When should you go easy on the PCs.


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I would if a monster seems way too powerful for it's listed CR. I might also if they are losing just due to bad rolls, as opposed to tactical errors on their part, as they have no control over that.


I would go easy on them if I realize I made a mistake partway through an encounter. I once knocked down a large water elemental to medium hp and adjusted the CR accordingly for XP when I realized that the corner I backed the PC's into gave them no chance to escape and conditions where I could simply pick them off one at a time.

For me dice rolls are a different matter and part of the game. The failure due to chance is no different than a PC winning a high CR encounter with a SoS spell.


As a GM it's my job to move the pieces around to make the game fun. But what's fun for one group of people on a given day isn't necessarily fun for a different group of people or the same group on a different day. Sometimes hard fights are fun, sometimes they are just stressful. A big part of GMing (why I prefer to play these games in meatspace not virtually) is "reading the room" so you can adjust things on the fly like this.


When you realize you made a mistake, its time to cheat...in the PCs favor.

On the other hand, if you've given PCs several opportunities to nope out of an encounter but they insist on dying, let them. Maybe they just want to roll a new character?


Meirril wrote:

When you realize you made a mistake, its time to cheat...in the PCs favor.

On the other hand, if you've given PCs several opportunities to nope out of an encounter but they insist on dying, let them. Maybe they just want to roll a new character?

Pretty much this. When I've made a critical mistake I either just let the PCs know and retcon or silently adjust the encounter. If it's a result of their choices, I generally let it play.


When bad luck befalls the players' dice. If PCs encounter a foe/obstacle that I've designed, it was put there (even in the random encounter charts I make up) because it can be dealt with in some way or another. However I will admit I create based on the law of averages; if the dice are coming up all 1's in an encounter, suddenly some HP goes down or there's a -2 Circumstance penalty to a foe's saves or something.


Never.

Let the weak burn.


VoodistMonk wrote:

Never.

Let the weak burn.

This should be everyone's goal.

Ideally, everything I put in my game will have been carefully considered, balanced, designed and run.
Of course, when it doesn't, that's on me and my obnoxious little habit of being a flawed entity. So then I dial it back a bit to where it should have been in the first place.
Most of the time, I don't need to say anything. Bringing a couple target number down so intelligent, careful play actually yields success often feels like finally breaking through from the outside, and is met with relief and satisfaction.
But if the situation isn't that simple, I will declare my mistake out loud as well as my plan to correct it. I've never been met with anything other than acceptance and respect.

Bad dice rolls are a slippery slope. On one hand, it's game. There is a chance for success and a chance for failure. If I ease up every time luck starts to turn on my players, I lose the sense of danger. Veteran, tactically-minded players should not be immune to danger.
On the other hand, if someone rolls fine 1's in a row on a skill check, a saving throw, two attack rolls and another saving throw (we've all seen crazy outliers like that, I'm sure), that's...a little different. Getting killed by bad luck is one thing. Going from perfectly fine to utterly destroyed by a series of mid-level threats despite your best laid plans when the odds were 1,000:1 in your favor is quite another.
I once had a player roll a 10 or less for about 15 hours of gameplay. I started asking if they'd like to re-rolls, to change dice, anything--it was not fun to watch a friend struggle pointlessly like that for so long. But they refused, insisting that it was "part of the game" and that their luck was bound to even out eventually.
The loss of two levels and their biggest magic item later, I realized one of the d20's that came in my last bulk purchase was, in fact, a d10. The resulting frustration/relief was something to behold. Naturally, I gave them back their levels and equipment.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I always tried to do everything random and do not tend to cheat one way or another. I often roll combat dice in the open so players know it is up to chance.
That being said there has been more than one time I started running an encounter and the listed CR does not seem to match the results I am getting. Players are getting slaughtered not cause they made a bad choice but cause it has something that makes it truly devesting. Then I would lower it AC, Max hit dice, or drop its damage dice done some.


Last Post wrote:

I would go easy on them if I realize I made a mistake partway through an encounter. I once knocked down a large water elemental to medium hp and adjusted the CR accordingly for XP when I realized that the corner I backed the PC's into gave them no chance to escape and conditions where I could simply pick them off one at a time.

That's a good fix. The unfavourable location would actually increase the CR of the encounter, so reducing the enemy's starting HP to balance the CR back to intended makes sense and it can be easily be rationalized that it simply wasn't at full HP when it was encountered.


When they ask for it.


I try not to take it easy on them. I put this in the same category as fudging dice, because, well it is. In that case, I do it rarely. Very rarely.

If there is a death or something tragic happens, it is usually best for the game. The players need a sense of finality and the threat of death in order to take the game seriously and remain emotionally invested. Going easy on them because they are rolling poorly will take some of that away and make them feel like they are safe and secure regardless of the choices they make or the actions they take.


I believe that the world should exist in its entirety with or without the characters in the party...

You can show them things that are completely out of their league...

The level 5 party is descending into a cave. A natural 20 Perception check reveals that every ~10 seconds, the air in the tunnel changes direction. As they continue down the tunnel, they start to hear the deep rhythmic... snoring?

Yes, that is a sleeping dragon.

This is only an encounter if the party foolishly chooses it to be. And if they do, TPK. Dummies woke up a dragon when they were only level 5.

It simply exists in the world, and they simply seen it, and there is absolutely nothing that says they must confront the dragon right now, or ever, for that matter.

The party shouldn't be marching around with impunity. They shouldn't be killing every living thing they see. The party should know when to run away. The world is not waiting for them to be an appropriate level before introducing them to what is out there.

It is completely possible that the party may stumble into situations beyond their capabilities.


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After the encounter. If an encounter proved a lot more challenging than expected, and the PCs end up expending more resources than expected as a result, then i'll throw in an extra clw potion or two in the loot, help keep the adventuring day going.


VoodistMonk wrote:

I believe that the world should exist in its entirety with or without the characters in the party...

You can show them things that are completely out of their league...

The level 5 party is descending into a cave. A natural 20 Perception check reveals that every ~10 seconds, the air in the tunnel changes direction. As they continue down the tunnel, they start to hear the deep rhythmic... snoring?

Yes, that is a sleeping dragon.

This is only an encounter if the party foolishly chooses it to be. And if they do, TPK. Dummies woke up a dragon when they were only level 5.

It simply exists in the world, and they simply seen it, and there is absolutely nothing that says they must confront the dragon right now, or ever, for that matter.

The party shouldn't be marching around with impunity. They shouldn't be killing every living thing they see. The party should know when to run away. The world is not waiting for them to be an appropriate level before introducing them to what is out there.

It is completely possible that the party may stumble into situations beyond their capabilities.

In the Thousand Isles campaign I'm now running is a very deep sinkhole not far from the campaign's main city, where the party first met.

At the bottom of that sinkhole is my own analog of R'lyeh, where dread Cthulhu lies dreaming...


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VoodistMonk wrote:

A natural 20 Perception check reveals that every ~10 seconds, the air in the tunnel changes direction. As they continue down the tunnel, they start to hear the deep rhythmic... snoring?

Yes, that is a sleeping dragon.

So what if they don't roll a natural 20? Do they just stumble into the dragon's lair? Do they alert the dragon's guards or set off the traps or alarms that a high CR, high Int and Wis monster would surely have?

Also, how is "the air in the tunnel changes direction every 10 seconds" a natural 20 only situation, anyway? I'd say 20, maybe 25 at max, then it gets easier the closer they get.

At any rate, I agree with the general concept: in a typical setting of the fantasy genre, the world exists as a whole. There are no specific "level appropriate" areas.

If your players are dumb, then they'll reap the whirlwind.
But if they stumble into a situation way above their weight class because they were accidentally misled/misinformed by you, the GM, then you'd best recognize your error and suggest they should turn around.


I don't ever purposefully bait them into ambushes far beyond their capabilities, no.

For one, they are level 17, we are beyond such childish games.

However, I have provided multiple "let's put a pin in it" encounters on purpose, and had already placed multiple high CR encounters on my own that can be recognized and left for another day.

If you bite off more than you can chew, I hope you have a backup character...


The best time to go easy on the player is in the design stage. A good GM should be aware of the capabilities of the party and plan out encounter accordingly. So when you are designing your encounters make sure the actual party has the means to deal with them. Don’t base things on game mechanics like CR and what the average party should be able to do, base it on your characters.

If no one in the party has a way to deal with specific threats don’t use them or use them sparingly. If you want to use those type of threats give the party a heads up. Have the treasure from an earlier encounter included items that help with the threat you are plaining on using. For example if the party has no way of doing area of effect attacks and you want to use a swarm have a wand of burning hands or some other items to deal with swarms in the treasure of an earlier encounter.

Don’t over design your encounters and look at what you design. Don’t rely on just the game mechanics for this. Sure the vampire template only adds +2 to the CR. But a Antipaladin vampire is a lot tougher than a rogue vampire even if they have the same CR. The party may be able to handle the rogue vampire but the antipaladin vampire may be another story.


Never. Hand out TPK's like Oprah hands out free cars.


^---- I'm being facetious :P


What about if a monster is just way too powerful (due to design flaws, rather than fighting it in a location that makes it extra hard?) Low level swarms seem to the biggest offenders in this regard, as if they are the kind that are immune to weapon damage, and the players don't have any aoe spells, alchemist's fire, etc (which is not unlikely if they are only level 1-2) it will probably be outright impossible for them to win.


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Yqatuba wrote:
What about if a monster is just way too powerful (due to design flaws, rather than fighting it in a location that makes it extra hard?) Low level swarms seem to the biggest offenders in this regard, as if they are the kind that are immune to weapon damage, and the players don't have any aoe spells, alchemist's fire, etc (which is not unlikely if they are only level 1-2) it will probably be outright impossible for them to win.

Low level swarms tend to be slow. Most adventurers have legs, and should understand when to use them.


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Well what do you mean? If the playerd are on a downwards spiral, and you decide to delay or cancel the reinforcements the enemy was going to get... is that going easy? Because to me that's just the realization that the initial encounter was too hard.

Literally giving them easy encounters, though? Depends, as mandated by the plot. Over easy encounters can feel like a tedious waste of time, but they can help soften the PCs for follow-up challenges.


I want to reinforce that the world, in its entirety, HAS to exist regardless of the players in the party no matter their level...

Anyways, a recently experienced encounter in a game I am a PC in:
Three level 5 characters...
A Tiefling Ranger with a wolf,
A Tiefling Gun-Cleric with a gun,
A Noble Drow Bard (me)...

We are in a 15' square room with three footstool-sized egg-sacks in various locations... one such is exactly in front of the door we need to go through to continue.

I light the egg-sack in front of the door on fire with Spark, because I am arrogant and we are on a time crunch.

Spider swarm...

As the rest of the party reacts, the other two egg-sacks burst.

Three spider swarms...

In a 15' square room, at level 5.

We lived. Our equipment, our PERPETRATION, literally made all the difference.

We were all suffering from ability damage after fighting giant spiders in the previous encounter, too.

We were in a bad way, in a tough spot, and all of us were sucking wind, but we managed.

I'm so tired of hearing about swarms...

My Gun-Cleric friend so kindly poured oil on me as I was covered in spiders.

I had to immediately levitate myself to the ceiling, because I had two sticks of dynamite in my belt, and was dubious about his intentions...

I stayed levitating, dropping every last one of my 5 Alchemist Fires, even suffering a critical failure that hit the Gun-Cleric. Lol.

I ended up using my last 2nd level spell for the day to kill the last swarm, and it only had 1hp left...

Silver Crusade

There's already a recent thread to discuss swarms.


There is, and it's the gathering place of whiners and cry-babies, lamenting on their lack of preparation...


VoodistMonk wrote:
There is, and it's the gathering place of whiners and cry-babies, lamenting on their lack of preparation...

^----- accurate.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ryze Kuja wrote:
Never. Hand out TPK's like Oprah hands out free cars.

You get a TPK, and YOU get a TPK! EVERYONE GETS A TPK!!!!! *Audience goes nuts*


KingGramJohnson wrote:
Ryze Kuja wrote:
Never. Hand out TPK's like Oprah hands out free cars.
You get a TPK, and YOU get a TPK! EVERYONE GETS A TPK!!!!! *Audience goes nuts*

LOL! That audience must *be* nuts!


A few sessions back we were all chanting for a TPK at our table.

Good times.


VoodistMonk wrote:
I want to reinforce that the world, in its entirety, HAS to exist regardless of the players...

I disagree.

In a lot of games, sure. If the assumption is that the game is as close to a simulation of real life as possible (and those games are probably the norm), yes. Absolutely.

But if you're telling more of a fairytale/creator myth-type game, where coincidence and fate play more heavily, there is no reason for such assumptions.


Goblin_Priest wrote:

A few sessions back we were all chanting for a TPK at our table.

Good times.

There must be an interesting story there...

...do we get to hear it?


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EldonGuyre wrote:
Goblin_Priest wrote:

A few sessions back we were all chanting for a TPK at our table.

Good times.

There must be an interesting story there...

...do we get to hear it?

I mean, not particularly, I don't think? We never had a TPK, and at an important battle, a bunch of us just made some bad calls (which only became clear in hindsight), and things had turned clearly in our disfavor. Can't speak for everyone, but I reckon we were just signaling that we were ready to assume responsibility for our failures, and not to go soft on us.

We weren't suicidal, and actually two characters of the very large party (on that day) did manage to escape. Maybe some schadenfreude from the fallen PCs who didn't want to be the only ones felled? Being the only one who dies sucks, dying with everyone else, now that's pretty rare and memorable.


Goblin_Priest wrote:
EldonGuyre wrote:
Goblin_Priest wrote:

A few sessions back we were all chanting for a TPK at our table.

Good times.

There must be an interesting story there...

...do we get to hear it?

I mean, not particularly, I don't think? We never had a TPK, and at an important battle, a bunch of us just made some bad calls (which only became clear in hindsight), and things had turned clearly in our disfavor. Can't speak for everyone, but I reckon we were just signaling that we were ready to assume responsibility for our failures, and not to go soft on us.

We weren't suicidal, and actually two characters of the very large party (on that day) did manage to escape. Maybe some schadenfreude from the fallen PCs who didn't want to be the only ones felled? Being the only one who dies sucks, dying with everyone else, now that's pretty rare and memorable.

Ah. Ok. Fair enough.


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Alternatively, here's where you get tougher on the players as a GM, instead of easier: when you realize that the skill challenge you had planned for the level 9 party involves environmental hazards and poison, only to realize that you forgot that

1. One PC is immune to Poison
2. One PC has a +4 bonus vs Poison as well as vials of Soothe Syrup on them
3. One PC has not one, but THREE scrolls of Neutralize Poison laying around
4. One PC has, in addition to her ridiculously high Fort save, a +2 on saves vs Poison in a particular environment from a magic item... an environment that the party is currently in

So yeah, when the PCs know ahead of time they're about to walk through an area of poisonous vapors, declare all of this that you forgot on their characters, and then announce that the 3 PCs and one Animal Companion that actually have to MAKE the save will have at LEAST a +14 or more on their save as well as the scrolls to potentially save them if they're not already saved...

You handwave the skill challenge and get right on to the Adult Black Dragon with the Fiendish template that suddenly appears in their path.

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