Should Rise of the Runelords be this much of a meat-grinder? [Spoilers]


Rise of the Runelords

51 to 100 of 151 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>

Well, having played a little with both the original version and the anniversary edition, I've found the anniversary edition to be superior.

Mainly due to the fact the original version jumps about a lot and can get incredibly confusing for me as a GM, but the anniversary edition seems to have everything compiled into the space you'd expect it to be, creating a much better flow to the story and feeling less like I need to keep making things up on the spot.

As such, I've just ordered the hardback print of the anniversary edition, along with the crit and fumble cards to really help immerse my players, after borrowing the hardback edition originally from a friend.


RotR Imho is as difficult as any other published campaign and as it should be..In my world, the concept is ''If no adventurers ever died, everyone would try to be one!''..Still we are just before Xanesha and we had 3 deaths untill now, 2 (or 3?) of which could be blamed in total party stupidity and overconfidence^^

1st death: The party cleric died in the fight with aldern..aldern was obsessed with her and she insisted to attack him as he was making his monologue..so in the end (by bad luck) all 4 of them ended up paralysed (and eating fungus) and he coup de grace her with his last hit points!

2nd and 3rd death: A group of three (the fourth was out of Magnimarvand they didnt wait for him) entered in the middle of the night in the Brother's lumber mill..they never asked for stealth check and they made a ruckus..they ended updead by the yondabakari river..

So no..untill now at least, RotR is not soo extreme (I am waiting for mrs tpk next session). It is just that PCs need to make a plan for all difficult encounters, without plan things get ugly..thats normal:D

Shadow Lodge

I'm still not clear on why you'd use the coup-de-grace manuver on your PCs. It doesn't seem to match any fiction I can think of, and in fact Zombieland made a gag out of the 'double-tap'. It also isn't that realistic, I don't think. Many historcal combat wounds led to death via infection - possibly even most of them. Also, in the mindset of many of the villians in the series, wouldn't they prefer to leverage the defeated PCs in some way instead? Not even as a sacrifice of some sort?

In short, is using this maneuver perhaps a bit meta? Meaning the NPCs know they're in a game and are trying to use the rules of that game to maximum advantage?

Shadow Lodge

mcbobbo wrote:
I'm still not clear on why you'd use the coup-de-grace manuver on your PCs...

I totally agree with this.

A GM shouldn't really ever employ coup-de-gras on a PC.

A pack of zombies, ghouls or mostly mindless minions attacking PCs. The monsters should move on to living foes and drop them all to negatives and string them up like infected scarecrows, or drag them back to their lair to snack on later. Players will remember when their character stabilizes and wakes up in a ghoul den and tries to escape.

Your typical BBEG. Perhaps even a vengeful one that escaped an earlier combat. He shouldn't coup-de-gras PCs no matter how raving he is. He should incapacitate, drag them back to his big bad lair and plan slow, torturous deaths (with a chance to escape). It's far more evil, and provides far more chances for him to monologue.

Most GMs who bust out coup-de-gras are simply trying to punish players and not increase the fun of the table.

I can think of one coup-de-gras in decades of gaming that was valid.

A tandem pair of bad guys (a cleric and a rogue) are waiting in their hideout for the PCs. One of the PCs is doing advance scouting and turns the corner to the room where these guys are waiting. They roll for initiative and the cleric wins and uses Hold Person. The rogue isn't going to futz around, he's going to take a coup-de-gras action to get a critical hit in.

However, in this case I house rule that the coup-de-gras is just used as a way to "ensure" the victim is being dropped into certain incapacitation, and when used in these circumstances it doesn't cause death but instead causes the character to fall to exactly -1 HP.

TLDR: GMs shouldn't use coup-de-gras to kill players.

In fact, I'd love a boxed text section in a revised Core book that comments on coup-de-gras and suggests that GMs should try to not use the action on players, and use a house rule like this since it better furthers the "spirit" of the game, as I see it.


You are right mcbobbo, in most cases this is the truth..but..

spoiler:
in this case Aldern was obsessed with her and she attacked him while he was expressing (in a weird way i know..) his feelings! The path says:

When the Skinsaw Man takes over, he puts on his mask and assumes the form of his obsession, attacking that character to the exclusion of all other targets.

It was a long fight with aldern and some more ghouls and in the end, when the skinsaw man took over, aldern realised he probably cant escape..so I thought as a DM that this is what my scary aldern would do in this case..if he had a chance(which arrived due to bad luck from my PCs) he would try to take with him his ''love''..

I still dont know if this was the best choice, but ok..after a long chase after the murderer and huge haunted mansion I think this drama was what the party actually wanted to have..noone complained (which is rare..)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I can think of one situation when a coup de grace is likely: if there is a cleric who's been spamming Positive Energy to heal people who go down. If you know your foe you just dropped will be getting back up in a minute? You take the time to make sure he stays down.

But then, I also don't kill characters unless they did something truly stupid. So I'd probably not do this sort of thing.


Don't brain-eating zombies try to coup de grace in order to devour brains?

Sovereign Court

re: coup-de-gras, I have to disagree somewhat. It really depends on the circumstance.

If a BBEG is a megalomaniac in the vein of most Bond villains, sure, have them haul the downed PCs off to some lair where they will be put into situation "from which there is no escape", deliver a monologue and then "leave them to their inevitable fates".

If a BBEG is needing additional information, sure, have them drag off the PCs for later interrogation.

If a BBEG is a twisted SOB and wants some new playthings or research subjects, yep there you go, he's got what he was looking for, much to the PCs' chagrin.

If, however, the BBEG is a recurring villain and the PCs have yet again interrupted his or her plans, then yeah, if the PCs put themselves in the situation where a PC drops and is not pulled out, they are probably just dead.

Or if the villain is a homicidal maniac, then yeah, most likely dead.

Or, as in the situation M0bius outlined ... "carting off" a downed PC when in a no win situation makes no sense, while "bringing them along" does in a "holy crap he's a bats#$t crazy villain" kinda way.

Don't get me wrong on this though. If it is one of these two, the PCs should either know enough about the villain to realize the danger and if the GM has not relayed it clearly, then there is an issue.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Odraude wrote:
Don't brain-eating zombies try to coup de grace in order to devour brains?

Unlikely. I would expect them to just drag the PC off and start gnawing away. That's probably more damage but I wouldn't call it a coup de grace. The effect will likely be about the same - PC death - but maybe a slightly slower one that affords more opportunities for rescue.

Shadow Lodge

I'll clarify two situations further.

#1) Recurring villain is facing off against a party of 4 PCs. In the resulting combat, he manages to hit and knock one to negatives. Three are still up and active.

In my opinion, a GM who has the BBEG use a coup-de-gras action here is not really acting to make this encounter "the most fun it can be". This more reeks of a GM who wants this BBEG to leave a legacy of killing a character. Most BBEGs in this situation wouldn't know if that character is already dead or not and would want to move on to the next most likely threat until all the PCs have dropped or surrendered.

#2) A pack of ghouls and ghasts. Those of you here likely know where this might happen. The party paladin, a non-elf, gets "based" by a few of these guys. The first hits and despite having amazing saving throws, the paladin is paralyzed. I don't feel the second ghoul/ghast should be doing a coup-de-gras here with a risk of instant PC death. Sure, it's mechanically sound tactics if you're running a SEAL Team of ghouls. It's not a great GM tactic if you want your players looking forward to playing with you again in the future. The second ghoul should move on, or simply grab the paladin and carry him away to snack on him.

Players will fondly remember the day their paladin was carried back into the barn to be eaten and love you as a GM.

It's the same with the goblins in Burnt Offerings. If, as a GM, you used the action economy of the goblins to their fullest deadly potential, you missed the chance for a lot of memorable antics as goblins firebomb each other, decide to eat and/or fight with a turkey leg, hurl pies, etc.


In most cases, attempting to perform a coup-de-grace would be a very poor tactical decision in an ongoing combat. At best, you just wasted a turn further hammering an already-down character rather than turning your focus to the next threat.

Even if you do want to kill a person who is already down, a regular attack or full-attack would likely do it just as easily as a coup-de-grace would.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

I know this will net me some hate, but as a guy who has run stuff since '82, I roll dice behind the screen. I fudge them all the time. I lie about it like a dog.

This is not to save PCs (well, not just to do that).

I've tried rolling out in the open, and it was a bad game for everybody. Sometimes I would roll well and some third-tier schlub takes out a PC. Sometimes I would roll horribly and the BBEG misses with every major attack.

Having Joe Schmoe one-shot someone's favorite character in what was supposed to be a minor side encounter is disheartening for players, and can derail the whole game, especially if the party is forced to use needed resources to counter that. Suddenly all their clever play and wise resource management goes out the window because one kobold shanked somebody in the kidneys.

Having the main focus of a major fight (or even a major campaign arc) wimp out because you roll a succession of 1s and 2s is even worse. You have some bad guy you have spent weeks building up to be a major threat, and he whiffs his best attack and then rolls minimum damage on his best area attack? Even worse.

There's two levels of "trust".

There's "The GM rolls in the open." I'm not sure that's 'trust', really. It's more like "verification". I mean, if the cashier counts out your change and puts it in your hand, do you "trust" they gave you the right change, or do you just see that they did?

Then there's "My GM isn't gunning for me or pulling punches." If every fight, even if you win, you feel like you COULD have lost; If every major bad guys seems like he COULD have beat you, even if he didn't; if every big challenge feels like you COULD fail, even if you don't, I think that's a trust in your GM.

You didn't SEE his dice rolls. You TRUSTED him to run a good, challenging game. You had FAITH that he was giving you a challenge that you could meet with smart play.

Personally, I don't see any difference between changing a dice roll to make something more challenging (or easier) or altering the scenario itself to make something more challenging (or easier). Why is changing a number 'cheating' as a GM, but leveling up an opponent who got away the first time fair? Did you actually track Nualia's XP from when she escaped them at Thistletop and award her levels when she earned them in Magnimar?

To be clear, I'm not saying that rolling in the open is BadWrongFun or anything. I'm just saying that maybe, if your players are getting frustrated with eating a heaping helping of hot, tasty death each session, then a different play style might be an option. Some people like it, some don't.


Just browsing the first few posts, your main issue seems to be that you're completely goig with your dice. Learn to fudge. That crit you confirmed? Oh, it was one off. Max damage? Meh, it turned out to be half instead. TPK? Nah, it was a players dream of what is to come if they follow that exact path.

If you nor your players are having fun via deaths, as the GM you can edit/change existence as per your desire.

I do the Max HP + Con Mod + Con at level one, and average/ average+1 as they level, and the fights, though brutal, are survivable. My PCs have the fear of death in them, but still enjoy themselves. I've done two(techinically 4) deaths and almost a TPK and my group is still having a blast.

Change some things and go from there. You know better than anyone else what your friends/group like, so try and ease it a bit, but keep the threat of death looming so they know you didn't take them from hard mode to girly mode.


Butch A. wrote:


Then there's "My GM isn't gunning for me or pulling punches." If every fight, even if you win, you feel like you COULD have lost; If every major bad guys seems like he COULD have beat you, even if he didn't; if every big challenge feels like you COULD fail, even if you don't, I think that's a trust in your GM.

This is great! I'm curious what techniques / tips you (and others) have for creating this sense of danger.

Sczarni

I will just say a single thing about fudging dices;

While you can do this, things can sometimes get out of hand. There is almost no point in rolling the dices then. So instead of fudging, use less favorable tactics by strong NPC or more favorable to the weak one.

Giants can do so many CMB checks. Why not trip or disarm with one attack in full round chain, or even sunder to break the armor a bit. All of this tend to lessen the damage on PCs and fudging can be avoided in maximum way.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Listen to Dathus. He knows what he's talking about. ;)

As for Malag's comments on fudging? There's such a thing as Diceless Roleplaying Games. They can actually be a lot of fun. However, the randomness of odd die rolls is also quite fun - such as having a Moss Troll roll a natural 1 to save vs. Drow Sleep Poison... and then the very next round having a natural 20 and waking back up.

The problem is: sometimes you need to moderate things. For instance... when fighting Mal in Thistletop, the Barbarian warrior could. not. connect. Because of that damn Blink spell. (Ironically enough, the Bard/Cleric had memorized Spiritual Weapon and used the scroll of See Invisible, and thus her spiritual weapon was slowly whittling Mal down.)

At the end I had Shalelu go into the room and distract Mal and a lucky Shocking Grasp from the other NPC go through the Blink. But that didn't stop the fact that two of the players were quite frustrated because outside of the first blow, every hit they did "missed" because the dice were hot... and Mal could only miss on a 1.

I should have fudged a roll. If the Barbarian had gotten one last shot in? Then it would have been a dramatic finish to the fight (mind you, the Shocking Grasp was dramatic enough, but it was still an NPC that got the last blow in) and the Barbarian, bloodied, would have defeated his foe. It's what happens in the stories and the like. And you, as GM, are the storyteller. You are crafting a tale that these players are going through. Why should the dice dictate what your story says and does? You're the writer of this tale. YOU determine how it ends.

In short? Fudge for artistic and storytelling purposes. That critical hit? Knocks the PC into negative hit points instead of instakills him. That last blow from the player? Started some bleeding... and the villain suddenly slumps over from blood loss... the adrenalin having worn off and leaving the villain to realize... it's time to die.

Shadow Lodge

I learned something once from a member of a different forum that explains some of the fudge/don't fudge psychology, and I'd like to share it now.

However, first, a caveat - this is a red pill/blue pill thing for all flavors and decendants of 3rd edition. So you may not even want to read it. I suppose I'll tag it, particularly because it's a full-on tangent at this point. :)

Spoiler:

WoTC engineered 3e with a 'rules mastery' mechanic, borrowed from Magic the Gathering. The concept is essentially that by rewarding players for owning and reading the splat books, you'll sell more splat books. Google 'Monte Cook ivory tower game design' for more details on the history, and note the 'Timmy card' reference.

For obvious reasons, a culture of expecting the rules to have primary importance grew organically around 3e. Whether the gamers themselves were changed or a certain type of gamer was attracted to the style is whole other discussion. Undeniably, here they are.

When you identify a gaming career beginning in the 80's, you are describing a time before this concept was present in RPGs. As such, you may not have recognized it when you saw it. I know I didn't. Hopefully, if nothing else, you can understand how a given player with a 'masterwork character', leveraging the rules to their fullest, would be dissapointed to find that a single person's choices can diminish all their hard work.

Though, in the long run, as was described above so very well - there's nothing they can do about that, fudging or not.


Aurumaer wrote:
Dice rolls definitely have something to do with it. I roll my dice in the open so they know I'm not making it up when I consistently roll 19s and 20s

If you are rolling consistently high, you may want to buy a more balanced set of dice. It is possible for the standard kind of mass produced dice to favor certain numbers.

One of my GMs had a d20 that seemed to roll either a 1 or a 20 way more often than it should. His enemies would always either completely miss or crit us.

I convinced him to use some Gamescience dice and he started getting a much more reasonable number spread.


I actually stopped using GameScience dice because when I ran, I kept rolling 20s. I think in one combat against the PCs, I rolled it about 8 times. It was not right.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Did you remember to file off the flash? ;)


Yeah. First thing I did with my Warhammer files.


mcbobbo wrote:

I'm still not clear on why you'd use the coup-de-grace manuver on your PCs. It doesn't seem to match any fiction I can think of, and in fact Zombieland made a gag out of the 'double-tap'. It also isn't that realistic, I don't think. Many historcal combat wounds led to death via infection - possibly even most of them. Also, in the mindset of many of the villians in the series, wouldn't they prefer to leverage the defeated PCs in some way instead? Not even as a sacrifice of some sort?

In short, is using this maneuver perhaps a bit meta? Meaning the NPCs know they're in a game and are trying to use the rules of that game to maximum advantage?

In a land where you can instantly revive a buddy, and it's no secret, it makes sense to keep someone down. It is not like in real life, where a leg wound can incapacitate a combatant.

Quote:
A GM shouldn't really ever employ coup-de-gras on a PC.

Never is a strong word. The PC's don't have signs floating over their heads saying "I am special", and they already get more wealth, and better stats to make up for all the bad guys they have to fight. Ghouls and zombies despite looking the same are not the same. A zombie might move on to the next living opponent, but a ghoul is intelligent, even more so than some people, and if the cleric is still alive he would know not to leave the fighter behind him. That fighter may be healed, and then end up killing him. It is better to "solve that problem" now.

PS:There are at least two monsters that try to eat your brain once you go unconscious.


Bill Dunn wrote:
Odraude wrote:
Don't brain-eating zombies try to coup de grace in order to devour brains?
Unlikely. I would expect them to just drag the PC off and start gnawing away. That's probably more damage but I wouldn't call it a coup de grace. The effect will likely be about the same - PC death - but maybe a slightly slower one that affords more opportunities for rescue.

Why would a zombie drag you away and not start eating right then. It is not smart enough to diagnose the battle-field conditions which would say "now is not a good time to eat".

Shadow Lodge

Put it this way. Imagine you're about to rescue Ameiko from Tsuto. First round, Tsuto kills her just to 'be sure' that doesn't happen.

Suck, or not suck?


mcbobbo wrote:

Put it this way. Imagine you're about to rescue Ameiko from Tsuto. First round, Tsuto kills her just to 'be sure' that doesn't happen.

Suck, or not suck?

It always sucks to fail, but I have had many players that don't liked to be helped so there is no right or wrong way to run the game.

Now to answer your question in more detail it sucks more to only save her because the GM felt like being nice, because to me I have failed in that case*, but that is just how I like my games.

Also Tsuto killing her in combat and killing her as a prisoner are not the same thing. If she is a combatant then I look at it as him making sure he has one less enemy to deal with. If he kills her as a prisoner then he(not the GM, if the AP is written that way) is just being a jerk.

PS:I know she is not a combatant. I was just making it clear that I don't consider killing a combatant to be equal to killing a prisoner because the situation does matter.

*I have been lucky to play with like-minded players over the years, but if the table was split on such things I can see the GM going either way.

Sczarni

I can feel in much same way. Some monsters like "hungry ghouls" which tend to show up often, would probably just eat but when I see a sad look in players eyes it tends to go opposite way.

I can imagine many NPCs and monsters choosing to coup de grace, but they never do in my games, at least none did so far. Group was always fast to respond and quick at killing. So I am kind of thankful that it never has to happen.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

“Something Vimes had learned as a young guard drifted up from memory. If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you're going to die. So they'll talk. They'll gloat.

They'll watch you squirm. They'll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar.

So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.”

Men at Arms, Terry Pratchett


Malag wrote:

I can feel in much same way. Some monsters like "hungry ghouls" which tend to show up often, would probably just eat but when I see a sad look in players eyes it tends to go opposite way.

I can imagine many NPCs and monsters choosing to coup de grace, but they never do in my games, at least none did so far. Group was always fast to respond and quick at killing. So I am kind of thankful that it never has to happen.

My players have gotten the "oh f-word" look before, but luckily they are were able to stop it on their own. Had they not I would have coup d graced their characters though.


Tangent101 wrote:

“Something Vimes had learned as a young guard drifted up from memory. If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you're going to die. So they'll talk. They'll gloat.

They'll watch you squirm. They'll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar.

So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.”

Men at Arms, Terry Pratchett

I think this works when the enemies definitely have the upper hand, but when gloating when the battle is pretty even still, not a good idea.

I have had BBEG's "toy around" when the battle turned against them too quickly, but it depends on the players also.

Shadow Lodge

wraithstrike wrote:
Never is a strong word. The PC's don't have signs floating over their heads saying "I am special"...

Ah, see this is where I disagree. The PCs are special. They are played by real people, hopefully your real-life friends.

Once upon a time, as a GM, I wouldn't hold anything back and have absolutely performed a coup-de-gras on someone paralyzed by a ghoul or held by an enemy cleric despite there being other characters up and active.

Unless I knew with absolutely certainty that my player wanted to retire that character, I wouldn't do it again at this stage in gamemastering.

You're welcome to disagree, but ultimately I see my job when friends come over and crack open their beers is to ensure they have a great time.

Using a coup-de-gras action isn't a necessary action I need to take as a GM. I can have 3 more ghouls leap in through a window on a whim if things look easy. I can spontaneously add 50HP to the BBEG if he's getting low.

I will say, if you do use a coup-de-gras action on a character, you've actually used it on the player as much as the character. And if there's a chance (however high or low you want to think it is... 5%, 50%, 90%) that the player's night may be made worse by using the tactic, why use it?

Play with a group for 10 years. Have a player fall in love with his latest character and coup-de-gras him when you have plenty of other viable targets. After he sits around waiting for the epic battle to finish, ask everyone if they thought it'd be better if the ghoul straight killed the character, or if it would've been cooler if it started dragging him away to a barn stall to chew on him instead.

If your table is unanimous that using the coup-de-gras action makes the game more enjoyable for them than the alternatives, then it's the right thing to use it.

I leave you with this parting thought, which I encourage all GMs to try.

As a GM tactic, if you ever find yourself considering a coup-de-gras action, as a personal challenge to yourself, think of something else you can do that would be universally heralded by all your players as even more bad-ass.


2 people marked this as a favorite.

It seems to me that it all falls down to good roleplaying. Play the bad guys the way you think THEY would act. Examples:

1. Animals don't do coups:
a) A bear swats an annoying hunter and crits him to negative hitpoints in one shot. The bear then bats the hunter around for two rounds (perhaps doing 1 hp damage), then snuffles over him for a round and wanders off.
b) A boar gores a character to negative. The boar is enraged; he will keep goring the downed character for full damage for several rounds unless drawn off. Boars are nasty.
c) A goblin dog drops a character. It is going to feed on him. National Geographic show how animals eat. It will spend a round sniffing over the prey to make sure it's "dead". Then it will nip at it for two rounds to make sure it doesn't get up and find the best places to eat (probably 1-2 points of damage). Finally, it will start tearing off bite sized bits doing 3-4 points each round. Of course it will only do this if undisturbed. The characters can always rescue a downed friend by drawing off the critter.

2. Undead are rarely going to have the brains or motivation to coup:
a) Mindless undead (Zombies/Skeletons) just follow their last order; Usually, "Attack anything that comes through that door." Once you stop moving, you aint coming through the door. They likely ignore downed characters unless ordered otherwise.
b) Ghouls (and other ravenous undead) are going to do whatever gives them the best chance of feeding. Stupid ones may just start feeding right there. They will do max damage each round (they don't eat like animals). Ghouls are more likely to drag the downed character off to feed someplace where they won't be disturbed by that stupid cleric waving holy symbols in their face. They are unlikely to waste a round killing someone who's already unconsious.
c) Intelligent undead will follow their motivations, but that rarely means insta-killing. If the cleric keeps healing people back into the fight, a vampire is quite vicious enough to stop that with a coup. But he is most likely to do that to the cleric first...unless he just wants to torture the cleric by killing his friends one-by-one. usually he will want you alive to feed off, though.

3. Crazies and sadists are likely to be very random:
a) Goblins are usually going to concentrate on living opponents because that's where the fun is, but they may also stop for a turkey leg, set fire to their friend as a prank, or even hack at a downed foe (or obvious corpse) for a round. They wouldn't do it as a coup, just a random hack (auto hit, roll damage normally).
b) Psychopaths and assassins want you dead. That's it. They may prefer to kill you slowly, torture, or gloat if they can; but aren't going to leave their target alive. You need to identify their target and work as a group to thwart them. Their fixation is both their strength and their weakness.

4. Intelligent BBGs are the worst for coups. They will do whatever it takes to win - not just the battle, but the war. If they know they aren't going to win this fight, they may very well coup a downed character and then retreat. The next time they fight you, they'll be healed, but you'll still be down a character. They may even stage ambushes who's sole purpose is to "cut-out" and kill a character. But don't be fooled into thinking that's the only option. An unexpected act of mercy can confuse the characters. It can leave them in his debt or even convince them to parley. They may even end up foiling his plans, but not killing him. There is nothing cooler than an "honorable villain". Magneto, anyone?

Silver Crusade

1 person marked this as a favorite.

This topic seems to have wandered some (albeit in interesting and possibly useful ways to GMs), so I just wanted to offer a player's context on Runelords, specifically book 1's fights.

Presuming you're playing the current and updated version, these should be winnable with a smart team that works well together and has the flexibility to meet a variety of challenges. There are one or two fights that will wreck up a party consisting solely of "two-handed weapon, power attack all day er'ry day, what is a ranged weapon!?" characters, but in general you can meet most challenges with good formations, timing, and so on.

That said, Runelords book 1's encounters can become a lot more vicious if the players and/or their characters refuse to have any tactical nuance. If your party just plows headlong into any threat before them, no matter how obvious an ambush/trap it is... there are fights where it's going to be very hard! Even the damned goblins aren't complete morons (just mostly so), and there are locations where they have set up very smart defenses.

If the PCs heedlessly smash into said defenses over and over again, then they're going to get killed unless they're lucky or have some incredibly strong tactical players to make up for the strategical blunders.

I'll repeat for emphasis: Even the goblins in Runelords can set up vicious situations if the PCs just rush right into their schemes.

Should Runelords be a meat-grinder? Probably not. Will it become one if bad luck and/or really bad strategical or tactical choices keep being made? Absolutely. A lot of Runelords encounters I've seen so far are ones that have some way to avoid their nastiest aspects... you just have to go around them for once.

Shadow Lodge

In deference to the idea of returning to the topic, I'll be brief:

If you don't play the villian as non-optimal in combat, then why are you playing them so out of combat?

A truly evil villian played to the best of the GMs ability would 'win' every single time at most tables. Particuarly because players are expecting a certain genre. The classic villian captures the princess. The 'realistic' villian just kills her in her tower. Probably after distracting the heros by setting an orphanage on fire. Or just kills them all in their sleep. Maybe cast some arcane locks on all the entrances to their inn and fireball the place. This would work best at the end of the day...


wakedown wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Never is a strong word. The PC's don't have signs floating over their heads saying "I am special"...

Ah, see this is where I disagree. The PCs are special. They are played by real people, hopefully your real-life friends.

Once upon a time, as a GM, I wouldn't hold anything back and have absolutely performed a coup-de-gras on someone paralyzed by a ghoul or held by an enemy cleric despite there being other characters up and active.

Unless I knew with absolutely certainty that my player wanted to retire that character, I wouldn't do it again at this stage in gamemastering.

You're welcome to disagree, but ultimately I see my job when friends come over and crack open their beers is to ensure they have a great time.

Using a coup-de-gras action isn't a necessary action I need to take as a GM. I can have 3 more ghouls leap in through a window on a whim if things look easy. I can spontaneously add 50HP to the BBEG if he's getting low.

I am not saying it should always be done any more than I am saying it should never be done. I was just saying from a neutral standpoint an NPC fighter and a PC fighter are the same to the bad guys. They want to live also.

Quote:


I will say, if you do use a coup-de-gras action on a character, you've actually used it on the player as much as the character. And if there's a chance (however high or low you want to think it is... 5%, 50%, 90%) that the player's night may be made worse by using the tactic, why use it?

What is worse depends on the group/player, and how they like to play. I have seen players become unhappy because they received help. Now with that said I tell people before they play in my games that I don't pull a lot of punches. It does not mean I never help, but they should play as if I never do. That is the best way to stay alive. I am not a killer GM, but I am less likely to hear complaints if the player knows up front what they are getting into.

I see after all my typing that we basically agree to do what is best for the group. Maybe I will read the entire post next time. :)


mcbobbo wrote:

In deference to the idea of returning to the topic, I'll be brief:

If you don't play the villian as non-optimal in combat, then why are you playing them so out of combat?

A truly evil villian played to the best of the GMs ability would 'win' every single time at most tables. Particuarly because players are expecting a certain genre. The classic villian captures the princess. The 'realistic' villian just kills her in her tower. Probably after distracting the heros by setting an orphanage on fire. Or just kills them all in their sleep. Maybe cast some arcane locks on all the entrances to their inn and fireball the place. This would work best at the end of the day...

As a GM I am not out to kill the PC's. I do intend to make things very difficult however in combat, even up to the point of death*. That is why most adventures have you face small groups of minions at a time when the BBEG would be better off luring you into an area, and forcing you to deal with him and all of him minions in most situations.

*Now I hope that does not happen, and I have gotten good at taking half of a party down, and the last 1 or 2 guys is able to finish the BBEG. They revive the downed characters with cure spells, and they are happy about an epic battle in which they very well could have died.

I have only fudged tactics or rolls in 2 of these. Both were in AoW.


I am going to go against the grain here. I never fudge die rolls, nor do I use a DM screen.
I have had many PC deaths, but I have not had a TPK in over a decade. And many of my near-TPKs have made the moments that the players talked about for years afterwards.

As DM, you have many tools to avoid a TPK.

First and foremost, you control the circumstances of the encounter. Think the PCs will die in the next battle? Give them surprise... they'll have a chance to flee.

Monsters are not all waiting in squads at full alert. They have lives. They don't all become ready instantly at the first sign of danger. Use this fact to buy PCs time to react.

Once the fight has begun, don't play your monsters smarter than they are.
A gang of ogres doesn't possess the tactical or strategic ability of a mind flayer.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
wakedown wrote:
In my opinion, a GM who has the BBEG use a coup-de-gras action here is not really acting to make this encounter "the most fun it can be".

Hmm. That's quite the opinion. I'm glad my group doesn't share it.

Quote:
This more reeks of a GM who wants this BBEG to leave a legacy of killing a character.

And, according to everyone in my group, that's a good thing. To all of us, that's what makes him/her/it the BBEG. He's willing to actually go out of his way to gank someone - and to all of us, that's badass.

The suggestion of a BBEG spending his time capturing them so he can monologue and then the PCs can come up with some ham-fisted way of "escaping" is, in the words of my group, "effing lame".

I'm glad, though, that what you do works for you and your specific group. I'd be a tad careful about expanding that to anyone else, though.

wakedown wrote:
As a GM tactic, if you ever find yourself considering a coup-de-gras action, as a personal challenge to yourself, think of something else you can do that would be universally heralded by all your players as even more bad-ass.

Done and done. I think you know what the answer is, at least some of the time.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

Just to echo what's already been said, PCs must use sound tactics, not just once but every fight. This isn't even an RotRL-specific piece of advice, because almost every AP is this way: if you come in stupid, you die. Period. You need to buff like a maniac, debuff where possible, sneak, come from unexpected directions in unexpected ways, innovate your tactics (and keep innovating because many, many times the BBEG of a particular book or section is scrying or otherwise observing the party's tactics as they wade through the preliminary encounters and will be prepared for what it's seen them do), use ranged attacks, and use every trick they can think of in general.

The thing is, the opponents you're fighting are, for the most part, not stupid, and if they are stupid then they're at least cunning. They're prepared for the obvious approaches and they will slaughter you if you hit them the way they expect to be hit. You need to outthink them before you can outfight them.

As far as RotRL goes, my group is just dipping their beak into the second book and they've had tough fights all the way along, in spite of good party balance and generally good tactics.

Spoiler:
Elyrium, Gogmurt, Bruthazmus, Orik & Lyrie, Ripnugget, and the yeth hounds all put at least one character down, though there were no party deaths until they went up against Nualia herself. The first time they faced her, she killed their new buddy Orik and they ran away; the second time they faced her she ambushed them on their way back to the dungeon and one-shotted a PC and then fled before they could surround her; the third time, they finally managed to drive her off but not kill her...I wonder if they'll see her again?
Every major fight has been harrowing, but they only lost a single PC in book one -- which to me means the books is extremely well designed. That's exactly the kind of balance you want, IMO. Players are supposed to have to strain every mental and physical muscle to win these kinds of things.

Smart is the new tough.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Arnwyn wrote:
A bunch of stuff in response to wakedown.

I have to agree with Arnwyn here. In general, the PCs are going against very, very nasty people who aren't going to stand around waiting to be killed by the PCs. They have their own plans and desires and they will kill the hell out of anyone who gets in their way, and this includes PCs. Making sure a downed PC doesn't get up again is one way of doing it, as is not acting like a James Bond villain and introducing the most hackneyed of hackneyed cliches and monologuing-so-the-good-guys-can-escape. They're supposed to represent credible threats, not oafs who posture menacingly but meaninglessly.

At the risk of derailing the thread, the attitude of "I won't coup-de-grace a PC unless I know the player wants me to" is very much an innovation of the story game and its spreading influence, and not one a crotchety old buzzard like me cottons to. I tell my players to have a good idea of your replacement PC's replacement PC, because you might get there quicker than you'd like.

Shadow Lodge

One more try?

Why do your NPCs only try to 'kill the hell' out of the PCs while in combat?

Specifically via RotRL...

Spoiler:

Why not have Aldern kill the PCs in their sleep, rather than stealing from his obsession?

And why not infect his obsession with ghoul fever in these same opportunities?

Why not get the stone giants to use shape stone to destroy the dam over Turtleback? Or at least open a hole in the very bottom letting all the water escape?

...but this applies equally in other settings as well. Again, why not arcane lock the inn and burn it down?

Because that's not the terms of the engagement, and I imagine you well know this to be true. The PCs are assumed to have their chance to be heros.

As for 'smart is new' or 'PC death is old school', yes and no to both. But neither would be an excuse to go out of your way to kill a player's character. See arcane locked inns for 'smart'. As for 'old school', I seem to remember having to start over at level 1. I'm guessing you don't still use THAT rule, too, eh? :)

And even if you did, it would be grossly innapropriate for RotRL.

Here's a thought - what if you kill the entire original party from Burnt Offerings? I can't see how you'd achieve the same story arc through people who didn't have the same attachments as are slowly built through the beginning. In fact, I see little to no mention of PC death anywhere in the AP. So far at least. But I see loads and loads of 'let them feel welcomed back' that wouldn't apply if they had never been there before.


I don't mind coup de grace, though I use them rare. They are a spice like rosemary, that only needs a sprig.

That said, D&D has taught me that there are worse things than death :)


mcbobbo wrote:

One more try?

Why do your NPCs only try to 'kill the hell' out of the PCs while in combat?

Specifically via RotRL...

** spoiler omitted **

...but this applies equally in other settings as well. Again, why not arcane lock the inn and burn it down?

Because that's not the terms of the engagement, and I imagine you well know this to be true. The PCs are assumed to have their chance to be heros.

Yes, they are assumed to have their chance to be heroes. However, they are not assumed to succeed. Success, rather, is contingent upon intelligence and some luck.

Bad guys have agency too, and the ones smart enough to think (which certainly isn't all opponents, but it is plenty) may, if the opportunity presents itself, coup de grace or at least take another attack against a down PC if they don't feel like taking the full turn action and AoO a cdg incurs. PCs (at least mine!) do exactly the same against downed foes who might be healed, as circumstances dictate.

Now, I would almost certainly not have a BBEG cdg an opponent when there's something more pressing to attend to, such as active foes in their face or other, more productive things to do, but a BBEG with a spare round will certainly start tying up loose ends.

mcbobbo wrote:
As for 'smart is new' or 'PC death is old school', yes and no to both. But neither would be an excuse to go out of your way to kill a player's character. See arcane locked inns for 'smart'.

I didn't say "smart is new." I said "smart is the new tough," by which I meant that Paizo deliberately constructs its APs to brutally punish stupid behavior. RotRL is no exception -- and why should it be? It set the mold. If your solution to every encounter is "I kick the door in and hit it with my axe," you WILL die unless the GM is inordinately tender with you.

And sometimes bad guys do get proactive. I had Nualia lay an ambush for the PCs when the came back for her a second time, and why not? She knew they were coming to kill her, she didn't want to die, and she was smart enough to make them pay for laziness. Next time they weren't so lazy in their approach. (Although I still can't get them to stop splitting the party no matter how many times they wander into monster dens while separated...but that's a different matter.)

I don't go out of my way to kill PCs, but I don't go out of my way to save them either. I have NPCs adhere to the printed tactics until they realize those tactics aren't working or need to change, and then they change. I treat the NPCs as though they want to succeed as badly as the PCs do. Anything else wouldn't be fair to my group.

mcbobbo wrote:
As for 'old school', I seem to remember having to start over at level 1. I'm guessing you don't still use THAT rule, too, eh? :)

Oh Lord no, and I never did back in the day either. Even when I was 11, I recognized that advice as being suited to a vastly larger and more...internally diverse group than mine. In fact, I never once gamed with anyone who followed that advice.

mcbobbo wrote:

And even if you did, it would be grossly innapropriate for RotRL.

Here's a thought - what if you kill the entire original party from Burnt Offerings? I can't see how you'd achieve the same story arc through people who didn't have the same attachments as are slowly built through the beginning. In fact, I see little to no mention of PC death anywhere in the AP. So far at least. But I see loads and loads of 'let them feel welcomed back' that wouldn't apply if they had never been there before.

My PCs are 4th level, and of 5 starting PCs, only 2 remain (though one player left the group, as is always the case when you assemble a group of strangers). One of those PCs has strong backstory ties to Sandpoint, the other doesn't. One views Sandpoint as HOME, the other got there on the morning of the Swallowtail Festival and doesn't feel entirely comfortable there for reasons of his backstory. So only one PC feels attachment to the town, and she's a squishy, and if she dies, well... <shrug> The story goes on. New heroes arise where old ones have fallen. The bad guys are still plotting and the good guys still have to stop them, and if I have to modify a couple of adventure hooks from what's printed, so what?


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Arnwyn wrote:


The suggestion of a BBEG spending his time capturing them so he can monologue and then the PCs can come up with some ham-fisted way of "escaping" is, in the words of my group, "effing lame".

Yes it is. But dragging the PC's off and torturing them in a gruesome way to find out what they know and who they've told is another matter. After all, if the PC's have found their lair and blown their cover then who else might come after them? Most BBEG's with any intelligence would want to extract as much information as they can before they sacrifice / eat / infect their captives.

Spoiler:
No doubt Mammy Graul would love to 'play' with the handsome and strong Chelish paladin before she gave him to her boys for breakfast. Now how would you get a fine upstanding Paladin to co-operate in something so truly disgusting? By threatening another member of his party with gut-churning torment if he didn't do his 'duty'. The more of his 'friends' she can keep alive the more leverage she has and the more accommodating the unfortunate Paladin will have to be.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Guys. This is a game.

The point of it is for people to have fun.

Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.

My games are quite successful and very enjoyable... and I can count the number of characters I out-and-out killed on one hand. (Admittedly, one of those characters was cursed and kept "coming back" in different bodies, so I'm not sure if a couple of those deaths even count.) And I've been GMing since 1st edition AD&D.

For that matter... one time I killed a character by bringing him down to -9 hit points and not letting the 3.5 edition Paladin use Lay on Hands after doing a double-move to reach his fallen comrade. And you should have heard the massive outcry about that (though the player accepted it with a shrug; it was the others who complained).

So I don't know about the rest of you... but I run these games so that my friends can enjoy themselves. Offing their characters with directed attacks and the like does not make for an enjoyable gaming experience, in my experience. I speak as both a player who suffered through that (including over a half dozen level 1 characters in a high-level campaign killed in one night, one caused by the GM having a talking intelligent sword demand his wielder "smite [my character]" for daring to question this "holy" sword) and as a GM.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Tangent101 wrote:

Guys. This is a game.

The point of it is for people to have fun.

Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.

And different people have different ways of having fun. There are plenty of games with rabidly passionate followings that I'd rather hit my thumb with a hammer than play. If you want to play your way and everybody's having fun, then you're doing it right. If I play my way and everyone's having fun, then I'm doing it right. The only wrong way to play is the way that isn't fun for you.

Therefore, "Going around and brutally killing characters 'because it's the smart thing for the villain to do' does not make for a fun game for the players" isn't universally true. It's true for you and your group? Great. It's not true for me, either as player or GM, and that's great too.

Tangent101 wrote:

My games are quite successful and very enjoyable... and I can count the number of characters I out-and-out killed on one hand. (Admittedly, one of those characters was cursed and kept "coming back" in different bodies, so I'm not sure if a couple of those deaths even count.) And I've been GMing since 1st edition AD&D.

So have I, and the one thing that time has taught me, more than anything else, is that every table is different, and trying to force a group into a style they don't like is the Original Sin of GMing, the sin from which all others emanate. I've killed a buttload of PCs and had a buttload of my PCs killed, and my players still enjoy the games, even as they're getting infuriated at the villains for killing their PCs.

Different strokes, and don't tell me my way of playing is wrong, because then the only one who's wrong is you.

Shadow Lodge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

I'll give one more example. :)

You are the GM.

You've been gaming with your buddies all year long, and your buddy John is playing his favorite paladin of Iomedae. He's sent you countless e-mails about his plans for Sandpoint. You know he loves his paladin.

John, the paladin of Iomedae is playing his character properly as an Iomedean, exemplifying valor and courage.

The party is now level 4 and encounters a pack of ghouls. If you're GMing Runelords, you know this is a likely scenario.

John rarely wins initiative. It's not because he's a bad player.

The ghouls get a surprise round on John and the rest of the party.

They use the surprise round to charge John and sure enough, hit by 2-3 ghouls, his Divine Grace fails him and he becomes paralyzed.

Round 1 begins, and the ghouls go ahead of John as well.

Now, you as the GM have a very personal decision to make.

Do you have all 3 ghouls perform coup-de-gras actions against John?

In 20 minutes, when John's character is dead - is he going to think you're a better GM because you did so?

John will know this is a personal decision you made. The ghouls absolutely did not have to kill his character. One could've dragged his ass back to the barn while the others shambled ahead to attack the rest of the party.

Trust me, John's nervous as hell. If the John at your table says "dude, kill my character with a couple CdGs, I crave the danger" ... you shouldn't hold back.

But I've seen enough Johns come to forums and ask questions like "would a group of ghouls perform CdGs while there are other characters actively threatening them?"

I'd suggest the folks asking these questions aren't playing with a GM they've known 20 years, because... well, folks who have been gaming together for 20 years don't usually second-guess their GM.

My point is I'd hesitate on the ghoul pack CdG unless you personally know the player very well and are confident he prefers that over the alternative.

The best games are about trust, this is one of the things that *could* erode trust, so it's a topic that deserves pause.

My advice is really for GMs early in their career more than anything. If you barely know your players, I'd think it's better to err away from the CdG than towards it. Those of you playing 20+ years who have a group that has acknowledged they want "hardcore mode" aren't really in a "need advice" category and should be well acquainted with high mortality rates.


Tangent101 wrote:
Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.

Be careful of overgeneralizing, and be careful of pretending that what you say applies to anyone outside of your particular group (or experience).


I have to say that I really enjoyed RotRL as a player, being one of the people that Zylphryx killed on occasion. Some were the game and some were crappy rolls.

Rogue Elf - Fell down a hole. Missed 3 reflex saves. Didn't get above a 5 on any roll.

Human Sorcerer - Never ever ever let the fighter take a 5 foot step back when you approach a body of water. The Crab in Thisteltop killed that one.

Dwarf Ranger - died 4 times in combat including the fight with Xenisha, Mama. Was captured in Jorgenfist and tortured for a few days before my crew could save me. Retired to Ft Rannick, it often seen pantless around the fort and town.

Dwarf Sorcerer/Dragon Disciple - Made it the last little bit with this character. He was a an unusual build.

These were just mine. Others in the group include

Dwarf Fighter - Went all the way. He was the only one.

Elf Paladin - Bargast blew her away. Replaced by an Elf Paladin. Reincarnated as an Elf. Raised once.

Dwarf Cleric - Killed in clock tower before Xanesha. Replaced by another dwarf cleric. Killed by Wyverns approaching Jorgenfist. Replaced by Tengu Monk. Reincarnated as a halfling. Killed by Macmurian. Replaced by Dwarf Paladin.

Human Rogue - Killed by Xanesha. Raised. Killed by direbears in Sandpoint raid.

Dwarf Barbarian - Killed by Xanesha.

Human Druid - Killed by Blue Dragon in Xin Shalast. Replaced by Elf Alchemist.

Rage Prophet - Killed by Blue Dragon in Xin Shalast. Replaced by Human Cavalier.

We entered the fight against Karzoug with the Elf Paladin, Elf Alchemist, Dwarf Sorcerer, Human Cavalier, Dwarf Fighter

Everyone but the Sorcerer and Cavalier were killed or rendered ineffective.

This is a beast, and was a great time, but I knew it was a grinder.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Arnwyn wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.
Be careful of overgeneralizing, and be careful of pretending that what you say applies to anyone outside of your particular group (or experience).

Do you honestly need me to hold your hand and put a damn "in my opinion" on every bloody thing I say?


having only played in the original Runelords, yes, it was pretty deadly. we suffered painfully (no big need for Coup de Grace then), and stopped playing the AP after issue #4 for something more interesting. And yes, IMHO the new version has been significantly updated in deadliness.

As for CdG..... I am not fond of it, and usually, most of my NPCs will "full attack"" helpless NPCs (being unaware of the rules concept - you know, that seems a bit Meta )......

But having recently GMed a SnSh campaign where our group mercilessly used CdG actions ( Witch with Persistent Sleep-gaze, aided by fighter/polearm co-workers) to disable opposition which saved the groups collective aXXes several times I am not sure anymore.
Yes we also had NPCs (say the infamous captain H and many of his more nefarious lesser villains did so) employ CdG there, but that is/was mostly story-based in a "we are the lesser of two evils" anti-heroic AP. Nasty CdG strikes from the vile versus the..."not really nice guys". Yes, the original concept of the with was moe along the lines of diabolic siren, but it, over time, became more than lifesaver and stable combat trick.
But it made me consider that, if players can/will actually use a specific meta-rule to their advantage, why should intelligent opposition not be willing to employ it ?

The problem being - there are hardly any BBEG groups to fight who even get the chance to use such meta-tactics, but usually only one nasty BBEG, who is probably unwilling to both take the AoO and leave other combatants unchallenged. One Dragon,one Mokmurian, one runelord.

And yes, knocking opponents out, and then having the BBEG leaving their mark on them has its uses - and nevermind, that is how lesser villains IMHO actually progress to become more than "just a goon" ?

Overall, I mostly fudge rolls unless we are talking "are we being stupid" or "big-end-fight" situations occur. Makes for a better story and greater enjoyment, giving more purpose to PC deaths.

51 to 100 of 151 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | next > last >>
Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder Adventure Path / Rise of the Runelords / Should Rise of the Runelords be this much of a meat-grinder? [Spoilers] All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.