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Monday, June 1, 2015

How Protected Are Your PCs? The Safe and Secure Illusion

Ash thinks she's safe and secure, but evil can lurk from above.
Such evil goes by the common name "Tobby".

I'll admit that I rarely think about my PC dying. Not because I want to avoid the thought, but because the idea of my PC failing to survive is rarely part of the equation.

It's much like being a teenager or young adult. "That shit will never happen to me!"

Actually, it's much like law enforcement. You put aside fears (and smart thoughts like "self preservation") and get the job done. You deal with the fears afterwards.

Of course, that's all an illusion, even if it's one created by you for your own benefit. It's useful though.

In game, I think it's important to remind PCs (and their players) of their relative vulnerability. If the players discuss running instead of engaging (even if they do engage 90% of the time after having said discussion) when things look horribly tough, you as the DM are doing something right. If your players always run head long into each fight, never thinking twice, never considering escape, you need to remind them of their vulnerability. Sometimes all it takes is a single PC to die to make it real (in the context of the game, of course.)

A little fear goes a long way...


14 comments:

  1. I'm a fairly brutal DM. PCs die in my games. My current 5e game has seen more deaths than there are players.

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    1. your players may need cuddling ;)

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    2. How?! I remember reading the playtest document and thinking the PCs were practically immortal

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    3. Driders at low level and Meriliths at higher level will both do the job quite nicely. :)

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  2. Does your guide provide any alternatives to death? Is it strict black and white? Are the supporting cast and antagonists complex characters? Is there more to each session than tedium?

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  3. PCs were made for killing. Roll up another.

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  4. My response ran long, so I posted it on my blog.

    http://dungeonfantastic.blogspot.com/2015/06/an-overabundance-of-caution.html

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  5. PCs being maimed, going mad, becoming disabled, turned to stone, or killed are just.bad decission and dice roll or two away.

    One play to me years ago " Why does the bad stuff always happen to us?"
    My answer " Becasue you are special snowflake so very special"

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    1. Ha hee ho... My answer is usually along the lines of, "Gee, you thought flouting the law everywhere you went and stealing from everyone you met was making you friends?" or "You thought charging into a brigand campsite armed to the teeth and shouting war cries was a smart idea?"

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  6. Looks like my response got eaten up. So the short of it, playing 5th edition after 1st and DCC has made my players a little too cocky. They have had a lot of close calls but never any deaths. They jumped head first in to a room this last Saturday where they were ambushed by Bugbears, one was killed right out dropping to negative HP equal to his constitution (we do that rather than total HP because that's too easy) and another failed his death rolls. One was dropped to 1 HP and another was knocked unconscious but survived.
    I think allowing the dice to land as they were and their gung-ho strategy brought them back to reality. I never try and kill my players but I don't try and protect them from the dice either.

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  7. What is a "death roll" and how do you pass/fail it? Isn't that what Hit Points are for?

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    1. In 5E, you HP basically represents being up and conscious. When you reach 0, you go down. Then you start making death saves. You get 3 fails before dying. So basically, one you reach 0 HP, your team has 3 rounds to help you (heal, stanch wounds, etc). But while you're down, you're very vulnerable to attack. Unfortunately this means the PCs rarely die unless the DM attacks them while they're down/out which tends to feel kind of cheap. I've been running 5E for 2 years now in my main campaign and only had about 5 character deaths in total. I like the idea of negative CON HP being death better than death saves.

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    2. Interesting. Not for me. I don't really get all these odd mechanisms to keep PCs alive. If you don't want them to die, the GM doesn't need any rules for that. Just say "you're knocked out. You awaken X hours later tied to a tree and hear a group of goblins arguing over what to do with their prisoner..."

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