New GM and players who talk their way out of combat


GM Discussion

Shadow Lodge

Last night was my first time running PFS and second time ever as a GM. I chose Icebound Outpost as it was in my husband's library, and seemed easy enough to cut my teeth on for a low-tier table.

But then they managed to talk themselves out of combat. Multiple times. Ridiculously high rolls vs. laughably low rolls. And a rastafarian halfling bard.

Plus:
they took the Aspis badges off of the three lookouts to lend credibility to their ruse.

As this is a notoriously high-combat scenario, and their goal is to wipe out the Aspis base, I had them succeed in some parts and fail in others. For example, they succeeded against the scrollmaster, but not her bodyguard.

How do you handle situations like this? It worked really well, and quite ingeniously, but am interested in how others handle players who find creative solutions to combat.

Liberty's Edge

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I smile with pride at the intelligence of my players


As a player and a GM, a lot of scenarios can feel very constricting and railroad-ish. My guess is that it's a result of the need to keep the cost of publishing down.

As such, I'm very eager to let players use creative solutions for solving problems. I think this preserves a "sandbox" feel to PFS. I'm not a big fan of forcing the players into combat because it's a "combat" encounter.
I am still waiting for a scenario where my ranger is allowed to track something as a solution despite the scenario not contemplating it.

That being said, there are in-game limits to what players can accomplish with clever talk or natural 20's. For example, nobody is going to convince a VC to join them on an adventure at level 1, or loan them a +3 weapon. And some NPC's are given specific tactics/motivations that preclude workarounds.

The Exchange 5/5

ciretose has my vote too!
If the players build for it, and are happy with it, and can pull it off, where's the problem?

edit:
Isn't this better than the team that killed all the slaves... after all, "their goal is to wipe out the Aspis base...". So they felt they shouldn't leave any witnesses.
"Kill everyone, and burn the bodies - the gods will sort them out."
"It's not an evil act... the VC TOLD us to!"

Liberty's Edge 5/5

While they might talk their way outta all the combats, if they do so, then what?

Do they tell the Aspis agents that they are supposed to go back to home base?

Do they tell the Aspis to just go away?

Do the Aspis stay there?

The mission requires them to clear out the base.

If the agents just go away, eventually they will come back, angry about being duped. As such, they don't fight, but they fail the main mission.

Shadow Lodge

Andrew Christian wrote:

While they might talk their way outta all the combats, if they do so, then what?

Do they tell the Aspis agents that they are supposed to go back to home base?

Do they tell the Aspis to just go away?

Do the Aspis stay there?

The mission requires them to clear out the base.

If the agents just go away, eventually they will come back, angry about being duped. As such, they don't fight, but they fail the main mission.

They had to roleplay in addition to their rolls, making them think up convincing arguments.

I had the most dedicated/combat oriented Aspis members attack anyway, and surrendered the weaker as an individual in combat/more likely to run if alone and injured. So the ones who were most likely to come back with an even greater force to retake it were eliminated, and those who would possibly get another contract or generally move on. Heck, they even managed to convince the ninja into taking the inner sanctum with them in exchange for his life (after they signed a contract in order to save his honour). (Had to move some sections around for both character choices and time constraints).

It was a lot of fun, and they worked extremely well as a group, while still providing plenty of challenges and nearly killing a character.

The Exchange 5/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Idris Runasdottir wrote:

....snipping down to the important part....

It was a lot of fun, and they worked extremely well as a group, while still providing plenty of challenges and nearly killing a character.

sounds good to me.

Can I come sit at the table next time you run a game? I like fun games!

Shadow Lodge

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If you ever find yourself on Vancouver Island, you are welcome! (Unless I get enough experience under my belt and the insane desire to volunteer for PaizoCon next year).

The Exchange 5/5

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Idris Runasdottir wrote:
If you ever find yourself on Vancouver Island, you are welcome! (Unless I get enough experience under my belt and the insane desire to volunteer for PaizoCon next year).

if you should ever make it to the St. Louis area, drop me a line and I'll be sure to get a game or three set up for you to play... and maybe get you some players to play for you to run a game for too!

(oh, and in case no one else said it)...Thanks for running!

Shadow Lodge

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Some players like to talk their way past encounters. Some players like to fight their way past encounters. Most tables have some of both. It's the GM's job to recognize this and cater to both parties so the entire table has fun.


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Whenever I DM my goal is to have a positive memorable experience for all the players.

If you have one or more creative players that thinks of something awesome to avoid an encounter's dangers or even part of it then awesome.

It is my goal as a player to do this, and my goal as a Dm to encourage it.

If I hear my players happily talking about the things that happened at my table after the game then I won dungeons and dragons.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Starfinder Superscriber

Vancouver Island... it is within driving distance of where I am. (If you count having a ferry move your car as "driving".) Kinda far for a game, alas.

Have you communicated with the Lower Mainland VC? He was looking for GMs for VCON, coming up in October. I fear I won't be able to go to VCON this year.


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Talking your way out of combat is a a perfectly legal tactic, and it is why the Diplomacy skill is in existence. If that is the tactic the party takes, enjoy, role play with them, and have fun! It is completely legal, and that may be a mark that they enjoy role playing more than hack and slash.

Liberty's Edge

Keep in mind though there is a limit to how many 'stages' you can shift in regards to the Diplomacy skill.

A creature’s attitude cannot be shifted more than two steps up in this way, although the GM can override this rule in some situations.

Grand Lodge

There is no right solution between when to railroad and follow the plot as best as intended and when giving the players complete freedom. Diplomacy is only one way that threatens to go off the plotted line.

1) Ensure that the whole plot makes sense. You as GM have a lot of background thanks to the summary at the start. If a player solution doesn't follow the summary but makes sense - reward it - don't punish it.

2) Don't be afraid to say - no. Players know they play PFS and that sometimes you need to go into a certain direction. But important is how you say it. 'That sounds like a great idea - but I'm afraid it would completely derail the scenario and I don't feel comfortable with it. Would you mind rather going into the other direction'.

As a GM I try to give players freedom and reward out-of-the box actions - but I also don't do GM fiat if these 'free play' goes horribly wrong.

An example might illustrate that:

I was playing an abrasive VC during the mission briefing. She was impatient and bullied the PCs around to get going as time did matter.

The players (IC as well as OOC) didn't pay much attention and found it amusing. Only to figure out when they left the Grand Lodge that they missed vital information.

Instead of going back and feel contrite to the VC they decided to just go along with partial information. This was a home environment - so I wasn't under time constraint (worst case - players need to come back to finish another evening). So they wandered aimlessly through Absalom to get clues what they where supposed to do.

So knowledge skills and diplomacy gave them some more information - but of course not necessarily the right one. I even invented 20 ship names (Thanks Game Mastery Guide) on the fly when they arrived in the harbour. 19 decoys - 1 the one with the plot.

They were close to select a random ship (the wrong one off course) bound outwards (the whole scenario played in Absalom - but off course a random ship will go somewhere) before they finally turned back.

What I learned there was - allowing even a minor bit of role play (we don't bother to behave in the presence of the VC and after that are just too proud to admit it and turn back) - turned into a lot of unexpected consequences.

What would I have done if they insisted to board a ship leaving Absalom? I would have allowed it and all would have gained 0 XP, 0 prestige as they didn't even managed to get to act 1.

How did I get them back on the railroad? Well - I gave them the option to take the ship and hope it is the right one - or to go back to the VC and ask for instructions. That was a great opportunity of role play from my site - as the first question of the VC was - welcome back - have you successfully done my mission. Followed by an explosion when she was told they hadn't even started.

And from then I played it up that every encounter they arrived and that got more complicated was due to them wasting half a day in Absalom. Actually - that was written in the scenario that they always where too late until the final encounter - but lets rub it in and pretend the whole railroad would have been so much less difficult if they didn't waste half a day.

in case you wonder which adventure:

Slave pits of Absalom

I just had a different incidence this weekend where a group just sidestepped the main fighting encounters in Way of the Kirin. Their actions completely invalidated some parts that should have happened next - but

a) it made a lot of sense
b) they got themselves back on track (unknowingly)

Way of the Kirin:

The group had found the tunnel ahead of the messenger / arrival of the samurai.
They placed the bear traps in that corridor - (yes - I waited to ensure they told Amara Li and the samurai and even send the trap specialist with them to disable the trap, bring it back).
The group then rigged the house and doused it in oil, worked on the structure of the upper level to partially collapse / lure the army into the house to throw alchemist fire to get it alight / use it as trap to kill as many as possible while themselves going into the tunnel as a more defensive place.

So we had: zero catapult shots
Zero long range spells cast
A full strength army invading the house

2 members running into the bear traps - now in the entrance
1 member being shot while they waited close to the secret door
1 alchemist fire to set all alight and a burning house as 'weapon' instead of 2 fights planned VERY differently.

I got them back on track by sending a bat as animal messenger (made a lot more sense as a sea gull as in the text) and played the optional encounter as they had side skipped the other fights and we where well ahead of time despite a lot of role play.

Liberty's Edge

1 person marked this as a favorite.

Er, your spoilers are showing...

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Idris Runasdottir wrote:
Andrew Christian wrote:

While they might talk their way outta all the combats, if they do so, then what?

Do they tell the Aspis agents that they are supposed to go back to home base?

Do they tell the Aspis to just go away?

Do the Aspis stay there?

The mission requires them to clear out the base.

If the agents just go away, eventually they will come back, angry about being duped. As such, they don't fight, but they fail the main mission.

They had to roleplay in addition to their rolls, making them think up convincing arguments.

I had the most dedicated/combat oriented Aspis members attack anyway, and surrendered the weaker as an individual in combat/more likely to run if alone and injured. So the ones who were most likely to come back with an even greater force to retake it were eliminated, and those who would possibly get another contract or generally move on. Heck, they even managed to convince the ninja into taking the inner sanctum with them in exchange for his life (after they signed a contract in order to save his honour). (Had to move some sections around for both character choices and time constraints). Iris Runasdottier, It was a lot of fun, and they worked extremely well as a group, while still providing plenty of challenges and nearly killing a character.

First Thanks for taking the plunge and giving GMing a try. I hope that you had a good time.

I'm all for letting my players come up with creative solutions. From my brief reading of your session from the posts, it looks like a fun time was had by all. If I was GMing I would have done much the same thing. Your table sounds like just the sort of table I would enjoy playing at!

Good luck with your future games.

Shadow Lodge

rknop wrote:

Vancouver Island... it is within driving distance of where I am. (If you count having a ferry move your car as "driving".) Kinda far for a game, alas.

Have you communicated with the Lower Mainland VC? He was looking for GMs for VCON, coming up in October. I fear I won't be able to go to VCON this year.

Considering my husband is the new VL to the lower mainland VC, yes, in a roundabout way. :) Not sure if we can since I believe all of his leave time has been used up because we're doing both Thanksgivings.

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