How to prepare for players return


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Hey everybody, I have a question.

My players are in the middle of a dungeon and once they've decided that they want to get full hp and spell slots they decide to leave to take a nice extended rest at the local inn before continuing to clear the rest of the dungeon. The enemy is intelligent and the alarm was raised. He even knows that the pcs came and left. So it only makes sense that he would prepare for the pcs to come back again.

What I was thinking of doing was giving the dungeon some more creatures that could be used to set up an ambush for the players to come back. I was also thinking that the dungeon could hire some people to try and assassinate the patty before they can make it back to the dungeon.

However if I were to do this it would probably give the players a huge XP advantage since eventually they would leave again and come back to find another ambush or assassian encounter. Then I was thinking that I could add 1 to the cr of the retaliation group every time the party leaves but after like 5 min of contemplation I realized that that would either end with the players either becoming super over leveled or dead... Idk which is worse.

Maybe I shoud give them less story XP to make up for all these extra encounter without letting the players get over leveled for my story. I would love to (but I know I can't) give them no xp for defeating these extra encounters. I'm at a loss for how to balance this problem. I don't want it to be so unfair that the players can safely leave with no consequences and return whenever they feel like it. I might as well just give them all their spells and hp back after each fight.

Sorry for the wall of text. I wanted you all to fully understand why I am struggling with this. Please help me if you can! Thanks!


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Hovhannes wrote:
I realized that that would either end with the players either becoming super over leveled or dead... Idk which is worse.

I can help with this. Killing your players is always a bad thing. A very bad thing. It'll surely land you in jail and/or in the electric chair, so I recommend NOT killing players...

As to your actual question, this is a big problem with the game design.

Players are highly encouraged to rest their PCs as soon as resources begin to run low. For many reasons, but the main one is that encounters tend to get harder as you go on, not easier, and if you're out of resources when you run into the hardest encounter in the dungeon, you're facing a TPK.

This game is one where resources run out. As opposed to, say, any typical computer RPG where you regenerate "spell points" as you move from encounter to encounter, so you just keep on going. Or your hot-keyed spells are on cooldowns that refresh as you move from encounter to encounter and then you can use them again, so you keep on going.

That design rewards PCs resting frequently and punishes them (even if only by putting them at great risk) for not resting.

Until you change the fundamental mechanics of the game, they will ALWAYS do this.

But you don't want to do that. Rewrite the core rules of the game.

Unfortunately, ANY choice you make creates problems:

1. Restock the explored areas with monsters. The BBEG goes and gets new ones while the PCs are away. Problem: More XP and more loot makes the second half of the dungeon even easier than it would have been, which robs the game of the sense of danger and drama.

1a. Restock but without XP and loot. The players will complain; they'll think you're cheating them out of earned rewards, especially XP. I know. I tried it once. We had a big fight. Won't do it again.

2. Send assassins (your idea). Accomplishes nothing regarding this problem. Although still a good idea as a story element, it's just not a good idea as punishment for or prevention of this rest mechanic.

3. Do other things to slow them down. For example, the BBEG sets traps in the areas they've already explored. So PCs fall in, get hurt, waste resources, then what? They rest again? Problem not solved.

4. BBEG is ready for their return. He gathers ALL the remaining minions in the dungeon and ambushes the PCs with one big glorious TPK-fest. I did this once. Funny as hell. The players were pissed. I asked them "What did you expect? Did you think the BBEG would just sit there like Sauron and wait for you to destroy him?" After a while, they came around and said it made sense but it sucked. I told them to make new characters and stop giving BBEGs time to prepare ambushes. That group never did it again.

I like #4. Your players won't like it at all. But it might get the message across...


So you said that the dungeons get harder as you go deeper. So now if I get them to no longer leave and rest how do I give them the resources so that they don't get wrecked at the harder part? Should I have potions lying around? Maybe some item that will restor a spell slot?

the ideas that I have are basically completely random and based only on my own ideas and research I've done.

You obviously have more experience than I do and I appreciate your advice so far!
I think I'll try your #4. I'm laughing already. I know at least one of them will be pissed since he loves to win. Like LOVES to win.

Thanks for the advice!


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Could have them return an find the dungeon empty....After all why would the BBEG stay if his defenses have been breached?


There is a reason that he is not leaving. He powering up a weapon that he has been fighting for for a very long time (he is ageless). And if I did that the players would argue that they deserve the XP for every monster that fled because they scared them away.

Or at least my players would argue it.


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Any BBEG worth his salt would have a backup plan / lair....why should the PC's be rewarded with XP for themselves running away?


I like #2, #3 and #4, though that's my DM side talking. I don't use XP in my games, since there is this problem, I just let them level up after a while.

If a dungeon is long, like moria long, they'll have both time and space to sleep inside the dungeon to replenish, they'll just have to keep an eye out to avoid #2 and #4 while they do it, though.


Unklbuck, in this current situation the evil person is over confident and doesn't need a back up plan. Or at last he doesn't think he does. And the pcs aren't rewarded XP for running away. I only gave them xp for defeating the mod that they did before they left the dungeon.


Go after them in their Inn! :) You know they are coming back, so why not cut out the wait! :D

Also, someone said something about 'xp'? What is this thing you speak of? I have read of it in archaic manuals of games past, but, nowadays, you level when I say you level :) And loot from restock? Sure, they can have all the daggers and trail rations they can handle ;)


(Also, Blake, #4 is a good trick :) er... learning tool!)

The Exchange

If you don't want them to rest, I think its only fair that you tell the players right on the onset, when they are entering the dungeon so they can prepare accordingly.

Also have magical shrines(that work like pearls of power, only once) and maybe a healing fountain with limited uses in the centre of the dungeon.

Then have a magical barrier pop up at the entrace they used.

If they do sleep, have some of the remaining mooks ambush them while they sleep. If they sleep in a rope trick, have arrows and spells on them as they come out, dig a pit filled with poisoned spikes at the bottom.

I hate counting xp because it gives me a headache. Prefer the you level when you level. I didn't play Pathfinder to do accounting.


Haha I like the way you think FireberdGnOmE :) ha. The assassians mentioned above could easily go attack the inn. I'm kind of a douchey DM though and the place the pcs are staying is highly defendable (a small abanded keep) and I'd rather not give them the opportunity to fight on their own turf.

I like the XP track because it gives the player something to look forwards too. Something they can track. So they can see their progress. It's way less exciting (in my opinion) to just say "ya... Maybe next session you can level up. Idk I haven't really decided". You know? One of the most addicting things in video games is the fact that you can track your progress via XP(usually) and I really enjoy this aspect of the game as do my players. So I'd rather not through out the XP and have "check point" like parts in the story where they can level up.

I know I'm difficult haha. Everything you guys have said has really help a lot and I thank you all for them!

Please keep them coming :) (if it's no bother)


Also I wasn't thinking poison spikes I was thinking a pit full of green slime haha. Ha Just A Mort that's a good idea. Warning them thaT I don't want them to leave until they've finished. They'd probably get mad haha. My group likes tons of freedom. I try to make it realistic and they want it00to be pretty much gods. I try to keep it balanced haha.

They expect my campaigns to be very deadly and I'm proud of that reputation among them :) this is the first time I've actually though about how a group of intelligent monsters working together would deal with an invasion. Thanks for the advice! I think with all these ideas I could rotate between then each dungeon and it could be a different experience every time!
How exciting!!


The cleanest answer is to have a story reason that prevents the PCs from dragging their feet (your 'big evil weapon charging' hook is a perfect example).

There was a thread here that had what I thought was a neat idea, for more general incentive to press on. Though I preferred the less-extreme suggestion of temporary hero points later in the thread.


Idle thoughts:
Don't forget a heightened state of alert can only realistically be maintained for a short time. Without a very high level of discipline or constant micro management many people quickly revert to their default level of alertness.
Monsters need sleep too.
It takes time to replenish lost forces, monsters don't necessarily just drop in unexpectedly at just the right time to compensate for the BBEGs losses.

BBEGs can be so caught up in their master plan, or it requires so much concentration, or is simply so time critical that a reasonable response just isn't on the cards. corners either need to be cut or BBEG can't spare the attention and leaves it to a far less competent minion.

So, don't feel you have to re-stock right away.
Do put everyone on a high state of alert for 12-24 hours or so - extra patrols, more likely to 'call in' strange noises etc. and every day thereafter relax to a more normal level (if one can ever call a dungeon environment 'normal'). Should return to base line levels after say a week.

Add hasty low CR encounters that can reasonably be jury rigged - low CR traps etc. not enough to really harm the party or boost XP by much, but enough to let them know that the bad guys trying, but lack the resources or time to do a proper job.


Players must understand, possibly not in the hardest of ways, that if they break in someone else's house and kill his friends, they can't simply leave and return (or worse, make a camp in there) as if they're doing picnics, without expecting consequences. Imagine if they had a fortress of their own and someone broke in and did all that. They'd stir Hell (righteously) and go out of their way to discover who the enemy is, find him, pursue him to the deepest layer of the Abyss, and disintegrate him.
Just like any other person would, including the BBEG here.

First and foremost, this should be explained out of game, because it's pure logic that applies to real world and game world, and their characters should understand it. But it often gets ignored by players, since it's just a game and they're trying to "win" it by using what would be a safe way only in a videogame, where NPCs can't act out of their two or three pre-programmed scripts.
If they don't get it, fell free to send assassins without remorse.

So, your job is to make a dungeon/whatever that isn't impossible to beat without resting multiple times (no thousands of enemies, maybe add storage rooms with potions and other things, allow clever tactics to use traps and such against the dungeon denizens themselves, maybe add "magic fountains" or devices that replenish a portion of magic power 1/day, let enemies do something stupid or not-so-convenient [stupid because of fear when someone breaks in your house, and not-so-convenient because maybe they're forced to make sacrifices to protect something else, and sometimes those sacrifices are not so well-thought due to rushing], etc.), and maybe give the PCs a reson to hurry (someone to save before they get sacrificed, the BBEG must be stopped before he completes the transformation into something, etc.).
And their job is to prepare themselves, where possible (stock potions, scrolls and wands, gather information, do research and use divinations to know what to expect, etc.) and use a bit of cunning instead of rushing in through the front door, knocking on minions' heads with their heavy maces, and going straight through, yelling and laughing.

Basically, I think it could be said that, maybe against expectations over a "mechanics problem", such issues can be resolved by doing more roleplay and less rollplay.


First off, now that the Big Bad is aware of the PC's, he is likely to try and refortify. Set up advance patrols and scouts to warn when the PCs return, and rearrange his remaining forces to be more effective. Instead of scattered among the remaining rooms, have a few chokepoints and good ambush locations for his remaining forces to make a stand. This allows you to keep the same number of enemies while making them more dangerous.

He will also likey set up traps in rooms already cleared. Depending on your group, this can be surprisingly effective. ("Where'd that arrow trap come from? It wasn't here last time!")

While he may not have time to hire mercenaries, if he does so, keep in mind that mercenaries need to be paid, and most generally want to get paid up front. So most of the treasure they get from said mercenaries can be deducted from the Big Bad's treasure stash. If he's a high enough level caster, replenishing his forces with extraplanar creatures could also be quite effective, and similarly expensive.

I like the idea of the players coming back to find the big bad has up and left. You've already mentioned this isn't feasible, but still keep it in mind as a possibility.

I wouldn't do this right away, but if your players are making the 15-minute workday a very annoying habit, and constantly running when they're even slightly depleted, a nasty way to punish them could be to have a rival adventuring band show up when they're off resting and beat the big bad and take all the treasure for themselves. After all, the big bad probably has lots of enemies, not just the PCs.


We'll see here the thing. The BBEG has magic alarm so he knows when the pcs are entering his lair and can alert his followers well before the players get very far into the dunfeon. So I don't need them to be alert for more than like 20 minutes. Since he can tell them when they need to be alert/when the players enter the cave.

As for his weapon charging.... Sadly he players have already destroyed the power source. He can easily repare it if the party wasn't threatining to destroy the thing he needs power for. he can only defend one at a time you know? So right now he's pinned.

I like the idea of small CR encounters and traps but I don't think that will change anything. They'll just end of leaving one encounter earlier to heal up again. Hmmmm....


BBEG leaves. Players can steamroll through the rest of the dungeon when they wake up the next morning but the Big Bad is gone and he took all of the good treasure too! Maybe the party gets another chance to throw down with him later but for now his plans continue.

This way it will seem more like an living story with an overarching plot and less of "Well the book says you guys should run through x encounters and be at y level of resources before encountering the boss .."

The Exchange

The reason why you warn, is not so that you expect them to listen, but is so that later you can pull out all stops, and if players complain, you tell them, "I told you so."

Oh another suggestion for what to put at the bottom of the pit. Burning skeletons. Nice cheap buggers to animate, and if a PC is surrounded by hmm..8 of them, it's 8d6 fire damage per round. Sucks if the PC in question can channel positive energy, though :(


Ya don't worry. I'm not throwing any ideas out the window. I'm making sure to note them down because I know just because they don't apply this one time, I'm 100% sure that I will use each and every one of these idea at some point. Probably all in this one campaign!

Thank you all so very much this these epic ideas! I know that the story is about the PC but I like to feel powerful at time too ;)

Also one player is a Palladian with 32 AC at level 6... So I make sure to sneak in more touch attack creatures so he gets hit SOMETIMES lol
Thanks so much everyone!


Take a page out of "Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of N.I.H.M." and accelerate the plan. Have the BBEG finish what ever it was he was working on, and use it on the village or whatever. Even if your plan was to have take another month, or week, he had a break through moment, where everything just happened to fall into place. Now the PCs have to deal with the finished product, and have to be quick about it, as opposed to stopping the product.

Also, if you are a douche GM, and your players know this, why care if they are angry about what the BBEG does, or about not giving them X.P.?


True haha. That's a really good idea though! Thanks you so much! I think I'll use it :)
Ya I guess among my players I'm known for TPC over few fights lol


Here's a fun one I have used before. When they get back to the dungeon, have the new batch of mooks use a Fighting Retreat tactic, leading them deeper into the dungeon. Once the PCs are in a decent way, side doors or hidden doors open to reveal an ambush, with the mooks cutting off their escape.
Now it becomes a battle from all sides, where they will either have to push in one direction and hope to find some form of safety or defendable position, or they have to make it a battle of endurance as waves of enemies assault them from all directions.

As a side note, by adding even basic cover and a group of archers or crossbow men you can make this truly brutal. Having to fight off waves of Melee opponents while being sniped is very taxing, and even partial cover for the ranged combatats is very annoying.


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Hovhannes wrote:
Also I wasn't thinking poison spikes I was thinking a pit full of green slime haha.

Oh, my dear child. You think too small.

Here, let a veteran of the Tomb of Horrors tell you how it's done.

Place a deep, dark pit with no cover in the hallway. Anyone not blind can see it, it's not even hidden, but it is as wide as the hallway and 10' across.

No problem, some PC thinks. Probably a rogue or some other DEX type guy (it always is). Acrobatics is my favorite thing, I can jump 10' without even having to roll. He steps back, takes a 10' run, jumps, and slams into the invisible wall of force on the far side, then falls into the pit - there isn't even an edge to grab onto with a reflex save because it's a smooth fit.

The pit is 60' deep and the last 10' is filled with water.

But wait, there's more.

40' down, waiting for lunch, is a gelatinous cube. Our nimble leaper falls right onto it, is automatically engulfed (awww, gee, too bad), and now needs to make a FORT save or be paralyzed. Fort Save? Now, not like I planned this or anything, but usually the guys who like to jump over pits are good at REF saves but not so good at FORT saves.

Too bad.

Because after he's paralyzed by the cube, he falls into that 10' deep water. I bet he doesn't swim very well, paralyzed and all.

Tell him this in a side room. Away from the other PCs. Why? I did this once and the fighter with darkvision saw the unmoving rogue sinking in the water and actually grabbed one end of a rope and jumped down to save the little guy - too bad for him that gelatinous cubes are just as invisible to darkvision as they are to normal vision.

Sadly, he wasn't paralyzed.

But wait, there's more!

Now you have one, maybe two, heroes in the pit. One of them is treading water and trying not to drown. The other is paralyzed and trying to drown. That's when the gelatinous cube descends to engulf and consume its meal. I wonder, how good is that brave fighter at swinging his axe while treading water in full plate? (Mine wasn't good at all; that gelatinous cube ate well that day).

Enjoy.

(And tell them the Tarrasque sent you!)


Pssst.

There's more!

Do it again.

This time, build two pits, one wide open like the first time, and a second one just immediately past it with only a 1" wall between them.

For fun, put another gelatinous cube in the uncovered pit.

PCs find it, drop alchemist fire or something and fry it up, then think they're safe. Rogue wants to jump but remembers last time, so he takes out a copper piece and tosses it across, expecting it to bounce off of the invisible force field. But there is no force field, it just lands on the floor and rolls safely down the hall on the other side.

So he jumps, across the first pit and into the second, which requires just 25 pounds to open the trap door. Enough for any PC, but no coin will open it.

This pit has no gelatinous cube. No, sir, that would be too simplistic. Let that rogue fall a good 200' to build up maximum terminal velocity (don't forget to put a dispel magic field near the top of the pit to nullify any Feather Fall spells, and also don't forget to put a razor sharp mithral blade across the inside of the top of the pit to sever any ropes they tied to him), then the bottom of the pit is a dimension door that he falls into, to pop out of the ceiling and crash to the floor right in the middle of the group of PCs.

20d6, please.

Bonus points if he can land on the wizard for a nice Two-for-One sale.


I've had some success with tying in game and out of game time together. For example if they spend two days traveling down a wild untamed road; they encounter a few hostile encounters. If they travel a few days down civilized roads, they encounter a few civil encounters (salesmen, travelers, pickpockets, bandits), if they go back to their base of operations the locals will pester them with mundane side quests and politics.

The general vibe being: If you change gears and go home to restock, i'll spend the whole session world building...


Not entirely helpful, but this is a solid reason to abandon XP. As the DM you should honestly determine when the party levels up. This keeps the party equal and avoids a number of issues, and the tedium of keeping track of XP.


DM_Blake, please tell me you run home games only and not PFS... I never want to meet you.


I really like what I've seen at least 2 modules do. The BBEG is a career of cr a bit too high for the party. He shows up multiple times throughout the dungeon, running off at particular breakpoints in HP. As a result, the more times you encounter him in a row, the lower he is on resources. If the party rests, so does he. As a result their final encounter may will be with him at full power rather than short on spells and on the run. Also if he is a prepared caster with a fully fleshed out spell book he can pick a new set of spells the next day to counter the party better. In this way you don't necessarily punish them for resting often, you just reduced the rewards dramatically by using the BBEG as more than a 1 room challenge.


DM_Blake wrote:
Gold. Pure Gold.

I want to slow clap for this, I really do ... but I'm too busy laughing hysterically and waking up my neighbors.


In our games you can only level up and claim the treasure when you have finished a significant part of the story. Dungeons are not static so if you delay too much by resting all the time you have to deal with more monsters (risk) for the same treasure and level progression (reward).


Hahaha. DM_Blake, what if you do it a third time but this time with stairs leading down to it. The dealing can be dropping some goo that make the walls in floor hard to hold onto. At the bottom of the stairs is the obvious pit. After the pcs see this trap for the third time I don't know what they'll do. But it won't matter. Once they get to the bottom the stairs will turn into a ramp and all of the pcs will fall right into the cube.

DebugAMP, thanks! That's a good idea that I will defiantly use sometime. I could probably implement it inches next dungeon I do!

Boomerang Nebula, that sounds look a nice idea. From everything that I've gotten so far about XP I think in my next campaign I'm going to start to use the "level up checkpoints" instead of XP. You guys all sound like you have a lot more experience than I do and this method is starting to sounds way more convenient as a DM.

-Thanks to everyone who's posted so far!! It's been very helpful and encouraging :)


You guys have seriously cautious players. Pretty Sure DM Blake would kill my guys before they finished a conversation with the quest giver!

In my world: The BBEG has limited resources. The outer-lying defences were designed to soak up intruders and inform BBEG. BBEG might well be aware that a group is attacking but so far they've only breaches the outer defences so is going to see how it plays out, confident that no one will make it through to BBEG in time, and if they do they won't be in much shape to deal with THE MAGNIFICENCE!

For me, re-instating the defences to the degree they were originally in negates the accomplishments the party has achieved. If defences are bolstered they should be done hurriedly and badly to reward the players so they can further progress.

My players value progression over realism. They're also a bit rubbish and I'm pretty sure I could kill them over and over again if I wanted. They wouldn't enjoy it.

I mean if the players need to rest to be effective, they shouldn't be super penalised should they? I'm too nice. Just say it :)


DM_Blake has it right, now that the BBEG has time let him plan and prepare. Anything he adds via skills and spells do not add any exp because they are just class features. If the BBEG has a summoning ability let him use the heck out of that for the same reason. Defeating summoned creatures does not add exp. Matter of fact have the BBEG go to the town and under a spell of invisibility just send in every summoned creature he has and announce that this destruction and mayhem is all the fault of the PCs meddling in his affairs and the town will suffer if they harbor these charlatans. His mooks set fires and destroy anything that can get their hands on while avoiding combat with the PCs. Now they can't rest and have a mob of angry torch wielders coming after them in the one place they though they were safe. And, bonus points for all the summoned creatures doing things like sunder and steal so that you are not only depleting the party's resources but adding to your own.

Screw up my adventure I wrote for you guys!!! See what happens!!!


tldr - has anyone suggested the BBEG set it up so next time the PC's arrive, the entrance is sealed? Perhaps with enough time/resources, he was able to affix this mechanic on every single dungeon door. And he has all the keys. If they had teleported out, use Teleport Traps in each room. If I was running an operation, and I had goodie-tooshoes spring attacking my base, I'd make sure to block their exit maneuvers. This wouldn't solve the problem when crawling a dungeon without an intelligent/aware BBEG, but at least you've taken a neutral, EXP-less step in discouraging this tactic.


My players don't NEED to rest when do do leave to rest(usually). They just want to be able to cruise through everything. They usually fight 2 or 3 encounters that are a cr lower than the party's cr. And I prefer realism over boldozing through everything so as to get to the next part of the adventure sooner.

I like that idea TPK haha. Knowing my group they'll probably call BBRG a coward for attacking the village but idc lol. Maybe he'll kill all the merchants and take all their magic items. Heheheee

CUPP, I like that! I think that would be great to combine with a couple other things, like traps or ambushes. Should make for very interesting encounters :) while they're trying to break through a door a group of enemies approach from behind and attack while their cornered. Maybe then another group finishes breaking down the barrier that the pcs were trying to break through and flank!

Thank you to all!


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

The player characters are on a race against time to stop the BBEG from charging and unleashing his super weapon? AND THEY LEAVE HALF WAY THROUGH THE BREACHING OF HIS INNER SANCTUM?

The answer is simple: The weapon finishes charging and is unleashed while they sleep cozily at their inn.

Hovhannes wrote:

There is a reason that he is not leaving. He powering up a weapon that he has been fighting for for a very long time (he is ageless). And if I did that the players would argue that they deserve the XP for every monster that fled because they scared them away.

Or at least my players would argue it.

To which you should respond "You can't get XP for monsters and hazards you never encountered in the first place."


Thanks Ravingdork! I'll tell em that hehe :)


I'm with Ravingdork on this one.

The players tactically retreat to fight another day....so they think.

What actually happens is the BBEG succeeds in the middle of the night while they rest, bringing his nefarious plans of destruction into being.

Alternatively, DM Blake's plan of having the BBEG be super prepared and kick the PCs ass and kill them also works.

You should establish quickly afterwards that this is what happens when you try to do things half-way with a intelligent opponent.

Or, you can ask your players what they would do if the roles were reversed.

Personally, if the BBEG was invading my base and then decided to stop half way to rest I would follow him out and kill him while his guard was down. You're not going to just let the BBEG escape from your stronghold without harrying him and trying to kill him.


With regards to "go to sleep, end of world scenario occurs" Do at least make sure it's feasible that this BBEG is actually capable of completing his weapon in that single day/night. Also honestly, if you make it so that PCs only have 1 day to defuse a bomb, that's kind of a jerk thing to do given limited resources, and point of no return situations. At the very least you should be reinforcing the PCs that this weapon will become operational within hours, a day at most, to really instill the sense of urgency. That alone will stop them from going to sleep.


A word of warning:

(yes, ironic coming from the guy who posted those delicious pit traps)

If you ARE going to punish players for retreating, make sure to only do it when it's an optional retreat and never do it for truly necessary retreats.

What's the difference? Sometimes the players are right when they say "one more fight will kill us". If you make them face 4 trolls and the fight uses up most of their spells and leaves everyone below half HP, but the pres on and you make them face 4 more trolls, you should expect a TPK. And so should the players. If they choose to retreat and recover their strength (in this example, a correct and wise decision) and you punish them for that, you're being unfair.

Sure, sure, let the BBEG do SOME things to prepare for their return. But not punitive death traps or TPK ambushes. After all, if they truly needed to retreat and get punished, then next time they might choose not to retreat when they should, and then they'll get TPK'd.

Finally, it's the GM's job to make sure the PCs can get through the dungeon in one trip. Make sure the encounters are small and weak enough, or that stronger encounters are few enough, that the PCs can go from start to finish AND face the bad guy, all in one trip without resting. It's the GM's job to make sure that's possible. If you make the dungeon bigger or harder then YOU, the GM, know in advance that the PCs will NEED to rest because it's too much for one trip, and if you know that, and you design it that way, then don't punish the players for resting when it's your own fault.

Note: this isn't aimed at the OP or anyone in particular; just a general warning to people reading this thread and thinking about punishing PCs for retreats.


Ha don't worry I'm only asking for advice on this topic because in the current situation the pcs raided a keep, killed the first group of enemies, and captured the general during combat. Then they left. They also killed the BBEG's gladiator in a duel right before but did so with only 1 spell and no damage. He didn't take the killing of the gladiator in a hostile man or because he invited them to come fight the gladiator.

He then offered them the chance to join him or not and they pretty much told him that they intend to kill him. That's when they raided the keep and took the general. I think 1 person got hit so far and 1 spell was used. The players are all level 5 so it's not like 1 spell is most of his spell slots for the day. Plus it was a level 1 spell do it really didn't have much impact of his total power of spells prepared for that day.

They had not used any healing or any magic item uses at all that day. 2 encounter. Took one hit from a cr 1/3. Used a level 1 spell. And went to rest (and squeeze information out of the general).

That's why I want the BBEG to do something to prepare cuz it's obvious to him that they're coming back. I'm not trying to "punish" them I guess, but I just want to run BBEG like he would if this was real life (real life with magic, monsters, medieval stuff... Ect...).

Thank you all very much for the advice it has been truly phenomenal!


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

How about they come back to find it locked, and there's since sort of riddle or puzzle now. You throw them off, it alloys them, but it doesn't burn any resources or give much xp. Or throw up a barrier so that if they faIL a save, they lose an item from their inventory. Something to discourage them from leaving.


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DM Livgin wrote:
DM_Blake, please tell me you run home games only and not PFS... I never want to meet you.

I'm the exact opposite. Where do I sign up?


I've run into this in my Kingmaker game. My solutions:

* Considering it's a sandbox/political game, the BBEGs don't sit still waiting for the players to come to them. They'll come after the players! In out last module, my players had a hell of a time with a BBEG who used necromancy, illusions, and enchantments to brew trouble within my players' kingdom and between my players' kingdom and their neighbors. As an added bonus, my players really, the BBEG dicked around with their kingdom so much that my players really hated this guy by the time the final fight came.

* Exit, stage left. I dropped in an AAW module featuring some kobolds. My players went after the kobolds in several stages. After it was clear the players were going to make one more trip inward and kill the kobolds ... the kobolds, and their chief left behind a diversionary force of rogues, while the rest retreated into lower caverns and bricked up the walls behind them.


Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

I have run into a number of these, but enforce a time schedule for exterior pressure and let players know they are not alone in the world.

The last time, the players all but led the oogies back to their base of operations in a town. Think what happened when Bilbo dropped the 'barrel rider' comment to Smaug. And there was nobody named Bard there.

Losing all their mounts was a real pain; running out of arrows, food and every other mundane thing was truly amusing!


DM_Blake wrote:
Hovhannes wrote:
Also I wasn't thinking poison spikes I was thinking a pit full of green slime haha.

Oh, my dear child. You think too small.

Here, let a veteran of the Tomb of Horrors tell you how it's done.

Place a deep, dark pit with no cover in the hallway. Anyone not blind can see it, it's not even hidden, but it is as wide as the hallway and 10' across.

No problem, some PC thinks. Probably a rogue or some other DEX type guy (it always is). Acrobatics is my favorite thing, I can jump 10' without even having to roll. He steps back, takes a 10' run, jumps, and slams into the invisible wall of force on the far side, then falls into the pit - there isn't even an edge to grab onto with a reflex save because it's a smooth fit.

The pit is 60' deep and the last 10' is filled with water.

But wait, there's more.

40' down, waiting for lunch, is a gelatinous cube. Our nimble leaper falls right onto it, is automatically engulfed (awww, gee, too bad), and now needs to make a FORT save or be paralyzed. Fort Save? Now, not like I planned this or anything, but usually the guys who like to jump over pits are good at REF saves but not so good at FORT saves.

Too bad.

Because after he's paralyzed by the cube, he falls into that 10' deep water. I bet he doesn't swim very well, paralyzed and all.

Tell him this in a side room. Away from the other PCs. Why? I did this once and the fighter with darkvision saw the unmoving rogue sinking in the water and actually grabbed one end of a rope and jumped down to save the little guy - too bad for him that gelatinous cubes are just as invisible to darkvision as they are to normal vision.

Sadly, he wasn't paralyzed.

But wait, there's more!

Now you have one, maybe two, heroes in the pit. One of them is treading water and trying not to drown. The other is paralyzed and trying to drown. That's when the gelatinous cube descends to engulf and consume its meal. I wonder, how good is that brave fighter at swinging his axe while treading...

So wait a minute...you have Wizards in the party, and they're not using Detect Magic every 10 feet to determine magical traps? You also don't have Rogues who are smart enough to be making Perception checks at regular interval either, to hear the swishing of a jelly-like substance mid-way through the pit?

Don't get me wrong, it's quite a fiendish trap. (Detect Evil has you pinging an overwhelming level of aura, by the way.) But the only reason this trap was effective was because you had idiot adventurers taking a stroll through a place and expecting it to just be a cake walk, not taking the dungeon with any sort of seriousness or caution. Perception checks, Detect Magic, Trap Detections, all of this and more would have easily stopped this trap from working the way you say it panned out. Unprepared adventurers isn't really much of a way to gauge how effective a trap is. Adventurers who, despite all of their preparedness, still fell to the trap, is a true way to gauge its effectiveness. That's why the Tomb of Horrors was truly memorable; because it had elements that barely anyone could have possibly prepared for.

I also question how a mindless gelatinous cube is defying the laws of physics by effectively standing 30-40 ft. above the pit's ground level in one round, and then all of a sudden being forced to abide by the laws of physics the next round. Did the dungeon BBEG buy this trap from ACME Industries that allows it to defy the fact that there's a jelly cube floating in mid-air? Did he super-glue the damn cube to the walls so it wouldn't move? Is there a permanent Fly spell cast on this gelatinous cube that allows it to ascend and descend? If so, where's the Fly checks for it to actually maintain its ability to defy the laws of obvious gravity?

Sorry, I'm all for screwing players over, if only just to demonstrate how ruthless a GM (or a BBEG) can be, and to demonstrate why players and PCs need to be prepared, but I'd at least make sure that the trap is iron clad and didn't have some glaringly obvious loopholes into how it worked out.


The best defense is a good offense. the characters breached his defenses, so they're pretty tough... why strike at them directly? Kidnapping people they care about and having a few spares to murder when they think they can ignore warnings to leave? Burning down a few buildings in town overnight, with warnings to the characters this is what happens when they don't finish what they start? Doesn't take much imagination to make them pariahs in the village for letting the bad guy know they were coming, and not taking precautions against retaliation...

Let them successfully fight what they're supposed to fight, and even accomplish the quest goal, but make their nice warm bed cost them something they can't forgive themselves for.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Ah, the storytelling paradoxes. An intelligent enemy would not let a threat leave and assume the threat will never return. The problem is that if the BBEG played smart, it will likely mean that the group will wind up very dead without some plot dues ex machine.

Here are some possibilities -
1. the BBEG does move out, and leaves disposable minions and a simulacrum in place. If all turns out well, the group will be fooled into thinking they took care of the threat once and for all while you have a BBEG out in the world levelling up to keep up with the PCs as a challenge, until they face each other again. This solution keeps the group somewhat happy, while letting you know the BBEG is still making smart decisions.

2. - Another group clears out the dungeon while the party is away to rest. This leaves unhappy players, and discourages the rest breaks. Best not to use this unless the group abuses their rest breaks too much.

3. - The group finds that all the remaining minions are shored up and ready for any tactics the PCs have displayed in the dungeon before. Do not add new minions, just have them grouped together to provide a more realistic defensive approach (challenging, though not suicidal).

4. - Make some in game reason why the BBEG can't simply send assassins or reinforcements, and let the players know if they twiddle their thumbs, that grace period will end if they are not careful. In other words, let the group refresh for a single night rest, yet don't give them time to craft items or have items made for them. Let the group know that others are fighting off a horde of reinforcements, yet those fighting the reinforcements can't hold out forever. It might even sidetrack the campaign so that the PC group goes off to fight off the reinforcements rather than fighting the BBEG directly. You never know.

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