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kaomera
2011-10-02, 06:56 PM
So, it's common RPG cliché that the PCs never leave any foe (or anything that might possibly be or become a foe based on whatever flavor of warped PC logic they are subscribing to this week, not that I'm bitter or anything...) alive.

So, a question: Under what circumstances would you find it a really legitamate choice (ie: one you would actually take unless there where other circumstances at play) to have your PC leave a foe that she has beaten alive?

Shadowknight12
2011-10-02, 07:02 PM
Um... any brand of logic you can think of? Pacifism? Not being a psychopath? Being squeamish about ending the life of a beaten and broken foe who is clearly no threat to you?

I'm sorry, I don't really understand the question here. The only kind of character I can actually see slaughtering every threat they encounter is the irredeemable psychopath. Anyone else could range from patching up the foe and attempting to convert them to their side to tying them up and leaving them to taking them to local authorities.

I think you have players who are a little too used to the videogame mentality that a fight's not over and an enemy is not considered defeated if they're still alive.

Kaun
2011-10-02, 07:31 PM
The only kind of character I can actually see slaughtering every threat they encounter is the irredeemable psychopath.


Add the words "Hobo" and "Rich" to this description and you have pretty much outlined the stereotypical DnD character :smalltongue:.

Seriously tho unless you players tell you that they go around making sure everything they fought is dead by slitting throats ect there is a fair chance one of their enemies was severely wounded and unconscious but not dead.

So there is nothing to stop them from meeting the PC's again maybe this time with a missing eye and a few scars (both mental and physical) to show for their last encounter with the players. Bitter, more experienced and with a massive score to settle.

Vortling
2011-10-02, 07:38 PM
So there is nothing to stop them from meeting the PC's again maybe this time with a missing eye and a few scars (both mental and physical) to show for their last encounter with the players. Bitter, more experienced and with a massive score to settle.

Of course that might be the logic behind this behavior. "The last time we left something alive it alerted everything else in the dungeon and we got dogpiled." "The last time we let something get away, it brought reinforcements down on our heads.", etc.

kaomera: Have your players been playing in games where it was clearly detrimental to them to leave enemies alive? Yours or others. Players can get focused on single memorable event even if there is no pattern to back it up.

Berenger
2011-10-02, 07:48 PM
Depends on the PC and the foe in question, but most of the time my PCs spare the life of everyone and his grandmother.

I once played a female half-elven rogue who fled, badly injured, to some copse... hunted by a cavalry squadron on Duke Evilton's payroll. By dumb luck, she did not only manage to escape, but snipe down half of them in the process, with the rest of the squadron fleeing head over heel. While looting the bodies, she found some dying lad among the fallen, stitched up his wound and left him at some farmhouse to recover. And thats when I'm playing chaotic neutral.

(Well, some other time she disemboweled three prisoners and used their blood to write a warning to their boss in bloody letters, but I felt that abducting, raping and beating up her sister warranted some punishment.)

kaomera
2011-10-02, 08:03 PM
I don't think it has anything to do with video games, or in any case it predates then in rpgs. D&D in particular is pretty well set up to sidestep the issue. As I said, it's a cliché, but in many cases I've seen the players don't really want their characters to be or come across as psychopaths (in other cases they don't care or even enjoy the reputation) and at the same time no-one really wants to keep track of / deal with the disposition of survivors. And so it just becomes the case that every Orc fights to the death and there are no Orc women and children.

Obviously that doesn't have to extend to every possible foe the PCs might face, but often it does, just as a kind of convenience for the players and DM. "They're Evil, we have no choice but to wipe them out," and such. I think that leaving enemies alive requires that the GM and the players be on the same page about what's going on and what the potential repercussions of the PCs actions are, more-so than I think most gamers really want to have to deal with if they can avoid it.

I think that if spared enemies are going to end up coming back for revenge later, many players tend to think of that pretty much solely from the PCs perspective - that it's a bad thing and that they're being "punished" for their actions. And I don't think that the moral issues are really something that many players really want to have to deal with, or should have to really. Gaming is supposed to be fun, and forcing players into uncomfortable situations they don't want to be in isn't really fun. (And how far you can / should go with the game isn't going to be a static thing - obviously different players have different tendencies, but there are going to be sessions where some or all of the players just want to blow off steam, and others where they're more interested in getting really stuck in to the drama.)

I've just noticed that some scenarios that ought to be fun tend not to crop up in RPGs that much, and I think it's maybe because the players and GM aren't really on the same page? And also, maybe it's because of a lack of differentiation between the players and PCs and their respective wants / needs / realities. I mean, I can see (and definitely have seen) players taking the return (or escape) of an adversary as a "punishment". Really, though (and I think this should be obvious to the players OOC) if you're not "breaking the encounter budget" (or whatever local equivalent you're dealing with) it ought to be more of a reward. That kind of continuity generally betters the story and can provide some neat role-play opportunities.

erikun
2011-10-02, 08:36 PM
D&D doesn't handle the consequenses of moral choices well, or moral choices in general. Most games involve going into someone's house, beating them up, and taking all their stuff. Most of the time, said someones are running around kidnapping people or killing them. It would be rather difficult to justify patching up enemies under the first situation ("Sorry for stabbing you dead, could you please stay quiet while we pillage your belongings?") and it is very hard to justify allowing them to live and keep operating under the second. It doesn't mean you cannot do so, just that the playstyle of the game does not seem geared towards it.

There is also the fact that the general D&D party can kill hundreds or thousands of opponents in a typical campaign. How will the characters, not to mention the players, feel after massacring several dozen tribes, only to find out that a few bandages would have resolved the issues just as well? I agree with earlier comments that doing so relies on a specific mindset from both the players and the DM - namely, that the PCs have the option to not kill when they choose, and that choosing so is not generally a suicidal option.

Also, remember that D&D comes from wargames, where "kill all opponents" is the victory condition. Early D&D monsters were pretty much interested in killing or running away, not talking or acting like a NPC. It perhaps isn't surprising that D&D still has a "gotta kill 'em all" mindset, and it has nothing to do with video games. (If anything, the video game RPG mindset of slaughtering random wandering enemies is a D&D artefact.)

TheCountAlucard
2011-10-02, 08:41 PM
Could be worse - your PCs could be desecrating corpses to "make sure they're really dead." :smallsigh:

comicshorse
2011-10-02, 08:46 PM
First rule of my old LARP group: After you've killed 'em, you chop their head off and then drop kick it away from the body to make sure

Arbane
2011-10-02, 09:14 PM
You could start 'em off slow. When the PCs kill half the mooks, have some of the other half run for it, and NOT come back with reinforcements. If they ever get beat, have the enemies hold them for ransom or set them to work in the salt-mines. Have a fight in a temple where any blood shed will conjure weak but murderous fiends.

Not every fight has to be to the death. (Though I will confess D&D doesn't do any other kind as well.)

Kaun
2011-10-02, 09:31 PM
ow ow!

Give one of the players a really powerful weapon that has a curse on it. Anything slain by the bearer of the weapon will eventually return from the dead to hunt their killer down.

Let them find out about the curse after a few months of using it.

Ravens_cry
2011-10-02, 10:00 PM
You know, killing everyone makes getting information harder. Not impossible, but your spending spells and/or currency then. Also, if you are intent on spreading fear, you need to leave someone alive to tell the tale.
So even if you are a complete and utter psychopath, there is pragmatic concerns for going the kill-them-all route.

Anderlith
2011-10-02, 10:36 PM
I've let several enemies live, in a Shadowrun game I left a trussed up orc in a giftbasket outside a LoneStar Precinct. I've redeemed an evil cleric, I've stripped a guy naked & left him in the woods... I really try not to be the murder PC. Unless it's an animal, those I hunt & eat -including magical animals, & dragons.

navar100
2011-10-02, 10:38 PM
So, it's common RPG cliché that the PCs never leave any foe (or anything that might possibly be or become a foe based on whatever flavor of warped PC logic they are subscribing to this week, not that I'm bitter or anything...) alive.

So, a question: Under what circumstances would you find it a really legitamate choice (ie: one you would actually take unless there where other circumstances at play) to have your PC leave a foe that she has beaten alive?

If the DM doesn't punish players for it, then they'll do it. Punishing them is to mean what the players are actually concerned about: the survivor returns causing even more trouble than the party originally found him.

If the party never meets the survivor again they'll be happy. If they do meet the survivor and find him Truly Redeemed they'll be happy. The players will also be happy is even if the survivor is still not a nice guy, he's not their enemy anymore. Whatever the bad guy is doing, it has absolutely no relation to the party's goals. He just happens to be where ever they meet again as a coincidence. It's flavor text. It could also be he remembers the party let him live, is grateful, and gives them Honest Advice or Information the party needs for their current adventure arc. They're "even". He goes about his merry way never to meet the party ever again. Do this, a party won't be so bloodthirsty. Don't do this, have a survivor come back with greater numbers or otherwise seek revenge against them personally or their NPC loved ones, the party will kill everyone everywhere all the time because you won't let them do otherwise.

There can be exceptions. True Team Evil has to go. Evil outsiders, Mindflayers, undead, Drow, They're to be killed. A goblin might be too untrustworthy to let survive. He'll surrender easily enough and promise to leave the party alone, but he could succumb to the next bully Boss to come along. This is case by case basis. Some goblins need to be Truly Never Seen Again. However, an orc, a hobgoblin, a human mook, a kobold, they make for good survivors who won't punish the party for letting them live.

Stoic
2011-10-02, 10:51 PM
ow ow!

Give one of the players a really powerful weapon that has a curse on it. Anything slain by the bearer of the weapon will eventually return from the dead to hunt their killer down.

Let them find out about the curse after a few months of using it.

To expand on Kaun’s idea, make the weapon not only unable to harm the undead it creates, any attack with the weapon actually heals the undead instead.

Furthermore remove curse won’t free the player until all undead created by the weapon are laid to rest.
(I.e. Undead killed & their bodies buried on holy ground)

Also in case the player is in no hurry to free himself from the curse, make the entire party begin experiencing horrific nightmares every night. All players begin accruing attack roll penalties due to lack of sleep & spellcasters will be unable to recover spells.

The other members of the party will insist that the player expedite breaking the curse.

kaomera
2011-10-02, 11:44 PM
OK, not to try to "reclaim my thread" or anything, but I'm not trying to specifically ask about D&D - that was an easy target for examples (maybe even a bit of a cop-out on my part). (And, in particular, I've been running nothing but various forms of D&D for a while now and I've decided that I need to give it a rest and run some other stuff for a bit.) I'm also not really dealing with a specific issue here, it's something that I've generally noticed and I was thinking about / looking for more perspective on.

What I'm wondering, to hopefully put it more constructively this time, is how do you go about setting up a situation in the game where it's beneficial to the PCs to leave one or more enemies alive, without the players feeling like it's a bad thing. (And preferably the players would accept it as a good thing, for the game.) For example: take a situation like in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; you have three characters who would probably like to kill each other (each certainly knows that the other two are a threat to their life) but throughout the story they need each other to survive and advance towards the McGuffin. That's perhaps not the most straightforward example, but how do you spin things so it's "OK" (in the players' eyes) to not just gun each other down first thing?

I guess you can extend this to: how do you get the players not to just address any given threat to the PCs in a very immediate way? It's not like that's always an issue, but I have had players who will develop an interesting nemesis (on their own - either through role-play or via disadvantages or the like) and then just immediately set out to kill their foe right now. You could have a fairly large-scale discussion on the nature of the story you're dealing with, but that would require that A) you know what's going to happen in advance, and B) that the players actually care to have such a discussion. I've not really found that either really works out well for me.

If I do have a larger issue here, it's that I kind of feel like I've been very disappointed with the last handful of games I've run in significant part because I really didn't find much compelling about the PCs. Significant interaction with other characters (PCs or NPCs) could help that - any situation where I want to see how things develop and what finally happens between them.

That doesn't encompass the entirety of it, I think that there's a general issue that a lot of players see this a strictly a potential moral issue and would much rather it be left out of the games they play. If you leave one guy alive, that calls into question what happened to all the rest of the foes you've beaten. Or if you're kind of hand-waving the whole thing and then a former foe shows up, again it raises questions I'm not sure everyone wants asked.

Obviously a lot depends on the specific situation that you find yourself in, so I guess overall the question may be too vague.

Coidzor
2011-10-02, 11:48 PM
ow ow!

Give one of the players a really powerful weapon that has a curse on it. Anything slain by the bearer of the weapon will eventually return from the dead to hunt their killer down.

Let them find out about the curse after a few months of using it.

Warblade: FREE XP! YAY! *uses a stick to be just as effective in combat*
Barbarian: FREE XP! YAY! *uses backup weapon to be just as effective in combat*
Sorcerer: FREE XP! YAY! *uses reality warping powers to be just as effective in combat*
Cleric & Dread Necromancer: FREE MINIONS! YAY! *use Rebuke to gain them as slaves*
Wizard: Ooo, those will look just fabulous on the patio. *destroys them and then starts collecting the corpses to use them as a security measure for guarding swag*


The other members of the party will insist that the player expedite breaking the curse.

Wrong. The other players will give the DM a wedgie for being Mr. Choo-Choo. :smalltongue:

NikitaDarkstar
2011-10-02, 11:57 PM
If it's a party/group mentality the DM encounters on a regular basis I honestly blame the DM. As others have said, if survivors come back to cause trouble the PC's will kill anything and everything. And players who seem to have these tendencies no matter what kind of character they play might have had bad experiences with other DM's in the past. I'd suggest just explaining to them that that's not your DM'ing style, then be patient, old habits die hard.

And sometimes it's just the mentality of the character. I used to play one of those. She didn't trust easy (had a plan, backup plan, contingency plan A-E and then a few cards up her sleeves in case everything else failed.) and if she fought something or someone and she managed to beat it, then yes it died, the end. (And if she got forced to retreat? Well she'd hunt it down later and kill it.). She changed over time, but she was like that for most of the first part of the campaign. But she also had reasons for it. (in short, rough childhood.)

On the other hand I had another character who hated killing if he didn't have to (despite being a necromancer, the irony isn't lost on me. :p) and while a it did bite him in the rear a few times he also gained some friends and unexpected allies that way and several just went on their way. (Even if I am worried about those two young red dragons if we ever do a sequel to that campaign. XD)

So if you're having this issue, figure out if it's player or character mentality. If it's player mentality explain that it's not needed the way you run your games, if it's character mentality have the world react to it accordingly.

Mark Hall
2011-10-03, 12:23 AM
One thing I find really helps is shifting the focus from "beating up monsters" to "getting treasure" or "accomplishing goals".

In Castles and Crusades, once the party figured out that A) They got XP for beaten enemies they hadn't necessarily killed and B) they got even more XP for getting good treasure, forcing the other guy to surrender became a major tactic.

Likewise, in Shadowrun, a lot of my characters carry non-lethal weapons, and encourage others to do so, as well. Why? Because if you're not leaving a trail of corpses behind you, the cops are a lot less interested in you. Of course, we leave a trail of corpses ANYWAY, but that's because we accidentally set off dirty bombs or the adept decides to get laid* in the middle of a run, leaving the extraction team without backup.

Make it worth your player's while to not kill everything. Have it work out for them sometimes when they do.

*HATE YOU SO MUCH!!! STILL!!!

Kaun
2011-10-03, 12:49 AM
Warblade: FREE XP! YAY! *uses a stick to be just as effective in combat*
Barbarian: FREE XP! YAY! *uses backup weapon to be just as effective in combat*
Sorcerer: FREE XP! YAY! *uses reality warping powers to be just as effective in combat*

This might be an effective argument if it made sense.



Cleric & Dread Necromancer: FREE MINIONS! YAY! *use Rebuke to gain them as slaves*

Please point out where i mentioned undead?



Wizard: Ooo, those will look just fabulous on the patio. *destroys them and then starts collecting the corpses to use them as a security measure for guarding swag*

Yay for wizard beats game!


Wrong. The other players will give the DM a wedgie for being Mr. Choo-Choo. :smalltongue:

Yes, players do hate plot they can't ignore.

Coidzor
2011-10-03, 12:53 AM
Yes, players do hate plot they can't ignore.

No, they hate it when the DM is as heavy-handed and unimaginative as your suggestion.

That is to say, the suggestion was a bad one. Happens to all of us sometimes, bad ideas. No shame in that.


This might be an effective argument if it made sense.

Well, the barbarian's shtick is hitting things really hard, so unless they're immune to being hit really hard or somehow take away its abilities by tying them to the weapon (going even further into heavy-handed, cruising for the players getting fed up with you territory).

The warblade's shtick is "I'm awesome and I can use a ****ing stick and do my job."

And I have no idea what you don't understand about how spellcasting isn't intrinsically tied to the weapon one is using or that one's party member is using. :smallconfused:

Kaun
2011-10-03, 01:25 AM
No, they hate it when the DM is as heavy-handed and unimaginative as your suggestion.

That is to say, the suggestion was a bad one. Happens to all of us sometimes, bad ideas. No shame in that.

Ehh so your a DM is out to get me kinda guy, if you look at everything with "the DM hates me and wants to make things un-fun" attitude chances are you will miss out on the potential fun that can be had by overcoming the challenges put infront of you.


Well, the barbarian's shtick is hitting things really hard, so unless they're immune to being hit really hard or somehow take away its abilities by tying them to the weapon (going even further into heavy-handed, cruising for the players getting fed up with you territory).

The warblade's shtick is "I'm awesome and I can use a ****ing stick and do my job."

And I have no idea what you don't understand about how spellcasting isn't intrinsically tied to the weapon one is using or that one's party member is using. :smallconfused:


Anything slain by the bearer of the weapon will eventually return from the dead to hunt their killer down.


Side note if you dont go into fights with the intention of killing everything the weapon could be a powerfull bonus and you get the same exp for wining a fight regardless of wether your opponent is dead or not.

Whybird
2011-10-03, 01:43 AM
Just to echo what everybody else is saying: If the GM does things to discourage the party from leaving enemies alive, like having enemies whose lives are spared turn up later with reenforcements, the party won't leave enemies alive. If the GM does things to discourage the party from killing everyone in their path, like having everybody they meet freaked out by the party's bodycount, having the characters gain the nickname 'the butcher', or getting some sort of goblin jihad declared on them, then the party won't kill everything in its path.

Coidzor
2011-10-03, 01:50 AM
Ehh so your a DM is out to get me kinda guy, if you look at everything with "the DM hates me and wants to make things un-fun" attitude chances are you will miss out on the potential fun that can be had by overcoming the challenges put infront of you.

No, I'm a "I expect the DM to be able to come up with something fun and not clumsy" kind of guy. :smallwink:

Because, honestly, if you're going to spend hours of your life every week doing something, you might as well be doing it well.

This isn't "Bad Webcomic Here" the Roleplaying Game we're talking here.


Side note if you dont go into fights with the intention of killing everything the weapon could be a powerfull bonus and you get the same exp for wining a fight regardless of wether your opponent is dead or not.

You redundancy in pointing out that the bonus works when doing the nonlethal take-downs that the item is supposed to be encouraging, aside... Well, that was kind of assumed given what you said, and has no bearing on the important bit where the idea is just not that good.

Sith_Happens
2011-10-03, 02:06 AM
Seriously tho unless you players tell you that they go around making sure everything they fought is dead by slitting throats ect there is a fair chance one of their enemies was severely wounded and unconscious but not dead.

So there is nothing to stop them from meeting the PC's again maybe this time with a missing eye and a few scars (both mental and physical) to show for their last encounter with the players. Bitter, more experienced and with a massive score to settle.

This. The PC's technically aren't "killing everything in sight" so much as "dropping everything in sight down to 0 hp and not worrying about it after that." Most kinds of enemies aren't dead until -10, so presumably some portion of them do in fact stabilize after being beaten and looted. Do with that what you will.:smallamused:

Ravens_cry
2011-10-03, 02:10 AM
Do that and coup de grâce will become a very popular manoeuvre once players put two and two together.

Kaun
2011-10-03, 02:16 AM
No, I'm a "I expect the DM to be able to come up with something fun and not clumsy" kind of guy. :smallwink:

Sorry I must have missed the clumsy bit, I will do a re-read later.


Because, honestly, if you're going to spend hours of your life every week doing something, you might as well be doing it well.


Well I guess it just comes down to fun being a matter of personal taste.

{{scrubbed}}

Coidzor
2011-10-03, 02:34 AM
Sorry I must have missed the clumsy bit, I will do a re-read later.

Considering how overt and obvious it still is in comparison with just talking to one's players for how much effort it takes, I would recommend re-examining it, yes.


Anyway here is to hoping that anybody who intends to DM for you now or in the future reads this thread and on the off chance they were considering using this idea or one like it takes heed and places it on the “Things that Coidzor does not like list.”
That way your fun need never be impeded.

No need to make things personal, now.

Kaun
2011-10-03, 02:49 AM
Considering how overt and obvious it still is in comparison with just talking to one's players for how much effort it takes, I would recommend re-examining it, yes.

Talking to your players is indeed another good option, the issue I find with it is in this situation is the fact that your essentially saying to them;

“Hey guys I think your killing too many people in our game and I'm finding it to be a bit of a downer, could you knock it off?”

No matter how you put it your still dancing along the line of “rail roading” by trying to force players to do things your way rather then theirs.

My next question would be if talking to them doesn't work, where to from there?

Yora
2011-10-03, 04:03 AM
Players want XP and treasure, and the default assumption is, that you only get them when a creature is dead.

So the first step is telling the players that fleeing enemies still get them full XP.
The second is to put most of the treasure random monsters and minions have not on their body, but in a lair or barracks of some sort, where the PCs can collect it later.

And then just have a lot of enemies flee when reduced to 20 or 10% of their hit points. In many cases, it will just not seem worth to go after them.

PersonMan
2011-10-03, 05:12 AM
No matter how you put it your still dancing along the line of “rail roading” by trying to force players to do things your way rather then theirs.

My next question would be if talking to them doesn't work, where to from there?

You could use that logic to say that all of the following dance along the line of railroading:

Telling players what level they start at
Asking for a specific set of alignments, or lack of some(non-evil, etc.)
Playing a campaign that is hack'n'slash, political intrigue, or otherwise 'specialized'
Banning things that would mess up the campaign
Asking someone to stop something that's disturbing to you and/or ruining your fun

I'm not seeing how passive-agressive-y actions(you keep killing? Get punished until you stop!) are 'better' than communication(Hey, I don't like it the way you kill everything. It won't come back to bite you guys, so could you stop?).

Tyndmyr
2011-10-03, 05:36 AM
I wish my PCs would simply kill everything some times....

Stupid mind controlled hydra and making deals with a lawful evil dragon they killed to rez it. We're at the point now where many lesser threats pretty much results in "yay, free xp" as they roflstomp everything, but anything big enough to pose a threat that isn't entirely mindless/etc is going to end up on their team somehow.

I think the only surviving, unconverted opponent they've fought so far is the archer that can fire on them from half a mile out. And they've already learned that in darkness, he needs a local spotter to use his shtick.


Also, the sword what means problems eventually come back...is mostly irrelevant. If I can kill something once, I can kill it again in a couple of months. It's not like players tend to get less powerful over time. I'll mostly just be annoyed by the wasted time/hackneyed plot to explain how they invariably find me.

Kaun
2011-10-03, 05:40 AM
You could use that logic to say that all of the following dance along the line of railroading:

Telling players what level they start at
Asking for a specific set of alignments, or lack of some(non-evil, etc.)
Playing a campaign that is hack'n'slash, political intrigue, or otherwise 'specialized'
Banning things that would mess up the campaign
Asking someone to stop something that's disturbing to you and/or ruining your fun

I'm not seeing how passive-agressive-y actions(you keep killing? Get punished until you stop!) are 'better' than communication(Hey, I don't like it the way you kill everything. It won't come back to bite you guys, so could you stop?).

Ow i never said it was a better option, just an option. :smallwink:

The passive aggressiveness stuff was just a default response to the "your idea is crap because i don't like it!" attack.

Re. the;


You could use that logic to say that all of the following dance along the line of railroading:

This is true yes but your list contains items generally stated at the start of a game pre character gen to be used as a guideline for what the game will be. If you add in there "excessive killing is frowned upon" then the players know about it in advance and it would be a good way of handling it.

The point i was trying to make in the previous post is what if you drop the "to much killing" talk on your players 6 sessions into a game?

Saph
2011-10-03, 06:07 AM
To answer the OP: It's sensible to leave defeated foes alive in any situation where you're in a social environment, ie:

1) The party has a reputation
2) Not everything is out to kill everything else
3) When killing does occur, the creatures that are killed have friends/family/employers/acquaintances.

The classic example is an urban adventure. In most cities, if the party kills anyone, people are at the very least going to want a word with them. If killing is their standard means of resolving problems, they're going to be outlaws within one session.

Note that in real life and in most consistent game settings, a murder case is a much, much higher priority for law enforcement than a theft or assault. For this reason smart gamers playing in a cyberpunk or modern-day setting usually take care to avoid leaving a trail of bodies behind them.

On the other hand, if you're in a completely antisocial environment (e.g. a dungeon which is just a bunch of combat encounters linked by corridors) the only motivation for players to keep defeated opponents alive is their own sense of ethics. And if everything they meet keeps trying to kill them, that probably won't last very long.

Like most things, it's ultimately up to the GM to nudge players in one direction or another. I'm a big fan of reciprocity as a GM - the players can do whatever they want, but what goes around always comes around. So if a PC gets a reputation for being merciful, opponents will generally want them dead much less than the kill-happy psycho.

Chilingsworth
2011-10-03, 08:06 AM
Warblade: FREE XP! YAY! *uses a stick to be just as effective in combat*
Barbarian: FREE XP! YAY! *uses backup weapon to be just as effective in combat*
Sorcerer: FREE XP! YAY! *uses reality warping powers to be just as effective in combat*
Cleric & Dread Necromancer: FREE MINIONS! YAY! *use Rebuke to gain them as slaves*
Wizard: Ooo, those will look just fabulous on the patio. *destroys them and then starts collecting the corpses to use them as a security measure for guarding swag*

For some reason, I found this funny enough to nearly choke laughing. :smallbiggrin:

Badgerish
2011-10-03, 08:16 AM
consider this as a double-edged sword:

A blessed/cursed weapon with the following functions:
Whenever an intelligent creature honestly surrenders (the exact definition of 'honest surrender' needs discussion, but "doesn't plan to seek revenge" is a good start) within 50' of the weapon, it glows and the bearer of the weapon understands that the surrender is honest.
Whenever an intelligent creature who as honestly surrendered is killed within 50' of the weapon, the spirit of the victim will haunt their killer (occasionally manifesting to attack) until the spirit is put to rest via a suitable sacrifice that benefits the victim's family/friends/interests.
(no XP for defeating the spirit when it manifests, but XP for putting the spirit to rest)

Discouraging all killing is a bad precedent in D&D, as there are a lot of always evil things and cultists to evil gods, but the weapon discourages killing people who actually surrender.

It's also a boon for the PCs as they can tell if the surrendering party will actually give up/leave or if they back-stab the PCs/fetch reinforcements.
(and as a smaller boon, if the PCs surrender and are killed, they get a little revenge :) )

-------------------

Magic items aside, the reason most PC never leave survivors is that they think it will bite them in the ass and often they are right.

Let the Grummish-cultist live? He/she/it will keep serving Grummish and that's a bad thing for everyone.

Let the bandits live? Often they turned to banditry as there where no other choices. So, if you can make another option, find them real, gainful work you can make an ally out of them.


Having defeated enemies offer ransom is also a way to get money-minded PCs on-side.

Tyndmyr
2011-10-03, 09:02 AM
consider this as a double-edged sword:

A blessed/cursed weapon with the following functions:
Whenever an intelligent creature honestly surrenders (the exact definition of 'honest surrender' needs discussion, but "doesn't plan to seek revenge" is a good start) within 50' of the weapon, it glows and the bearer of the weapon understands that the surrender is honest.
Whenever an intelligent creature who as honestly surrendered is killed within 50' of the weapon, the spirit of the victim will haunt their killer (occasionally manifesting to attack) until the spirit is put to rest via a suitable sacrifice that benefits the victim's family/friends/interests.
(no XP for defeating the spirit when it manifests, but XP for putting the spirit to rest)

To captive #1: We'll let you live if you kill your fellow prisoners.
*puts sword in captive #1's hands*

Choco
2011-10-03, 09:25 AM
In general, unless I am playing a character that is a psycho serial killer, I don't specifically go out of my way to make sure my enemies are really dead. I don't exactly try to hold back and spare them either, but once they drop I don't care whether they are dead or alive and move on. The only exceptions to this are enemies that for various reasons I have/want to kill, or if that specific enemy has played dead before in order to get a surprise attack (if they did it just to escape, I don't particularly care).

Yes, leaving enemies alive does sometimes come back to bite you in the ass, but no more then killing them does in a lot of settings. That and it also depends on the DM, some DM's punish you for leaving enemies alive, others for killing everything in sight. Some even make sure it is a no-win situation :smallamused:.


Also, the sword what means problems eventually come back...is mostly irrelevant. If I can kill something once, I can kill it again in a couple of months. It's not like players tend to get less powerful over time. I'll mostly just be annoyed by the wasted time/hackneyed plot to explain how they invariably find me.

Aint that the truth. In this one game I played in, it was actually a running joke that this guy who had a personal vendetta against my character kept coming back and getting curb-stomped by me. We were making bets (IC and OOC) as to how he would manage to come back the next time (first his allies resurrected him, then he made a deal with some demon, then it was a lich, etc.). I thought the DM just kept doing this to make me lower my guard until I underestimated the guy and paid the price, but it never happened, he just (correctly) thought it would be funny.

NichG
2011-10-03, 03:03 PM
This depends a lot on player personalities honestly, and what they focus on in their characters. I've had people do the dominate thing (getting a giant pet lava snake in the process), people who would rip the soul out of a child for laughing at them (but would otherwise generally try to help people - they just really had an easy button to push about being taken seriously), etc. I also have a player whose character's concept is that she tries to redeem pretty much anything sentient, and another player who is completely okay with utterly slaughtering anything he internally classifies as 'monster', but is against killing anything else (though he'll fight them if necessary). However, his definition of 'monster' can include people beyond a certain level of villainy.

I think some of it is on the DM. When you're running a battle, you often don't make it clear that person X is unconscious but person Y is dead, because it doesn't matter and there's a lot of other stuff vying for attention. Additionally, if you as a DM run a fight where the enemy never surrenders, never flees, always fights to the death, etc, then of course you'll end up with a lot more bodies.

There is a consideration though. In D&D, a creature that flees at 25% of its max hitpoints basically can be considered to only have 75% of its listed hitpoints. But things that are too much more powerful might one-shot PCs, moving towards rocket tag. So one suggestion is that for all enemies that are capable of surrender or fleeing, give them max hitpoints but keep the 'normal' hitpoint number as the point where they will run or surrender. The end result is mechanically basically the same barring abilities that trigger on death (so I guess it hurts Cleave users...), but you end up with things with a self-preservation instinct.

Andreaz
2011-10-03, 03:25 PM
So, it's common RPG cliché that the PCs never leave any foe (or anything that might possibly be or become a foe based on whatever flavor of warped PC logic they are subscribing to this week, not that I'm bitter or anything...) alive.

So, a question: Under what circumstances would you find it a really legitamate choice (ie: one you would actually take unless there where other circumstances at play) to have your PC leave a foe that she has beaten alive?

My characters tend not to see the point in killing beaten foes. Not even the evil ones, in systems that use such objective definitions.
Those who fear persecution will disguise themselves, erase memories, turn enemies into allies and the like.
Generally my characters only kill enemies they actually hate, or those who just won't stop without dieing. Most humanoids and animals don't fight to death.

Starbuck_II
2011-10-03, 03:38 PM
So, it's common RPG cliché that the PCs never leave any foe (or anything that might possibly be or become a foe based on whatever flavor of warped PC logic they are subscribing to this week, not that I'm bitter or anything...) alive.

So, a question: Under what circumstances would you find it a really legitamate choice (ie: one you would actually take unless there where other circumstances at play) to have your PC leave a foe that she has beaten alive?

I do that when I need information. And don't care that they know about us. Which is rare unless it is Red Hand of Doom (who cares if they know you captured them) or other monster.

Because dead men rarely tell tales.

Exactly, if you kill a group of men, what chance do they have to tell your description? None unless speak with dead (if the guy got a good look), thought so. :smallbiggrin:

If you do what 2E did: give XP for treasure and mention that fleeing enemies give full XP (players don't always know this) then you might see more living enemies.
Well, at least till enemies give up info where treasure is... then they might kill them.

Whybird
2011-10-04, 03:13 PM
There's also the question of making sure you and your players are on the same page as to the kind of game you're running. If they think they're playing a game about mowing down waves of enemies and you think you're running a game about difficult moral choices (and I have played and enjoyed both kinds of game), then of course you are going to have friction between the GM and players, and the solution to this friction is not to punish them IC for playing the kind of game they want to play.

If you're in this situation, then it's not railroading to sit down and say "Guys, I want to talk to you about the direction our campaign's going". It's only railroading if all your players say "We want a hackfest" and you keep on running a game where life has value.

Tyrmatt
2011-10-04, 03:41 PM
As a player, I would fully support the idea of letting some mooks live if there's some benefit to it. As a DM I'd fluff it as them spreading tales of your strength etc.

Personally I've had players perform CPR and expend precious healing magic on an enemy so they could ask him questions (I'd be purposely denying them information while releasing stronger and stronger enemies at them) later on although the torture they inflicted on him was pretty brutal. On the other hand he was a hardened demon-cultist who basically shrugged off the torture as "Nothing compared to what will be done to me if I talk." This was after they grated his face with the moving wheels of a diesel locomotive. One of the players was pretty much playing a genuine psychopath and also was concerned he was going to turn into a zombie at any moment, having been bitten at least 6 times by this point. The rest supported the need for information by any means but didn't participate in the actual act.

The problem is, most of my foes are mindless undead (or worse, maliciously intelligent undead) and my players have little reason to let them live. They tended to be a bit more cautious in a setting where the Apocalypse was less impending though.

GungHo
2011-10-04, 03:48 PM
So, a question: Under what circumstances would you find it a really legitamate choice (ie: one you would actually take unless there where other circumstances at play) to have your PC leave a foe that she has beaten alive?
Most characters I play would leave the foe alive unless the foe was going to be an obvious threat to others within the near future. Even then, they'd try to find a way to make the threat impotent in a way that didn't require death (i.e. no toys for you). Sometimes this works out. Sometimes it doesn't.

However, some characters I play might just kill the enemy so as not to worry about it ever again. Since a lot of games have ressurection or other supernatural abilities, that doesn't always work out and it can come back to haunt you (literally) and those who come back may remember that lack of mercy. Or their kids do. And they may hate you for it. Or thank you because they realize what a jerk the guy you killed really was.


If the DM doesn't punish players for it, then they'll do it. Punishing them is to mean what the players are actually concerned about: the survivor returns causing even more trouble than the party originally found him.
It's really a DM challenge. Some DMs will "punish" you either way. Some DMs will drop the thread either way. Not every action has to have an obvious reaction... and sometimes it's fun to let that reaction/punishment play out over the long run. Maybe that guy you killed "just in case" has friends. Important friends. Or maybe he was a dirtbag and you let him go and he ended up killing a contact of yours or raiding a town a few sessions later (or even a campaign later if you play with a persistent world). I run a generational game, so that kind of thing may start/disrupt multi-generational feuds and change the actual power structures. Or it may not do anything if I just let it go.


I guess you can extend this to: how do you get the players not to just address any given threat to the PCs in a very immediate way?
I think I went through this above, but, TL;DR... non-immediate consequences and a developed context.

If it's a hack & slash dungeon crawl where the only motivation anyone has is to kill what's in front of them to take their stuff, and they know that's all the game will ever be, people are going to approach it that way. If your monsters are just an array of numbers you toss in front of them and all that's produced from an encounter is some number changes on 4 or 5 tracking sheets, the PCs will progress through the dungeon with the same care and concern you put into the dungeon (none).

However, if it's put into context and the PCs' reason for being there is obvious (clear a mine to save the local economy, clear a dungeon to save a princess, clear a tower to stop a regional terrorist) and you put effort into developing that context and the threat they're against, your players will put more effort into developing their characters beyond a set of numbers. Now, some folks will still run in and go crazy for awhile... it may take folks time to adjust to the new way of doing things, and some may never come around. But, some people will notice and will "get serious" and you will get more fulfillment.

kaomera
2011-10-05, 07:37 AM
Well, I guess this was a much more widespread idea than I had thought. I have seen instances where players I've not gamed with previously have brought up the issue, as well as players who really hadn't played trpgs before, and I was assuming that it was something that people would have hard of, whether from talking to other players or the internet or whatever.

I don't really see a problem if a player actually wants to play an axecrazy or something (as long as it isn't ruining anyone else's fun), and while I'm not really a big fan of players who just don't care, that's not the issue either. What bothers me is when you have players who don't want to play their characters as the type who would be willing to kill someone in cold blood, and yet the whole "wait, don't we have to 'do something' about the prisoners?" thing comes up.

I'm not sure, but it seems like it's less of an adversarial thing (I think that would be easier to directly address) than that the idea of having someone come back for revenge (or whatever, there's other variations on the theme I think) is not only a punishment but somehow a valid one. And the thing is I'm not sure exactly why it would be a punishment anyway. I mean, normally, you've got plot stuff going on and the players expect challenges and such, so why do these cases seem to be such a trigger? I've had players get really upset when an enemy gets away, and yet facing him again as a recurring threat seems to me to be if anything more interesting than just dealing with someone new.

Choco
2011-10-05, 09:34 AM
And the thing is I'm not sure exactly why it would be a punishment anyway. I mean, normally, you've got plot stuff going on and the players expect challenges and such, so why do these cases seem to be such a trigger? I've had players get really upset when an enemy gets away, and yet facing him again as a recurring threat seems to me to be if anything more interesting than just dealing with someone new.

This confuses me too. They know from the metagame perspective that you will throw challenges at them either way. Some of their old enemies that got away might come back, but if they didn't you would just create a new enemy to take their place anyway.

One way I found that works well to alleviate that is REWARDING the players for sparing enemies in addition to having it come back to bite them. The way I do it as DM normally, the majority of non-major enemies they spare don't even make another appearance, a few of them will become recurring villains, and a roughly equal amount will "see the light" and come to help the PC's in some way (major enemies always come back in some form). Heel-face turns are common in all forms of storytelling, and a lot of times they happen after the villain is defeated by the hero and spared (sometimes this has to happen multiple times).

Another thing that helps is not making all the enemies you throw at the players be the kind that deserve a fate worse then death (from the PC's/player's perspective). I have found that players are more willing to spare a well-meaning but misguided villain (provided s/he didn't do anything too terribly bad) then generic "I'm evil just for the sake of being evil!" types.

Saph
2011-10-05, 10:48 AM
And the thing is I'm not sure exactly why it would be a punishment anyway. I mean, normally, you've got plot stuff going on and the players expect challenges and such, so why do these cases seem to be such a trigger? I've had players get really upset when an enemy gets away, and yet facing him again as a recurring threat seems to me to be if anything more interesting than just dealing with someone new.

A lot of players are genre-savvy enough to think "this guy is a recurring villain, if we don't kill him he'll come back" but not quite genre-savvy enough to complete the train of thought with ". . . but if we do kill him we'll just end up fighting someone different." :)

Of course, sometimes characters have very good IC reasons to want a recurring villain dead, but I've noticed players will often get a case of tunnel vision when it comes to killing a target. I've even seen battles lost because PCs abandoned their primary objective to chase after an enemy.