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Sunday, February 8, 2015

How Lethal do you Like your RPG Campaigns?



In the last two session of +Joe D 's Blood Island (heavily houseruled LotFP Weird Fantasy) the party suffered a casualty in each. To tell the truth, I thought a TPK was certainly possible at one point.

You know the surprising part? It was exciting to think that we might suffer a TPK. Strange, I think, but there was some true fear.

Without the risk of character death, there is nothing to compare success to. There is no triumph. There is no reward.

I'm not advocating a DM should look for a TPK or to kill a character every session, but character risk must be real for the game to feel real. Joe is doing a fine job keeping the balance ;)

So, how lethal do you like your campaigns?

17 comments:

  1. I want the risk of death to get the most juice from the game. I try harder to survive when I know life is cheap. It becomes a challenge. I respond to that.

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    1. In the game I play in (as opposed to my normal DMing with another group), which me and my friends get to continue rarely because we live in different cities, the DM asked us if we wanted 'Action Points' to help us out. When we said no to that optional rule she seemed surprised, but we both agreed that we wanted to do it legit. We wanted that risk to be there.

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  2. My campaign seems to be fairly lethal, with 3 character deaths in about ten sessions. That said, I think it's a good sign that my players have never considered it unfair or blamed me. Every single time they agreed between themselves that it was a mix of bad luck and risky decisions from their part.

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  3. As a player, I want things pretty lethal. I think a group is at its best when the they risk death at every turn. They play smart. They don't tend to become murder hoboes, because when every fight can kill you, you don't pick fights needlessly. You don't just break down every door and pick every pocket.

    Now, my own group, when I DM, doesn't like it as lethal as I do. So, I end up toning things down.

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  4. I like a lethality level that encourages thinking, stealth, and scheming. The less survivable hack and slash is the more play options there are in a campaign.

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  5. I like a lethality level that encourages thinking, stealth, and scheming. The less survivable hack and slash is the more play options there are in a campaign.

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  6. Fights will go on as long as they have to. But there's no tapping out.

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  7. I like 'em to be potentially, though not necessarily, lethal. Many of my favorite video games were like this — it could be very easy to die, but just as easy to avoid death. When you did die, you knew it was your own fault for being careless or not paying attention, rather than the game simply being unfair; you learned from your mistakes and did better the next time around

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  8. I don't find the specter of death a balancing force against success so much as a fun killer since you don't really get to live out the consequences of not succeeding. I much prefer to grind my player's resources down and put them in uncomfortable situations rather than resort to killing them. That's not to say that I won't kill them, it's just not the first way I punish them for failure.

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    1. If death isn't a serious risk? What exactly is uncomfortable about the situations you put them in? This is an honest question because I'm trying to find that sweet spot myself.

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  9. I've had to play with lethality levels in my Alien Menace campaign (on hiatus until life settles a bit) because the bad guys are flinging blaster death rays around, while the good guys resort to bullets, grenades, and missiles at the drop of a hat - as they should.

    The problem I found was that death is quite sudden - no whittling down of HP, no realization that they're in deep trouble, no "what can we do?!" tension. Just "bang, you're dead." Or in the case of the one game, "bang, you're a one-armed bandit."

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  10. My favourite world is Athas...

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  11. I want a high threat of lethality, but overall low lethality. In other words, screw up or get unlucky during violence and you can lose your character. Otherwise, you can keep it.

    I find that combo encourages smart, careful play and yet still feels like there is enough real risk to keep it fun.

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  12. For me, it really depends on the campaign and genre. If we're playing in a historical or semi-historical setting, then lethality (or at least the threat of lethality) should be high. Likewise if we're doing a gritty dungeon-crawling fantasy game, which is my preferred flavour of D&D.

    On the other hand, sometimes we want to play a superhero game, or epic fantasy, or a pulp or space opera game. In those cases, I prefer to have a less lethal game. On the other hand, that makes it more important for the PCs to have ties to the campaign world, because you need to threaten them in other ways. For example, destroying a PC's reputation might be worse than death in some games.

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  13. "Stupidity must be punished" is my motto. I like the threat level to be such that stupid or foolish actions can result in death, as can high risk actions that don't work out as intended. Mind you, I use VTTs almost exclusively so like to cut down on the dice rolling to save time. Unless it's a high stress situation or failure is likely to be very interesting, I tend to adopt the approach of "if it seems reasonable your character could do it, then you do", and move on.

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  14. I prefer a lethal game but my players prefer a more heroic style. I'm always trying to find that sweet spot. For those out there who enjoy a lethal game, I'm going to assume you're losing characters (otherwise, the game isn't actually lethal). So, what do you do when you lose a character of a higher level? Do you replace it with a level 1? Or of the same level you had? Basically, what is the "cost" of dying? Lose a level? I'm curious what feels right to people? What feels good without killing the fun by losing everything you've worked for.

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