands when to and not to do it ; and I'm pretty sure it's still a rare occurence.

Our DM loves hard fights, and sometimes has a tendancy to overdo himself. Dying against dumb foes is NOT fun, so fudging can be a way to save a character if doing a mistake. I'm all for deaths in harsh encounters due to the high (non-artificial) challenge, or my own stupid actions. The NPCs can and did die stupidly, and we had our fair share of PC deaths (just from memory, a good 16 in two years) so believe me when I say plot armor has never been an issue for baddies or goodies.


xanthemann wrote:

Has anyone looked into the Advanced Game Masters Guide? Even the pros recommend some fudging by the GM for the sake of the campaign/story.

It is all a matter of what may bring the best memories/stories out of the game.

That advice is in the DMG, and probably the CRB also. I was never saying it is bad, but not every group likes it, and it should be used sparingly and/or well done in those cases.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Here is my counter argument #2:

I would rather have a game where the party flattened every monster they faced than have a game where the party felt cheated all the time.

If you game long enough you are probably eventually going to run into a GM who "wants to keep it exciting and challenging" a little too much. The party kills the BBEG only to find out he is a golem, twin, clone, magic jarred minion, illusion that someone has solidity, or some other brand of shell game. The satisfaction of killing a villian you love to hate is constantly snatched away from the party in the name of stretching out the enjoyment of the chase.

Yes this can be good, but the danger is you risk pulling the carrot away from the players (after they have earned it) one time too many, and then everyone becomes disenchanted and jaded. Your adventure hooks will not work anymore, your players won't immerse, and you become the GM that cried wolf.

In the name of all that is human (and dwarf, gnome or halfling, since elves don't count), let your party kick ass from time to time. Everything doesn't have to be twelve full rounds rounds and a lucky, last second knockout.

Conan didn't say "Driving your enemy before you, only to find out they were really behind you, and hear the lamentations of their women turn to laughter when the find you actually killed their cousins." 'Nuff said.


I was running Age of Worms, and my party won the initiative, and killed dragotha before he even got a chance to act once. I had put....days...of work into 3d terrain for that encounter, and it was beautiful. the players didn’t even acknowledge it, just wanted a list of loot.

I haven’t played 3.x since.

call me what you will, but it sucks to go through that. The dm should have fun also.


There is a way to get around it...perhaps. Simultaneous actions. If you start the campaign with everyone having the understanding that everyone is acting at the same time then you can have you BBEG pull off a last ditch move when the killing blow is in motion.

Just a thought.


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donnald johnson wrote:

I was running Age of Worms, and my party won the initiative, and killed dragotha before he even got a chance to act once. I had put....days...of work into 3d terrain for that encounter, and it was beautiful. the players didn’t even acknowledge it, just wanted a list of loot.

I haven’t played 3.x since.

call me what you will, but it sucks to go through that. The dm should have fun also.

Maybe I'm just a cheater, but when things like that happened or someone did a million damage on a crit, I'd describe the monster wheeling back and looking obviously wounded (maybe a limp or knocked to its knees) and then I'd mark down like a fourth of the damage done and continue, with the idea being that they obviously hurt it and it would act like it was hurt, but with no mechanical benefit. >_<

As long as they never found out... shhh.

Shadow Lodge

chaoseffect wrote:
Maybe I'm just a cheater...

Ayup.


A little cheating that the players never know about seems to go a long way, though you do have to balance it out by letting it play out as rolled in their favor sometimes.


If the dungeonmaster does it it's not cheating.
Purely by definition.


chaoseffect wrote:

Maybe I'm just a cheater, but when things like that happened or someone did a million damage on a crit, I'd describe the monster wheeling back and looking obviously wounded (maybe a limp or knocked to its knees) and then I'd mark down like a fourth of the damage done and continue, with the idea being that they obviously hurt it and it would act like it was hurt, but with no mechanical benefit. >_<

As long as they never found out... shhh.

I would probably just add another one identical monster and say that it was hiding somewhere nearby.


Now you guys have me wondering what I would do if one of my NPCs was killed out of hand and without my being ready for it.

It could happen. If the party simply decided to take a wild chance and they attacked the BBEG out of the blue, in spite of the fact that up until now the BBEG has done nothing but help the party... if they did it is conceivable they could kill him. He's not optimized for combat, he doesn't have a lot of hit points and if they get the drop on him he might not even get to act before they put him down.

What would I do?

Well, unless the party could kill the BBEG without anyone knowing it, they would likely be arrested and tried. If they run away that would open up some really interesting unexpected plot twists. That might even be fun.

But back to the BBEG. Does that mean ALL my careful planning is done?

Not necessarily. After all, the BBEG has a lot of friends, a lot of cash and a lot of magic items. There are at least two minions who would have the wherewithal to raise him from the dead, and they would likely do so immediately. Since the BBEG's plans have not come to fruition, he would be highly unlikely to decide to stay dead and thus the raise dead would be successful. Now, he would be out the cash spent on the raise dead spell, and he would likely be very, very angry at the party, but in the end almost none of my real effort on the plot would be lost. The party on the run angle might be interesting, but I could work that in easily enough.

For that matter, of all the NPCs I've spent more than an hour on, unless the entire family or the entire gang gets wiped out, all of them could be pretty easily raised from the dead. So it would end up being an interesting diversion, but really, in the long run, I don't think much would change. Certainly none of my work would be wasted.


I think it is safe to say I do at least 2 or 3 hours prep work for ever 1 hours of game play. I sort of just assumed this was common practice.


donnald johnson wrote:

I was running Age of Worms, and my party won the initiative, and killed dragotha before he even got a chance to act once. I had put....days...of work into 3d terrain for that encounter, and it was beautiful. the players didn’t even acknowledge it, just wanted a list of loot.

I haven’t played 3.x since.

call me what you will, but it sucks to go through that. The dm should have fun also.

How did that happen?

There is not way he should have have been buffed since he should have heard them coming a long ways off. I even had him put up a stone wall for them to get past.

With that said the GM should have fun, but sometimes things like that happen when the GM's something forgets to account for a certain ability(ies).

Leave nothing to chance in cases like that.

PS:As for them not acknowleding the terrain, well it never got used against them so it was probably no more than decoration to them. I also think all of us have gone the extra mile to have it not even be noticed at times. It sucks, but it happens.


chaoseffect wrote:
donnald johnson wrote:

I was running Age of Worms, and my party won the initiative, and killed dragotha before he even got a chance to act once. I had put....days...of work into 3d terrain for that encounter, and it was beautiful. the players didn’t even acknowledge it, just wanted a list of loot.

I haven’t played 3.x since.

call me what you will, but it sucks to go through that. The dm should have fun also.

Maybe I'm just a cheater, but when things like that happened or someone did a million damage on a crit, I'd describe the monster wheeling back and looking obviously wounded (maybe a limp or knocked to its knees) and then I'd mark down like a fourth of the damage done and continue, with the idea being that they obviously hurt it and it would act like it was hurt, but with no mechanical benefit. >_<

As long as they never found out... shhh.

If I drop 1000 points of damage then I will know the GM is fudging. That goes back to my earlier post saying that such things won't work on everyone.


El Cid Vicious, AnarkoPaladin wrote:

If the dungeonmaster does it it's not cheating.

Purely by definition.

The point is that the players know the GM is altering the game to extend the battle. If a player happens to die in such a battle it only makes things worse. I am not saying I have never done it, but when I did I kept the hit points reasonable. Maybe instead of average HP I suddenly decided the monster had 75 percent, and since I often start boss characters as if they had rolled 75%( 6 out of a D8) for every HD then it is not unreasonable. When a GM doubles and triples hit points then a player might start looking at him funny.


Timothy Hanson wrote:
I think it is safe to say I do at least 2 or 3 hours prep work for ever 1 hours of game play. I sort of just assumed this was common practice.

I tend to prep a lot also, especially when it comes to BBEG's.


If some members of the party is specialized on damage output, and you cheat as a GM, you are effectively undoing their characters' contribution.

Last night, the players fought a black wyrm, and more or less trounced it in 2-3 rounds, with the dragon barely able to deal any real damage.

And that is alright. Because three of the characters are full-BAB types (Fighter, Cavalier, Paladin) who simply deal damage. There is also a wizard, whose job it is to undo defenses and "win" the fight by making it so the warriors can get at it. (Mass Fly, buff/protection, debuffing, dispelling enemy buffs/debuffs, etc)

However, there is no healer in the party, meaning they HAVE to kill stuff before stuff kills them. Which is within their power. Short, intense battles. Few battles last past the 3 round marker, and NO battles last as long as 8. And if I were to cheat, so that fights dragged on, making it so their damage output was reduced to the level of a less powerful class, I have ruined their characters.

Why? Imagine you are playing a face/buffer bard, and your GM suddenly decides that your social and buffing abilities no longer work. The whole point of your character is undone, so the GM can be coddled.

I know it is considered rude to say it, but whatever: If you want fights to go on forever, go play 4e D&D. PF simply is not designed that way.


wraithstrike wrote:
If I drop 1000 points of damage then I will know the GM is fudging. That goes back to my earlier post saying that such things won't work on everyone.

Yeah I know what you mean, and I wouldn't if it happened into the big fight, but a first round KO is kind of disheartening for a DM if you expected it to at least last the "standard" length that I tend to see if most games as 3 rounds. Depending of what they're fighting, doing so may be reasonable or it might just break immersion like you said.

I also see your point Kamel, but its also a matter of perception at times. If you have to cheat, at least let them think they got off a good hit and have the monster act as such even though it's HP didn't go down as far as it could have. Still, it's not something to do for every encounter or if the players managed to crush the enemy through superior in-game planning or tactics.


I also don't use SoD spells if I think a GM will fudge dice. I don't want my actions to be wasted.

I understand what you mean about losing a boss in round 1 or 2, but it happens. It has made me a better GM though, so it is never a total loss. It gives me something else to account for. I think the most annoying thing to happen was when the entire party rolled nat 20's, well those that were attacking anyway.

PS:I am also players don't like being taken out in the 1st round, whether it is by character death or failing a save vs a fear spell*. Sometimes you just have to deal with it though.

*They don't normally make it back before the fight ends.


I tend to let save or die spells work if they work, as they already have multiple saves. But yeah, fear... it's one of those things that I find fair game as a PC, but I always tried to avoid when I was DMing; if you fear a few of the enemies that's one thing as a DM usually has more toys to play with, but a player only has the one.


Kamelguru wrote:
Imagine you are playing a face/buffer bard, and your GM suddenly decides that your social and buffing abilities no longer work. The whole point of your character is undone, so the GM can be coddled.

I hear you. I've played in a game where I began as a mid level rogue; I'd engineered the entire character around being the face and using every trick I could for sneak attacks. As the game started the trained dogs I had as possible flankers were lost as we had to ride griffons to the adventure site. We got there and no one trusted the rogue yet they were all about the paladin - apparently my having a higher Diplomacy didn't really matter. When the action started, in 3 levels of gameplay stretching across 3 marathon days of gaming I got in 2 sneak attacks; one on a monk guard who saw through my disguise instantly while I tried to infiltrate their monastery and one on an inconsequential summoned lion.

In the final battle the BBEG summoned black tentacles around the outside of an acid pit which in turn encircled the altar that held the McGuffin we were after. My rogue turned in an AMAZING Acrobatics check to get there - nat 20 for a total of 29; I apparently needed a 30. The McGuffin was bumped into the acid and almost lost forever while my character in the next round failed a save and was captured by the black tentacles.

That was a dark experience for me. When I'm a player I don't mind if the odds are tough or whatever, but take me out of a fight fair and square; beat me up with monsters or something. When you systematically dismantle, nullify or simply ignore the elements of my build there's no real point to me being there...except that I was physically trapped in a cabin in the woods with the game for the weekend.

I thought about suiciding and bringing in a DPR character but I thought that would've been bad form.


Hey, at least your group actually made it to the BBEG. I've had groups completely miss the BBEG and go haring off into subplots until they are too strong for the BBEG to be a threat to them anymore and has to be scrapped. The problem with free-form games is that they are free-form, if you play them fair then the players can (and often will) find ways to void the GMs' scripts. That's why the GM should be ready to improvise. A GM can force the players to follow a script, but I find that players have more fun if they can write the story and the GM provides the background, which means lots of improvisation.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Oh, oh yes. I as a GM have had the players completely come at me from left field with stuff all the time. Even when I try to play things fast and loose and adapt, and I KNOW they are capable of doing stuff I will never imagine... I've still been blindsided. But I've developed a habit of overdeveloping my world and the backstory so when things take an unexpected turn, it might take me a few minutes to go through my notes and come up with an idea, but I'll manage to catch up eventually.

I'm sure I've also done this to my GMs as well.

Regarding "you killed my NPC!" ...

I have learned...

the HARD way...

That if there's an NPC I decide is essential, I do one of two things (if not both):

- Find a way to root the plot in more than one individual so that if something crazy happens, I can carry on

- Keep that NPC nowhere NEAR the PCs. If the NPC needs to communicate with those PCs he can use any number of methods from courier to simulacrum and beyond, but I will not put his physical person anywhere close to the PCs until I'm okay with him dying.


I'm a kinda railroad-y DM. I mostly run adventure modules and the rare homebrewed adventures are simple. But that's fine, because my player (I'm running solo adventures) doesn't mind.
When I'll finally graduate from railroading, I'm planning on running games that are "sandbox", BUT have clear goals set for the player. That way he will have more freedom and at the same time I'll still have an idea what will happen. Win-win.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Fergie wrote:

That's when you stop the game for a moment and say, "OK, you guys kill it and get it's xp and treasure. But that could be a really cool encounter and I worked hard on it. Let's just say it's identical twin steps out and we will play out the encounter?"

Also, always expect a single opponent to get taken out like a chump in the surprise round when it is against the whole party. Never do 1 vs 4 if it is supposed to be a serious encounter.

Great idea, but don't tell the players that. Just have the BBEG's two remaining identical triplets show up.


redcelt32 wrote:
I would rather have a game where the party flattened every monster they faced than have a game where the party felt cheated all the time.

That really depends on the circumstances.

If the party get lucky and one-shot the BBEG after winning initiative, well, that's the way the cookie crumbles. You can pull out a few lieutenants to make sure the other PCs get to stretch their combat muscles, or have him rise as undead cursed by Urgothoa (happens by design in one or two games), but basically, they won fair and square.

If the party just killed the BBEG by accident because they were bored or just felt like a little homicidal mania, or they have metagame knowledge, then there's already something wrong.

Certainly of they randomly kill NPCs for the giggles, they shouldn't be rewarded for acting chaotic stupid.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Yup. I've had my plans ruined and ruined the plans of others as well. I once sent a high-level demon against my PCs. The wizard cast Banishment and got lucky with their SR roll...demon failed its save as well. CR 20 creature beaten. he was supposed to be a final boss.

In a much lower-level game, the party fared horribly against a bunch of random kobolds, yet managed to out the enemy final boss (a knight, back from the old 3.5 days) by tripping him with my animal companion and then wailing on him for two rounds while he struggled (and failed) to rise. He was a CR above us and was meant to be a challenge, built for survivability in mind. We offed him with little to no damage to us, and in ten times the predicted speed.

This is why when I DM i just take things like this in stride. I used to try "idiot-proofing" my games, to make sure lucky breaks couldn't ruin me (or the PCs), but as a friend of mine aptly pointed out, this is pointless on two fronts. One: I can't circumnavigate luck in a system that relies on dice rolls. Eventually, a 1 shall be rolled. And 2, he reminded me that my players were very clever idiots...


a BBEG I never got a chance to use: The Swarm Lord

A built-in mechanism organic to the story to ensure he wasn't one-shotted. Y'see theres all these giant vermin and swarms in a 5-room dungeon scenario. Room 1 - attacked by giant beetle/CR1. Room 2 - skill challenge to cross a long straight crypt of swarming bugs using knowledge: dungeoneering, acrobatics, climb and others to step only where a special insect-repellent mold was growing while avoiding the poisonous nature of the stuff. Room 3 - you're just about to pass through a side chamber when giant spiders descend because the ceiling is caving in. Room 4 - you finally meet the Swarm Lord; a being composed completely of insect swarms.

Room 5 was just room 4...only as the party begins looting the walls begin crackling and writhing. Turns out just behind the ancient plaster are nests which, given time, will just simply regenerate the Swarm Lord. The party can either escape out the way they've come, head out through a puzzle-locked door or try and destroy all the nests (think Gauntlet) before the Lord fully regenerates.


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I plotted out a scenario where a town was being threatened. However, I was torn between having a rebel group that had grown to dislike the city council versus a corrupt politician doing a Palpatine routine. So in creation, I decided I would let the party decide - they would get clues hinted at in each direction (that were intentionally designed to be interpreted as either), and I would go with the storyline that they ended up following.

That was the worst few sessions of my GMing career.

Both. My party explored BOTH options, even going as far as splitting into groups of two; one group joined the rebels, and the other played detective in the city. In the end, the story was convoluted and contrived, because I had to make up stuff on the spot to tie everything together. I ended up bringing in an agent of a green dragon, who had "engineered the city's plight" in order to test the mettle of the party, as a sort of interview for the green dragon. It was pretty much awful, though they did end up working for the dragon.


El Cid Vicious, AnarkoPaladin wrote:

If the dungeonmaster does it it's not cheating.

Purely by definition.

Some people have a more difficult time simply swallowing a double standard and moving on than others, me (being my group's GM) among them.


Example of plans ruined, and how I rolled with it.

A few sessions of platforming and combat, as players climbed down inside a frozen mountain, to defeat the forces of baba yaga. All went well, no one fell to their death, but it was very risky.

They come to the bottom, out comes an athach fighter champion, ready to turn them to kibble. The party warriors (yes he played a warrior) draws his might bow and the 20s fly. He kills it, he went first.

It hits the deck, players are relieved, one laughs at me and wonders how long that took to prep (1 hour+). Then they move on, encounter the human servants that live there, and through some bad rolls and some intimidation of the servants by the mocking char, they activate the last trap.

It summons a heap of winter wolves.

This is a hard fight, the players clean up, but, the guy who laughed before had his char torn apart by winter wolves and bled out while the others were busy (no fudging of dice at all, and a player even donated some of his rerolls for stablilisation checks). Turns out, the easy boss wasn't the end of the dungeon. Rofl.


Vendis wrote:

I plotted out a scenario where a town was being threatened. However, I was torn between having a rebel group that had grown to dislike the city council versus a corrupt politician doing a Palpatine routine. So in creation, I decided I would let the party decide - they would get clues hinted at in each direction (that were intentionally designed to be interpreted as either), and I would go with the storyline that they ended up following.

That was the worst few sessions of my GMing career.

Both. My party explored BOTH options, even going as far as splitting into groups of two; one group joined the rebels, and the other played detective in the city. In the end, the story was convoluted and contrived, because I had to make up stuff on the spot to tie everything together. I ended up bringing in an agent of a green dragon, who had "engineered the city's plight" in order to test the mettle of the party, as a sort of interview for the green dragon. It was pretty much awful, though they did end up working for the dragon.

If you keep calm, you can handle a party splitting up. I know it scared a new dm almost to tears, but I and another dm I know have dealt with it before. It can even be really fun.


DeathQuaker wrote:

Oh, oh yes. I as a GM have had the players completely come at me from left field with stuff all the time. Even when I try to play things fast and loose and adapt, and I KNOW they are capable of doing stuff I will never imagine... I've still been blindsided. But I've developed a habit of overdeveloping my world and the backstory so when things take an unexpected turn, it might take me a few minutes to go through my notes and come up with an idea, but I'll manage to catch up eventually.

I'm sure I've also done this to my GMs as well.

Regarding "you killed my NPC!" ...

I have learned...

the HARD way...

That if there's an NPC I decide is essential, I do one of two things (if not both):

- Find a way to root the plot in more than one individual so that if something crazy happens, I can carry on

- Keep that NPC nowhere NEAR the PCs. If the NPC needs to communicate with those PCs he can use any number of methods from courier to simulacrum and beyond, but I will not put his physical person anywhere close to the PCs until I'm okay with him dying.

The other thing that I think helps is in the encounter design itself. When you are thinking of how you want the encounter to run, its good to imagine how the players can F-ck up the encounter and what to do when that happens. In published shadowrun adventures they often labeled this under a section called "debugging". What happens when the players kill the super important contact because they don't like his tie? ... and so on.

Spitballing a few scenarios of how the encounter can go wrong helps you improvise when it does. AND it helps you think of ways to make the encounter interesting as well, with ways the players can exploit their environment to gain an advantage. Then if the BBEG is heading the game for a TPK, they can hopefully get a reprieve in time.

TPKs, I think, are in the same category as superfast NPC murder. They are both extremes of the spectrum of what we GMs hope an encounter will run like.


I know this is going to be viewed as harsh, but man...

You're the friggin' GM. You know EVERYTHING the players can do. All their spells, all their magic items, all their feats, EVERYTHING.

If you lose a BBEG in a single round before the BBEG can even move...

Dude, that's just plain and simple your fault.


Adamantine Dragon wrote:

I know this is going to be viewed as harsh, but man...

You're the friggin' GM. You know EVERYTHING the players can do. All their spells, all their magic items, all their feats, EVERYTHING.

If you lose a BBEG in a single round before the BBEG can even move...

Dude, that's just plain and simple your fault.

A GM will never know a character as well as the players do even if he has access to the character sheet. What I intend to do with a statblock and what someone else can do with the same statblock won't always match up.

An example of this is how a GM will say the PC's owned BBEG _____ on these boards. Then other posters will say you should have done X, Y, and Z instead of A, B, and C.*

*An example of this is a post where a dragon will fight on the ground, and allow itself to be surround, not using any spells, which makes it a lot easier than it should have been.

PS:I do agree with you in some cases though. If you know the PC's plans revolve around winning initiative, and unloading a crazy amount of damage as an example then coming up with a way to stop that at least in the first round or 2 should be done. The problem comes when they use a brand new idea that might involve the abilities of several characters.


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El Cid Vicious, AnarkoPaladin wrote:

You ever just.......as dungeonmaster let some npc keep going past the point of no return, like, totally cheating, just to see how long it'd take them to notice?

You should try it, just to work on your bs'ing skillz.

Ever squeeze a few more HP than what's written down, just for dramatic tension? Or the opposite; player makes a big, wind-up, huge mega-maneuver and lands a natural 20 on the already weakened and wounded BBEG, players are all cheering, but that only drops the bad guy to 1 HP... Ever just scratch that 1 hp and give them their moment?

I've done both of the above. I've never fudged more than maybe 2 HP at a time, but it's all about reading your players and going with the moment.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Adamantine Dragon wrote:

I know this is going to be viewed as harsh, but man...

You're the friggin' GM. You know EVERYTHING the players can do. All their spells, all their magic items, all their feats, EVERYTHING.

If you lose a BBEG in a single round before the BBEG can even move...

Dude, that's just plain and simple your fault.

While I think sometimes GMs underestimate their abilities and forget the level of power they hold, I do not think expecting GMs to anticipate every possible move or combination of rules a player might come up with is at all reasonable. GMs are human beings--normally quite intelligent ones, even--but still ordinary human beings who are not capable of things like telepathy or clairvoyance.

ABSOLUTELY, a GM should sit down when designing an encounter and think, "What will happen if they do this? What are my NPCs weaknesses? What does the party have that can exploit those weaknesses? Etc. etc. etc." ABSOLUTELY they should plan ahead of time and make sure they have 2-5 outs or threads that the story can branch off of from there.

But to anticipate EVERY POSSIBLE MOVE they might make is not a realistic or fair expectation of the GM. Especially with a game like Pathfinder -- we are talking about a system where the core rules are 476 pages long, not to mention most GMs use the APG and Ultimate books, which adds additional complexity. There are spells and feats with bizarre little permutations, little quirks and rules exceptions even the best of us forget (by way of small example, how often do I get confused by the lighting rules, or forget that ranks in Acrobatics boost your dodge AC when fighting defensively?). Most people cannot have every single item in every book memorized and calculated to figure out the possible odds of something happening or working.

Players furthermore have the advantage of focus -- all they have to do is know THEIR character and what their character can do, alone and in combination with their party members. While the GM is often forced to think broad--considering the PCs' abilities, monster abilities, stuff going on in the world, remembering terrain and environment bonuses and penalties, playing every character that isn't a PC, etc.--a player is limited to his own character but can go very deep with that, analyzing to the nth degree of what he might be capable of and finding the best combinations of abilities that the GM may have not realized, or forgotten, or just not thought of amidst the zillions of other things the GM can keep track of.

Not to mention that there is always an issue of system mastery--you cannot assume your GM is actually the most system knowledgeable person in the room. It's ideal when it happens, but it is not often the case. And sure, the GM should be working on his system mastery, but that's something you gain by PRACTICE, not something you can accomplish overnight because someone on a message board who doesn't even know you or your circumstances yelled at you that you weren't good enough.

More to the point, system mastery is often something you gain by making mistakes. If I have any ability as a GM at all, it is because I have fully and wholeheartedly charged forward and wildly f$@%ed things up many a time--and I learned from those experiences. I learned the things I needed to keep track of by not realizing it the first time around. You can't expect a GM to sit down and immediately be amazing -- absolutely cheer him or her on and remind the GM that s/he's got ultimate power and to not be afraid to use it (provided the GM does not cross the line of just being a jerk of course, but that should go without saying) -- but there's no point in being impatient with a GM, especially a newish one, for making a mistake that might in the end make him or her a better GM in the long run.


Bumped for those that may have missed DQ's post.

Greg


DeathQuaker, it is not necessary to anticipate EVERY POSSIBLE player move. Only those moves that would kill or incapacitate your BBEG in one round. That is a TINY subset of all available possibilities.

Also, if there is even a chance of such a thing happening the GM should be able to do very, very simple things to avoid it. Things like using an illusion, using a disguised minion, using mooks and minions, etc.

I understand that GMs make mistakes. But this is one that I think a GM should make pretty rarely and learn from very quickly. If a GM is repeatedly having their BBEGs one-shot by the PCs.... that's a problem.

I am not saying that I never make mistakes as a GM, but I can honestly say that I don't remember ever making this one. But that's because my BBEGs are almost always as I described in my previous posts above. If I ever have a BBEG that is just a big combat juggernaut that has to dive into combat and start whaling away on the PCs, you can bet that is one BBEG I didn't spend a lot of time on. Because that sort of BBEG can be pulled unchanged right out of the bestiary.

If I'm spending a lot of time on a BBEG, the PCs are going to find it virtually impossible to one-shot. Not because I'll cheat or because the BBEG is overpowered, but because I will have thought about what could potentially happen to it and do my best to avoid it.


I once had a GM who had a story line where all the characters were barbarians from Valhalla (I know, don't ask) and they were venturing into the prime material plane.
Our first encounter was with the main baddie. Unfortunately, for all of us, one of our players decided to scout ahead and ran into him first. One thing lead to another and 'our friend' sold us out and he was allowed to travel on ahead.
When we came across the baddie we had some disagreement due to what the first person had said to him and a challenge was given and accepted.
Being honor bound barbarians we each were killed one by one by the bad guy in honorable combat.
The only survivor was the traitor.
I know this is backwards for what this thread is about, but it had the same effect on the GM as the baddie being killed from the start. He was very ticked off and we never tried that campaign again.
If the GM had been more aware of what the players beliefs were, as those characters, I think he would have started a bit different.


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Basically what this thread is about is campaign halting mistakes. It started with a gm losing the BBEG unexpectedly; it has evolved into anticipating every problem or not, losing all the PCs in the first fight and other scenarios.

Again, it all comes down to what kills the campaign or at least hits the pause button.

For me that hasn't come from poor tactics, luck of the dice or even a lack of planning. Every campaign that's died a premature death can all boil down to one thing: Poor judge of character.

When I was in HS I had a GM who was fond of "dark" worlds; we never got to rest between fights or even after dungeons; hits by baddies had random side effects like lost hands or eyes - not on specific hits like crits but just when the GM felt it was thematic; I've been betrayed MULTIPLE times by supposed "heroes" in this guy's games.

I stuck it out for 2 of them - he went on to command 6 more before we all split up. The first one I saw through to the bitter end. That end came not with a bang, but my impotent whimper. Y'see he also enjoyed twisting the rules and hinging everything on chance.

My PC had lost an eye, gained a magic eye which helped me but also led the Demon Prince right to us and picked up an artifact blade I could never HOPE to control. Despite all of this I did everything possible in a 1e world to engineer my character and party for victory in the end. My party members got an offer they couldn't refuse from the demon at the 0 hour so I lost them to evil and betrayal; in the end it came down to me, him, and the sword.

I had him beat down; I mean REALLY beat down. I had taken a little over a quarter damage and managed to lay the guy low. Now he invoked some wierd abyssal portal power and signaled the end times, to which my sword, independent of me, took its own action. All that was left to me to save the world and all I held dear was to roll a save; not roll to MAKE it mind you, but to MISS it and thus open myself to the magic. He told me I couldn't just volunteer to miss, I had to ROLL.

This meant I had less than a 50% chance to save the world on 1 throw of the dice; predictably I failed.

Lady Dolane' Mishnada, last scion of the gray elves and heir to their throne now wanders, flung through time to a hellish future where her FAILURE is recorded as the catalyst for the world's misfortune. By missing that save she killed her own father, her royal family, and all the elven subjects she'd sworn to save. Not to mention the fact that an entire elven forest turned to desert and because of that evil and chaos rampaged for a thousand years.

Said GM started a new game and I thought; maybe I can redeem myself. No dice; I was doomed from the start. Game one I was visited, IN MY DREAMS, by a succubus and natch I failed to save against her charms. I quit that campaign about halfway through, after my character became a vampire against my will and then was made to nearly destroy my entire party with uses of some homemade spells he and I had designed yet NEVER seemed to work when I used them as a PC...

I've had many of my own die on me. Oh sure, the NPC baddie died prematurely, or a guy didn't make the roll to save his father, or the indestructable giant robot got stuck in a sand dune...but whatev dude, that's life and you deal.

No, my games died over and over again because I KNEW my GM was dark but I trusted him; I KNEW my one player was self-centered but didn't realize how far he'd take it; one PC is a total powergamer in a team of non-optimized roleplayers and now its the look-what-that-guy-can-do show.

My most recent campaign melted down at 5th level. One of the players was a hardcore spotlight eccentric who LOVED roleplaying and the other 3 were all tactical boardgamers. We had a couple of talks, I thought I'd worked it out, then in the last game we had a rule question about the eccentric guy not attacking from stealth...and so much drama ensued that at one point I just sat back and watched like a sitcom in slow-mo. And I'm sitting there thinking "is THIS what my gaming life has become?"

I took 3 mo's off. I cancelled the campaign citing the drama and irreconcilable player differences. I played with my kids.

In the last couple mo's I've picked up again w/the 3 tactical guys. We've re-booted a game which is basically just a series of one shot forays into a homebrew megadungeon.

I've also started up with 2 players out of my local hobby shop. They're hardcore roleplayers, more MY speed, and even though its only been one game I have confidence we're on the same page. Bottom line; I hope I've become a better judge of character, but time (and saving throws) will tell...


Adamantine Dragon wrote:

DeathQuaker, it is not necessary to anticipate EVERY POSSIBLE player move. Only those moves that would kill or incapacitate your BBEG in one round. That is a TINY subset of all available possibilities.

Also, if there is even a chance of such a thing happening the GM should be able to do very, very simple things to avoid it. Things like using an illusion, using a disguised minion, using mooks and minions, etc.

I understand that GMs make mistakes. But this is one that I think a GM should make pretty rarely and learn from very quickly. If a GM is repeatedly having their BBEGs one-shot by the PCs.... that's a problem.

I am not saying that I never make mistakes as a GM, but I can honestly say that I don't remember ever making this one. But that's because my BBEGs are almost always as I described in my previous posts above. If I ever have a BBEG that is just a big combat juggernaut that has to dive into combat and start whaling away on the PCs, you can bet that is one BBEG I didn't spend a lot of time on. Because that sort of BBEG can be pulled unchanged right out of the bestiary.

If I'm spending a lot of time on a BBEG, the PCs are going to find it virtually impossible to one-shot. Not because I'll cheat or because the BBEG is overpowered, but because I will have thought about what could potentially happen to it and do my best to avoid it.

That unknown or shot in the dark combination of rules is what myself and DQ were talking about. There are often more than one way to skin a cat, many more likely to succeed than others. I have seen players do things, that by conventional wisdom should have gotten them killed, but the dice roll the right way, and you have a dead BBEG. It is hard to stop luck, which is often a primary component of why things go the wrong way for the GM.


I've only been disappointed when the players 1-shot my BBEG npc when I was still a fairly new DM. My players are pretty experienced and use solid tactics, so if they outsmart my creation, then my hat's off to them. I just keep a few notes for how they handled it and keep those notes in mind for the next time.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Adamantine Dragon, I think where we disagree is in a matter of tone/extremity.

I think we both agree that GMs need to design NPCs, especially big bads, carefully and need to think ahead.

I would add that skill at doing this comes with practice.

Because there are things you can't predict--how dice fall, certain crazy ideas players get--I think it is unfair to say, in your exact words, "Dude, that's just plain and simple your fault." It implies an expectation that the events that happen in an RPG fall solely on the shoulders of the GM. Sure, the GM carries the bulk of that burden, but there are random elements (players, and sometimes dice) that the GM cannot entirely control (at least not without risking crossing the line into being a jerk--if you start saying "you just can't do that" or fudging your dice a lot, the game and the contract of trust between players and GMs breaks down).

It also has a tone of, as you also say, harshness that puts an expectation of immediate perfection upon a GM from the get go, when a GM, especially a new one, that is very unlikely to attain.

"It's just your fault" is akin to saying, "you idiot, you can't do this, you should have done better, you're not allowed to make mistakes." The problem with this is that it not only is discouraging in general, it discourages people from wanting to be GMs, which is A Bad Thing. We need GMs. GMs are rare. I don't want to say to them, "Well, you f*&!ed up, it's your fault," and leave it at the end--especially when in all likelihood, that is a gross oversimplification of what actually happened.

When this kind of thing that happens to one of my GMs, I'd rather say, "Well, it's hard to think of everything. Why don't we talk with the group about figuring out what went wrong?" Or "would you like some advice about how to make sure this doesn't happen again?" And by all means, point out the GM's specific mistakes, specific to that circumstance--I WANT my players to tell me, "Hey, you forgot that the fog cloud was up," or say, "Why didn't you use the X ability the monster had?" Mollycoddling isn't going to help, but neither will a bitter, "end of story" assignment of "fault."

We all should own up to our mistakes and our missteps. But when we start assigning actual BLAME for a snafu that occurred during our pretendy funtime games, which is what your phrasing suggests, things are going to go unnecessarily sour.


I have found that sometimes a quick victory over a carefully planned NPC can enhance the story. Case in point from my own campaign:

Years ago, one of my players (Fighter/Wizard Gishy type) had to fight a duel against a janni duelist to win a wish from the janni's father (a djinn). She won, and the janni was forgotten for a time.

Cue foward a few years, and the party is on the trail of a big, nasty plot involving amnesia-curses, world-transplanting, and other high-level shenanigans. One of the conspirators in this plot is the Gish's corrupt uncle, who had stolen her birthright (a moonblade).

The janni shows up early in this pursuit, declaring his hatred for the gish and vowing to have his revenge and his honor restored. He won't fight her right away, because he wants her to know WHY he hates her (she is one of the ones with the amnesia-curse). So he follows the party, even helping them once or twice so that the gish can recover her memories and know why he wants to kill her.

Just before the party gets to the evil uncle, the janni appears before them, declaring that he will wait for his honor no longer, and transports himself and the gish to the ethereal plane to fight. Initiative is rolled, the gish wins, and she attacks him...and then reminds me that she had stored a spell in her sword (she's a spellblade by this point). I ask which spell, and she says, "Phantasmal Killer".

Groaning, I roll the save and, naturally, the janni fails. He slumps to his knees in front of her, and chokes out, "I was never worthy..." and they both blip right back to the party, who never even had a chance to check their spellbooks and scrolls to see if they could follow the duel.

It was a great moment for us, and I didn't care one bit how long I had spent preparing the janni.

Scarab Sages

There's only one way to preserve plot-important NPCs: when you build them, make sure that they are very good at running away. :P


I had a GM who, once we (the party) had succeeded at a great battle or an extremely hard win, he would 'reset' the world (effectively negating what we accomplished) or have us 'correct' what we had just done.
Overall it was a good story when you look at it from the outside, but on the same note, the players were robbed.
The armies we defeated, the god we banished, the demons we thwarted, etc...*makes face for bad taste in mouth*


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DeathQuaker wrote:

Adamantine Dragon, I think where we disagree is in a matter of tone/extremity.

I think we both agree that GMs need to design NPCs, especially big bads, carefully and need to think ahead.

I would add that skill at doing this comes with practice.

Because there are things you can't predict--how dice fall, certain crazy ideas players get--I think it is unfair to say, in your exact words, "Dude, that's just plain and simple your fault." It implies an expectation that the events that happen in an RPG fall solely on the shoulders of the GM. Sure, the GM carries the bulk of that burden, but there are random elements (players, and sometimes dice) that the GM cannot entirely control (at least not without risking crossing the line into being a jerk--if you start saying "you just can't do that" or fudging your dice a lot, the game and the contract of trust between players and GMs breaks down).

It also has a tone of, as you also say, harshness that puts an expectation of immediate perfection upon a GM from the get go, when a GM, especially a new one, that is very unlikely to attain.

"It's just your fault" is akin to saying, "you idiot, you can't do this, you should have done better, you're not allowed to make mistakes." The problem with this is that it not only is discouraging in general, it discourages people from wanting to be GMs, which is A Bad Thing. We need GMs. GMs are rare. I don't want to say to them, "Well, you f~&#ed up, it's your fault," and leave it at the end--especially when in all likelihood, that is a gross oversimplification of what actually happened.

When this kind of thing that happens to one of my GMs, I'd rather say, "Well, it's hard to think of everything. Why don't we talk with the group about figuring out what went wrong?" Or "would you like some advice about how to make sure this doesn't happen again?" And by all means, point out the GM's specific mistakes, specific to that circumstance--I WANT my players to tell me, "Hey, you forgot that the fog cloud was up," or say,...

So, DQ, that's a masterful thesis on political correctness.

See, the thing is, I'm not very politically correct. For example, I don't think telling someone they screwed up is a badwrong thing if they did, indeed, screw up. I manage people. I have to rate them for performance reviews. I can tell you that the single most common mistake managers make is being afraid or unwilling to say "you didn't do that right."

If a person has such a fragile ego that telling them "dude, that was totally wrong" makes them run and hide and refuse to ever again run a game, that person should never have been a GM in the first place.

Sure DQ, everybody makes mistakes. But dancing around them and passively aggressively trying to politely but pleasantly suggest that they might possibly, if they agree and aren't offended have done it differently is just more of the coddling claptrap that has overtaken the world and pretty much destroyed the whole culture of excellence that used to be the hallmark of our civilization.

Oh well, .... /rant

Shadow Lodge

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Quote:

But dancing around them and passively aggressively trying to politely but pleasantly suggest that they might possibly, if they agree and aren't offended have done it differently is just more of the coddling claptrap that has overtaken the world and pretty much destroyed the whole culture of excellence that used to be the hallmark of our civilization.

Oh well, .... /rant

Hit one of my pet peeves right on the head. Well said.

"Speaker: Say what you mean, mean what you say. Listener: Take what you're given and deal. If you agree there's a problem, fix it. If you disagree, ignore it. If it offends you, grow a spine."

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