Would you ever retcon PC death? What if you missed a rule?


Advice


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It was a tough session. Your plucky band of merry muderhobos nearly cleared the Crypt of the Trap-o-Mancer, but that last flight of poisoned arrows was one trap too many. Bob’s bard bled out within sight of the exit. There was much weeping, a somber burial scene, and the traditional looting of the corpse.

So there you are a week later, happily prepping your session notes when a MyFace notification pops up. And in a raspy voice from beyond the grave, Bob’s bard whispers those fateful words: “Wait! I had cover!”

In the wider world of gaming, there are certain phrases that cover this situation. “You took your hand off the piece!” and “A card laid is a card played!” both spring to mind. If the initiative has moved on through another couple of turns, and especially if the session ended yesterweek, the natural response is to shrug your shoulders and say, “That sucks, but it already happened.” The other option is to declare a full retcon, but breaking the integrity of the game world always rankles. That leaves us with the other other option, which generally lies in the land of narrative shenanigans, e.g. “You wake up in a pinewood box. Roll to attack the coffin lid.”

So here’s my question for the board: In your opinion, what’s best practice here? Is there a statute of limitations on fixing rules errors after the fact? Adjusting a few errant hit points might not be a big deal, but saying that Bob’s bard’s funeral never happened is a bit of stretch. How would you handle it if you missed a rule, the PC died, and now you’ve got to figure out some way to move forward?

Comic for illustrative purposes.


Bad tactics and bad rolls: you stay dead.
If I the GM messed up because I misread something or failed to communicate the situation clearly enough, you live. You probably lose a turn or are knocked unconscious the rest of the fight or something, but I don't think it's fair to the players to have their character killed because the GM screws up. Having to deal with retcons is just the price we pay for not getting it right the first time. Rewriting history is generally less annoying than a dead character.


It all depends on the circumstances. If i forget a rule that was advantageous to my players, then i will retcon in their favor. Generally it will be within the same round, as my player are quick to catch up. If i forget some silly stuff like ''oh right, that goblin had +1 to hit because of their Adept's bless spell'', then i'll forget it, it's on me.

I don't think i've ever retconned after an encounter. Although i wouldn't be against it if it's a glaring mistake on my part.

As for in that example, if the player had cover but forgot to remind me and then remember one week later, then i'd say it would be too late. The mistake was on them, bunch of scenes already played out, sorry bud.

I would however be willing to work with the player if a solution is reachable. Maybe i'd make the ressurection cost less, or maybe their next character can start with a little extra to make up for it.

Worst case scenario, death or even a TPK is just another excuse to roll a cool new character or to start another campaign.


Character deaths are sort of rare for my table, so I don't have a lot of experience there to draw off of (though we've had enough over the ... many years of play). "I had cover" doesn't come up a week later because when that killing blow hits, we tend to scramble to account for all possible ways to avoid it. We already checked off the 'you had cover' box.

But, hypothetically, if it did happen... There is no retcon. Bob's bard died. Window of time to dispute death is over. Doesn't mean Bob's bard stays dead, however. It means I get a new plot hook to play with.


Yeah, I hardly ever see PC deaths (which I kind of regret, actually). Goes with the tone people I play with tend to go for.

I'd say it depends when the "of sh.. Wait !" moment happens.
Couple of turns/minutes later ? Yeah, sure, you'll wake up.
Hours or weeks later, with the story having progressed and actually dealt with the death ? I'm gonna go with no, short of a really good reason. And even then, I'd be very reluctant.

Ironically enough, dying is one of the most impactful thing a PC can do, story wise (with an exception for the serial diers. I see you.),which makes such retcons something I'm not fond of.


My answer is it depends. If the death occurred at the end of the session and said funeral was narrative fluff whilst packing up then sure, retcon. However if other meaningful events had occurred and the plot progressed then sorry, the Bard died and events have progressed accordingly.

Grand Lodge

I still have my old "Ghostwalk" rulebook from 3.0 in my shelf for such an occasion.
Lot of good stuff if my player would like to continue as a ghost.


After the party can cast Raise Dead it's a non-issue..... but yeah, we've "fixed" character deaths that should not have happened.


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PC death is a big deal, so if you forgot a rule that would've saved their life, then it's the GM's responsibility to set it right. Retcon. Anything less is going to result in PC distrust in the GM.

And Retconning doesn't have to be a full undoing of everything that happened. You can retcon by raising the character from the dead at no cost to the PC's so that everything is put right but doesn't rewrite what has already happened.


Ryze Kuja wrote:

PC death is a big deal, so if you forgot a rule that would've saved their life, then it's the GM's responsibility to set it right. Retcon. Anything less is going to result in PC distrust in the GM.

I disagree. If the character death happened, the players roleplayed their reaction to it and the other characters are now being played as people who have lost a friend (even if it’s temporary and they can sort out a Raise Dead) then that’s the way the story went. Retconning is likely to make players distrust the ref as someone who isn’t willing to stand by their ref calls, and saying ‘you get a free Res because I screwed up’ is a bad precedent to set.

Characters die. It’s sad, but it’s an opportunity for the group to roleplay and the chance for the player to play something new and interesting.


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Neriathale wrote:
Ryze Kuja wrote:

PC death is a big deal, so if you forgot a rule that would've saved their life, then it's the GM's responsibility to set it right. Retcon. Anything less is going to result in PC distrust in the GM.

I disagree. If the character death happened, the players roleplayed their reaction to it and the other characters are now being played as people who have lost a friend (even if it’s temporary and they can sort out a Raise Dead) then that’s the way the story went. Retconning is likely to make players distrust the ref as someone who isn’t willing to stand by their ref calls, and saying ‘you get a free Res because I screwed up’ is a bad precedent to set.

Characters die. It’s sad, but it’s an opportunity for the group to roleplay and the chance for the player to play something new and interesting.

If you kill my character that I've been playing for year due to a bad call by the ref and make no attempt to fix it then I'm probably not going to play with you anymore.

A free Raise Dead is entirely fair to both the DM to keep the story in-tact but also to the PC and their personal investment into that character.

Neriathale wrote:

Retconning is likely to make players distrust the ref as someone who isn’t willing to stand by their ref calls, and saying ‘you get a free Res because I screwed up’ is a bad precedent to set.

No, that's an excellent precedent to set. If you're the GM and you make a bad call or forget to implement a rule that ought to have been in play and kill a character because of your action or lack of action, then it's your responsibility to make it right and the PC's should know that you have the humility and accountability to take ownership for your mistakes.


Ryze Kuja wrote:
Neriathale wrote:
Ryze Kuja wrote:

PC death is a big deal, so if you forgot a rule that would've saved their life, then it's the GM's responsibility to set it right. Retcon. Anything less is going to result in PC distrust in the GM.

I disagree. If the character death happened, the players roleplayed their reaction to it and the other characters are now being played as people who have lost a friend (even if it’s temporary and they can sort out a Raise Dead) then that’s the way the story went. Retconning is likely to make players distrust the ref as someone who isn’t willing to stand by their ref calls, and saying ‘you get a free Res because I screwed up’ is a bad precedent to set.

Characters die. It’s sad, but it’s an opportunity for the group to roleplay and the chance for the player to play something new and interesting.

If you kill my character that I've been playing for year due to a bad call by the ref and make no attempt to fix it then I'm probably not going to play with you anymore.

A free Raise Dead is entirely fair to both the DM to keep the story in-tact but also to the PC and their personal investment into that character.

Neriathale wrote:

Retconning is likely to make players distrust the ref as someone who isn’t willing to stand by their ref calls, and saying ‘you get a free Res because I screwed up’ is a bad precedent to set.

No, that's an excellent precedent to set. If you're the GM and you make a bad call or forget to implement a rule that ought to have been in play and kill a character because of your action or lack of action, then it's your responsibility to make it right and the PC's should know that you have the humility and accountability to take ownership for your mistakes.

Surely it's the player's responsibility to make sure that all the factors [they are aware of] are taken into account. The GM has enough to do running the entire game world. If, as in this case, the player missed something and died as a result - and didn't notice afterwards. Then they can't reasonably expect things to be retconned in their favour if events have moved on. Rather, they should take it as a lesson and pay more attention in the future. If the player tries to blame the GM for their lack of attention and calling them untrustworthy then they may well find themselves looking for a new game.


Hugo Rune wrote:
Ryze Kuja wrote:
Neriathale wrote:
Ryze Kuja wrote:

PC death is a big deal, so if you forgot a rule that would've saved their life, then it's the GM's responsibility to set it right. Retcon. Anything less is going to result in PC distrust in the GM.

I disagree. If the character death happened, the players roleplayed their reaction to it and the other characters are now being played as people who have lost a friend (even if it’s temporary and they can sort out a Raise Dead) then that’s the way the story went. Retconning is likely to make players distrust the ref as someone who isn’t willing to stand by their ref calls, and saying ‘you get a free Res because I screwed up’ is a bad precedent to set.

Characters die. It’s sad, but it’s an opportunity for the group to roleplay and the chance for the player to play something new and interesting.

If you kill my character that I've been playing for year due to a bad call by the ref and make no attempt to fix it then I'm probably not going to play with you anymore.

A free Raise Dead is entirely fair to both the DM to keep the story in-tact but also to the PC and their personal investment into that character.

Neriathale wrote:

Retconning is likely to make players distrust the ref as someone who isn’t willing to stand by their ref calls, and saying ‘you get a free Res because I screwed up’ is a bad precedent to set.

No, that's an excellent precedent to set. If you're the GM and you make a bad call or forget to implement a rule that ought to have been in play and kill a character because of your action or lack of action, then it's your responsibility to make it right and the PC's should know that you have the humility and accountability to take ownership for your mistakes.
Surely it's the player's responsibility to make sure that all the factors [they are aware of] are taken into account. The GM has enough to do running the entire game world. If, as in this case, the player missed something...

I now wonder if you’ve had a proper GM.


@Ryze Kuja: Now I am intrigued. What, if anything, do you consider to be the player's responsibility?

Shadow Lodge

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I would only retcon something impactful like character death only within minutes from it happening.

If there was a mistake but we already had significant game time that assumes the character was dead the character remains dead, but in case of DM mistake I am likely to offer the party chances for a free resurrection, or based on the circumstances of the death a "you thought he died but he actually survived" kind of scenario if the player desires to bring the character back.


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Did it precisly for that reason, they had had a buff to con they forgot about, would have made one save and then survived the negative hit points.


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Caught quickly, rewind. Caught much later, it stands but I would try to put things back--say, let them find a single-use item that can raise the dead.


Yes. Have done, when the cleric figured out he actually could have saved the PC. Or another time where our house rule that lets PCs collate hero points was forgotten about.

Probably will again.


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I would retcon a PC death if it was due to my screw-up as a GM, and in fact I have (a TPK at that): I was running a PFS scenario where the final boss had a fairly high DC, multi-target fascinate ability. The fascinate was usable at will (in fact I think it was a gaze so it did not even require an action), and specifically removed the usual rule about hostile actions breaking it.

At first things went well. People would get individually fascinated, but they got slapped awake, and between them they brought the thing down to one hitpoint. They then failed to hit it for several rounds, during which time everyone else got fascinated. Then the thing could kill them all at its leaisure, and since it had not reason not to it was effectively a TPK at that point.

Except...I had forgotten to apply the 4-player adjustment, which in this case was -20 hp. So instead of being on 1 hp for several rounds, it had been been on -19.

"Congrats everyone, you're not dead!"

Re the specific case outlined in the OP, it would be unlikely to arise because like DeathlessOne we would be searching for stuff like that at the time. I would have no objection in principle to reversing a death a week later, although by that time it would be difficult to be sure that the character really did have cover and it really would have made he difference.

Although if I were to reverse a PC death after some time had passed, I would probably use the free-raise dead idea mooted above:

Cleric: "Huh, that's never happened before".
PCs (nervously): "What?"
Cleric: "The diamond. It did not disappear."
PCs: "So how much do we owe you?"
Cleric: "Nothing. It is clearly Desna's will that your companion returns to life. If she's not charging you, then I am certainly not going to!"
Formerly dead PC: "So, what did I miss?"

_
glass.


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With the specific example of the OP, no retcon. The player missed the cover, the allies failed to note the cover, and so did the GM. In a game of imagination, no one was visualizing cover, ergo, the cover didn't meaningfully exist. The Bard died tragically, he was mourned, and the story moved on.

That's one extremely specific circumstance though. With differing variables, the answer changes. I'm all for a GM owning a mistake if it is their mistake. If a player screws up on thier end, then it becomes a question of how significant the screw up was. Might the character have died anyway a round or two later? This is all very case by case. Biggest guideline is probably going to be how the death affects the narrative, balanced against how invested the player and/or group was in the character.


Hugo Rune wrote:
@Ryze Kuja: Now I am intrigued. What, if anything, do you consider to be the player's responsibility?

If you have bad rolls, piss-poor combat tactics, lack of preparation, or otherwise doing something stupid (like splitting the party or running off on your own), then if you die that's on the player/party. If you're in the wrong place at the wrong time, that's just bad luck, and is still the PC's burden because that's risk management, but this is a slight grey area, because if you die due to lack of description from the GM, then it's the GM's fault.


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If I killed a PC and it wasn't until the next sesh that I realized the PC died due to my own mistake, I would retcon that something like this:

As you begin heading north out of the forest with your recently fallen compatriot Regnar in the back of your covered wagon, you can see a muscular, middle-aged man dressed humbly in friar's robes is approaching your party on the road from the opposite direction; even from a distance of ~100 meters, you can see his muscular neck looks like a tree trunk. He has a modest traveling pack, and on his left sleeve he has a holy symbol embroidered to depict a falling star strafing right across a lidless eye, and there is a ring outside of this eye that shows the hours like a face of a clock, except instead of 12 hours, there are 17 hours, and there are no hour or minute hands shown. He stops 50 meters away and plants his staff in the ground.

Cleric: "Praise be to E'Yuusha, I've found you."

Party: "Who the hell is E'Yuusha, and who the hell are you?! How do you know us?"

Cleric: "My time here is scarce, so I apologize that I cannot explain all. But suffice to say, I am in search of Regnar The Unfallen, a most valuable ally to those who enjoy freedom and peace when I am from. May I see him immediately, please?"

The man in the friar's robes wastes no time in pulling out a large diamond and making his way to the back of the covered wagon where Regnar lay. He places his hand upon Regnar's heart and begins a quiet prayer and the diamond in his other hand begins to glow with pure white energy. After about 30 seconds of his quiet prayer, the man gasps and chokes abruptly!

Cleric: "EEeeaaaugh! *gasp... wheeze* I thought I would have more time!"

Magical sparkling white and green energy begins to lift off of the cleric, as if his presence here is being slowly disintegrated. He resumes his prayer, but much more loudly and forcefully than before, and his voice is thrumming with divine power.

Cleric: "In nomine E'Yuusha, a Porsenna virum, ut esset Narcariel renatus fuerit denuo, anathema reperies luminaria concinnanda, et ad pacem nostram terras. Surge! Tu me iubes, surge!

The sparkling energy begins to intensify, as does the cleric's prayer.

Cleric: "In nomine E'Yuusha, a Porsenna virum, ut esset Narcariel renatus fuerit denuo, ANATHEMA REPERIES LUMINARIA CONCINNANDA, ET AD PACEM NOSTRAM TERRAS. SURGE!

I cannot finish it! NooOOOO!"

As the cleric vanishes before your eyes, he uses the last second of his presence to flip the radiantly glowing diamond to you. And with a whispering echo, you hear...

Cleric: "tu.... me.... iubes.... surge....

.....

it... is....... finished..... please... comple...te.... my... prayer... "

The diamond stops glowing intensely, but now you can see this divine energy trapped within the diamond itself, as if the spell needs only one more action to perform the Raise Dead spell.

Linguistics DC: 35 (because the language doesn't exist in this time) The Cleric's prayer: In the name of E'Yuusha, may the Hero of Narcariel be reborn anew, let him find the light, and bring peace to our lands. Rise! I command you, Rise!


Ryze Kuja wrote:
If you're the GM and you make a bad call or forget to implement a rule that ought to have been in play and kill a character because of your action or lack of action, then it's your responsibility to make it right and the PC's should know that you have the humility and accountability to take ownership for your mistakes.

OK, so by the same logic, if I forgot that the monster was doing an additional d6 acid damage on every attack in the fight where a character survived by 2hp, then I should call the player a week after the game and tell him his character is dead because 'he should know that I have the humility and accountability to take ownership for my mistakes'.

Or do you only lambast GMs for making errors when a PC dies?


Neriathale wrote:
if I forgot that the monster was doing an additional d6 acid damage on every attack in the fight where a character survived by 2hp, then I should call the player a week after the game and tell him his character is dead

Yeah, that's exactly how I GM.... *eyeroll*


Ryze Kuja wrote:
Neriathale wrote:
if I forgot that the monster was doing an additional d6 acid damage on every attack in the fight where a character survived by 2hp, then I should call the player a week after the game and tell him his character is dead
Yeah, that's exactly how I GM.... *eyeroll*

I think you two have gotten embroiled in a dispute created through misunderstanding. I don't think either of you believes in being a d*ckish GM, or in pampering problem players.

The specific example that started this thread implies that the player forgot to mention or account for the cover his character had. To me, that implies that the GM had described the cover at some point, and when the attack numbers were being declared, the player forgot to factor the cover into his defenses. An oversight on the player's part, also arguably on the others (GM included) at the table. Basically everyone made an error here, but I would say the greatest error was on the player at that point, especially as the player fails to notice or even mention the issue until a weel later.

On the flip side, yes a GM should acknowledge his/her mistakes. Players should too. Retcon's are sometimes necessary, and at other times damagaing to the narrative. In all cases, the final arbitration should be what is most fun for the group? In most cases that's going to be whatever makes for the best story. Sometimes that's a gut wrenching death, othertimes it's the characters experiencing unprecidented luck. Main character privileges are a thing :)


highly unlikely.

10 ways to make better decisions - New Scientist
Critical Thinking and Making Decisions - GCF Global
Decision Making - Psychology Today
The Science of Decision Making - Ness Labs


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there are various factors; goal(s) of the game, GM & Player attitude and styles, system knowledge, and yes - time.
Everyone should be aware that mistakes happen all around the table. There also has to be a recognition that everyone at the table felt it was fair at the time with what they knew at the time and everyone was operating under similar assumptions or rules. RAW is what it is and it's not exactingly rigorous or uniformly consistent.
Next is determining if it was critical to the outcome and is it worth the effort to everyone to fix. If it is then you can move on to trying to figure out a solution. In review you can try to figure out the cause but it's going to be tricky and likely get contentious. I say everyone as if it is a mistake should EXP be awarded for that encounter? What's the scope of the fix? Who will 'pay' for it and how much? Clearly I think considering changing the game is a group decision as everyone was involved and believeability of the story and fair play is involved. I think the GM also has to review his goals and group goals and make sure this is what he wants.

I'll add that it is a game and a story. There has to be drama, tension, and conflict (bad things) to get to a satisfactory outcome and sense of having done something. One thing the home GM has to keep an eye out for is dramatic elements that can feed back into the story and this is a perfect candidate for that. In reality yall had a fun time around a (virtual) table in a long BS Session with some rules.


So I just made a dumb error that I’m a little embarrassed to admit here on this forum. But for some severely inexcusable reason, I thought an erinyes could hover as a free action, allowing it to attack with its bow as a full attack. There was no excuse for my error as a GM; the reason may have had to do with the four glasses of whisky I’d consumed.

In any event, I’ve apologized profusely to the player I killed (who survived through the use of hero points…), and I will severely retcon this one. My bad, entirely.


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SunKing wrote:
There was no excuse for my error as a GM; the reason may have had to do with the four glasses of whisky I’d consumed

I mean, if the DM is drunk, the game universe might as well be drunk too! :P


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SunKing wrote:
So I just made a dumb error ... erinyes could hover as a free action... {edited}

Erinyes: Fly +19, Hover DC 15, "A Fly check check doesn’t require an action". Not a Free Action but a roll. It might be something else.


Azothath wrote:
SunKing wrote:
So I just made a dumb error ... erinyes could hover as a free action... {edited}
Erinyes: Fly +19, Hover DC 15, "A Fly check check doesn’t require an action". Not a Free Action but a roll. It might be something else.

Yeah - I think the hover check still has to be made as part of a move action…


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SunKing wrote:
Azothath wrote:
SunKing wrote:
So I just made a dumb error ... erinyes could hover as a free action... {edited}
Erinyes: Fly +19, Hover DC 15, "A Fly check check doesn’t require an action". Not a Free Action but a roll. It might be something else.
Yeah - I think the hover check still has to be made as part of a move action…

After rechecking the rule, under Fly, it seems your first ruling was right.

Fly wrote:

Action

None. A Fly check doesn’t require an action; it is made as part of another action or as a reaction to a situation.

It's said it's made as part of an action or as a reaction to a situation. Not moving is not an action, but failing to meet a requirement of flying by staying stationnary, making you at risk of falling should qualify.

Hover is only listed as a flying maneuver and does not specify an action, so i'd say it does not cost an action.

So now you totally gotta go back and redo that whole campaign, that player should have stayed dead at that moment! Gotta make sure you take your responsibility as a gamemaster! (Obvious joke)


SunKing wrote:
Azothath wrote:
SunKing wrote:
So I just made a dumb error ... erinyes could hover as a free action... {edited}
Erinyes: Fly +19, Hover DC 15, "A Fly check check doesn’t require an action". Not a Free Action but a roll. It might be something else.
Yeah - I think the hover check still has to be made as part of a move action…

actually I think it is a good example of something that really wasn't critical one way or the other and after consulting RAW should have been ignored as trivial. see above


When one of my players wants their PC to come back, the PC will come back. It won't be free (some diamonds, a quest, a race change, a vague "future favor"), but it will be possible. If a player prefers to continue with the PC, they can. If they decide it's a good time to switch to a new character, they can.

This way the whole scenario (wonderfully) described in the first posting stops being problematic. If the bard player wanted Bob to come back, Bob will be back sooner or later. If not, then it's burial scene time. And I can easily tell my players that I missed the cover, because the mistake wasn't campaign-breaking. If they had expenses or trouble due to it, I will compensate them soon.


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Algarik wrote:
SunKing wrote:
Azothath wrote:
SunKing wrote:
So I just made a dumb error ... erinyes could hover as a free action... {edited}
Erinyes: Fly +19, Hover DC 15, "A Fly check check doesn’t require an action". Not a Free Action but a roll. It might be something else.
Yeah - I think the hover check still has to be made as part of a move action…

After rechecking the rule, under Fly, it seems your first ruling was right.

Fly wrote:

Action

None. A Fly check doesn’t require an action; it is made as part of another action or as a reaction to a situation.

It's said it's made as part of an action or as a reaction to a situation. Not moving is not an action, but failing to meet a requirement of flying by staying stationnary, making you at risk of falling should qualify.

Hover is only listed as a flying maneuver and does not specify an action, so i'd say it does not cost an action.

So now you totally gotta go back and redo that whole campaign, that player should have stayed dead at that moment! Gotta make sure you take your responsibility as a gamemaster! (Obvious joke)

Ha! Yep - time to retcon the entire campaign! However, at the risk of hijacking this thread, I think that hover would still require a move action. It simply says that ‘fly’ is not an action because multiple fly checks may be necessary as part of one move.

Not to say your reasoning isn’t strong also…


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@Sunking

Yeah, the rule is not exactly super clear, it can be read both way.

Although, i think i prefer my reading cause requiring a move action is mostly a nerf to martial, casters won't really mind most of the time.


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SunKing wrote:
I think that hover would still require a move action.

Action: None means action: none. The fly skill rules don't even mention a move action. Indeed, the actionc cost description explicitly mentions "as a reaction to a situation", which perfectly fits hover as a check to be made in any round where the character doesn't move.


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I’ve retconned a full TPK before. It was the big bad of the story. I treated it as a nightmare spell. Everyone woke up fatigued (vs. being dead) and lost ability to prepare/renew spells for 24 hours. I then explained thier dreams were so vived they were almost a premonition of how their tactics failed (didn’t do enough prep to overcome his defences etc.) then I gave them a social game to rest, market up on gear and do reservch. Called game and resumed next time fully reseted and ready for round two if they died again though that was the end of their story/that game.


McDaygo wrote:
I’ve retconned a full TPK before. It was the big bad of the story. I treated it as a nightmare spell. Everyone woke up fatigued (vs. being dead) and lost ability to prepare/renew spells for 24 hours. I then explained thier dreams were so vived they were almost a premonition of how their tactics failed (didn’t do enough prep to overcome his defences etc.)=

I like this when you've got an established oracle NPC in the game. Waking up in a smoky room full of incense and an anxious old gnome going, "How did it will go?" is a solid bit of retcon.


Beyond the occasional times that a mistake was caught immediately, so that the correction could be implemented before any real in-game time had passed, I think I've only retconned away a PC's death twice, and neither was due to a missed rule.

In one case, I let two fallen PCs continue play as ghost-like shades so that we could finish the rest of the third part of an adventure trilogy with the same characters. It would have been VERY awkward to replace half the party at that point in the story.

In the other game, we had our very first PC death during the last session before two of our players would be moving out of state. Very inconveniently, it was one of the continuing PCs. Before the next session, and with the permission of one of the outgoing players, I retconned that his PC had died instead.


In general, as a game master, I only kill characters if the player is fine with it and it is interesting narratively.
If the players aren't fine with it, the kind of things established at session zero, I try to find a system/ruleset that allows for a kind of gameplay that fits everyone.
If it isn't interesting narratively, I am shooting myself in the foot as I am removing from the story one of the characters that brings in the continuity in my storytelling so I make it that even though the party is threatened, I mostly won't kill unless death is only a setback.
As such, when I kill a character, it is less about rules than about context.
This goes differently for T.P.K., all of them dying in one encounter is always on the table^^

We've had a half-retcon once. A fight against multiple people, an adventuring party, on a house. The opposing spellcaster, I think it was Tondaleyo from Greyhawk, cast a save-or-die spell on our paladin who rolled a 1. Dead paladin. Combat continues, next character in initiative order goes.

But wait, it wasn't the spellcaster's turn, the G.M. got him to play too early in the initiative order. So the roll still stood but we played the intervening actions, doing our best not to meta-game what we players knew of what was still in the future for our characters, including the one playing the paladin, but still hoping we'd get to prevent the spellcaster from casting when his turn would inevitably arrive.

Everyone at the table was fine with the outcome.


I'd offer a retcon or something like that if I realised it pretty quickly. I might well offer a free resurrection, and either swapping them back in, or them being the player's next character if I realised later (I run a relatively high character-turnover game).

But sometimes people are happy to run with it; in a 'to dropped but not death' duel/sorta trial by combat, I managed to crit with a Scythe on a Power Attacked Vital Strike. And the PC was already wounded...

The module said that the present High Priestess would Breath of Life people that died. But given the player's [u]immediate[/u] response was to go "Right, I have Summoner ideas..." I did a quick private message to check whether he'd like the Breath of Life, or whether he'd rather the new character. And he was pretty into the new character idea already. So despite the fact that was actually IC action by the High Priestess, I let the death stand, and adjusted what happened next around it.

I also once rolled 4 shadows as a Random Encounter on a level 5 party, and (probably because I was a bit tired?) went for the epic looking, but very nasty thing of them rising up out of the water on 4 sides of the party, as the party was moving between linked barges. TPK; the party didn't have a lot of anti-incoporeal, and couldn't move faster than the party.

After a bit of reflection, later that evening, I offered a retcon, as it was a self-contained encounter. But whilst the players had been pretty bummed by the deaths, they had also realised that the party didn't have enough anti-undead for an Adventure Path with a lot of that, and also weren't working together all that cohesively. So they came up with a party that were more 'together', and we carried on.

So it depends what happened, and what works for the players and the game.


Azothath wrote:

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Clearly I think considering changing the game is a group decision as everyone was involved and believeability of the story and fair play is involved. I think the GM also has to review his goals and group goals and make sure this is what he wants.
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I think you've got it on the money. These sort of things are probably best handled with everyone's opinion. If the other players are down with retconning the funeral or doing some of the other creative options previously mentioned, then why get in the way? If most of the party is against the retcon even with the most elegant retcon option, then why force it?

I would only retcon if my players were okay with it. Otherwise I tend to stick with the "too little too late" rule. My reasoning being that the numbers and mechanics are just to help tell the story and in a way that gives players agency. This is why I am lenient when my players flub rolls.

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