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View Full Version : How should a DM react to players making an encounter harder on themselves?



Talakeal
2013-08-12, 10:48 PM
The last few years of DMing I have had a recurring problem. I set up a bunch of more or less "balanced" encounters, and then the players try and outthink the encounter, and then their plan back fires.

Usually this involves the players trying to "skip" a fight with stealth or teleportation, and then assuming the enemies they skipped would cease to exist. Another example would be the players forcing an enemy to retreat deeper into the dungeon, usually using terrain manipulating magic to create a situation where the enemy couldn't attack back, and then being surprised when the retreating enemy either sounded an alarm or got help, thus turning several balanced encounters into a single overwhelmingly large encounter.

The result is often a TPK and or a retreat, which ends with bad feelings all around and more than one player temper tantrum.

What should I do as a DM? Should I simply have the monsters wink out of existence once they are off the map?

Herabec
2013-08-12, 10:52 PM
Eh, the way I handle it isn't entirely realistic, but it prevents the TPK.

In the case of the retreating enemy, I simply have them retreat a room further into the dungeon to join the force there and warn them of the party. Therefor, by the time the party gets there, the enemies have had a chance to buff, know their general tactics and have an extra (probably healed) ally.

Therefor, the party's recklessness has cost them a more difficult encounter, but not an overwhelming one. Realistically, he should've sounded an alarm.. But I consider it an acceptable break from reality to ensure the game doesn't just end.

LawfulNifty
2013-08-12, 11:03 PM
I try to not be a jerk when I DM, but I think there's such a thing as being TOO nice when DMing. It's not your job to hold the players' hands--that way lies madness (also railroading). Player choices need to have meaningful consequences, good or bad. If your players' choices lead to a TPK, then they lead to a TPK.

That being said, it sounds like your players have a preference for solving encounters without straight-up combat. I would try, when it makes sense in-story, to make sure there is a way to defeat an encounter without combat. A fortress the players are infiltrating (for example) might have defense mechanisms that can be turned against the enemies. Say the players teleport past the first group of guards. Maybe there's a portcullis they can close and lock behind them, so that if the second group of guards sees them and raises the alarm, the first group won't be able to come in and help them.

It's also okay to have enemies make tactically unsound decisions. After all, players do that all the time. "Hear that? Sounds like someone got through the gate! We'd better split up and find the intruders." I just wouldn't do stuff like that all the time. If the players figure out you're pulling punches then every victory after that feels hollow. Which is why, again, sometimes you just have to let them TPK themselves.

Kyberwulf
2013-08-12, 11:21 PM
I think your not the problem. Your players are. If they aren't willing to logically assume there actions might have consequences. Then it's their fault. It would be a different story if this happened once. But, over years of you dming and this always seems to happen? Sounds like they are the ones that need to get some new tactics.
Even if you plan things differently, they will still try find ways to skip encounters or rush ahead.
The problem isn't you. It's player entitlement.

Warlawk
2013-08-12, 11:52 PM
I think your not the problem. Your players are. If they aren't willing to logically assume there actions might have consequences. Then it's their fault. It would be a different story if this happened once. But, over years of you dming and this always seems to happen? Sounds like they are the ones that need to get some new tactics.
Even if you plan things differently, they will still try find ways to skip encounters or rush ahead.
The problem isn't you. It's player entitlement.

I would actually tend to agree with this. I can tell you right now, if the things in the OP didn't happen, our group would be awful suspicious and wonder what was going on. That kind of thing is expected of any intelligent enemy or pack predator.

tasw
2013-08-13, 12:22 AM
The last few years of DMing I have had a recurring problem. I set up a bunch of more or less "balanced" encounters, and then the players try and outthink the encounter, and then their plan back fires.

Usually this involves the players trying to "skip" a fight with stealth or teleportation, and then assuming the enemies they skipped would cease to exist. Another example would be the players forcing an enemy to retreat deeper into the dungeon, usually using terrain manipulating magic to create a situation where the enemy couldn't attack back, and then being surprised when the retreating enemy either sounded an alarm or got help, thus turning several balanced encounters into a single overwhelmingly large encounter.

The result is often a TPK and or a retreat, which ends with bad feelings all around and more than one player temper tantrum.

What should I do as a DM? Should I simply have the monsters wink out of existence once they are off the map?

Direct them to several online IQ tests. The one with the aggregate highest score gets to be party leader. After that you wont have to deal with temper tantrums based on failing to take simple logic into account unless your group is all exceptionally stupid.

Make those who score below average play fighters. They probably min maxed their characters to have the intelligence of a poodle, might as well make life match fiction.

Kol Korran
2013-08-13, 12:32 AM
I partly agree with the above posters- If the enemies are intelligent, you need to play them so. Though I fail to understand the problem with sneaking or teleporting past an enemy towards your goal.

My approach is to not plan encounters, but situations, and the players came to expect that. They often NEED to come up with clever plans and such in order to try and fight not quite straightforward situations. However I do try to at least partially award my players if they come up with something cool, even if it is not the smartest thing in the world. This can come with the bad consequences of their actions, but may bring out a feeling of small success at least, and the effort not totally wasted.

One more important note though- If the characters actions have obvious ramifications to the characters in the world (though perhaps not to the gaming players), I point it out to them. "Um, yeah, it can run away, but can also probably alert the 20 others in the compound, who will probably get their defenses up, you know?" and so on. Just the obvious stuff, the less obvious I... let them find out on themselves. :smallbiggrin:

Talakeal
2013-08-13, 01:00 AM
Though I fail to understand the problem with sneaking or teleporting past an enemy towards your goal.


Normally it involves trapping themselves inside an enemy stronghold without any room to perform hit and run tactics and cutting off their own retreat.

Also, one can justify the evil overlord "letting his minions handle it", out of a sense of self preservation, simple laziness, etc. It is much harder to justify a BBEG with a castle full of guards not calling for help once the enemy party teleports into his personal treasury / bedroom intent on killing him.

Vitruviansquid
2013-08-13, 02:06 AM
As a GM, I generally try not to let the players do anything stupid without telling them they're about to do something stupid, and I try not to allow the players' plans to work out counter to their expectations if they succeed. In other words, if they come up with a plan, I try not to go, "ah-ha! Look at how dumb you are! Of course that **** wouldn't work, you moron! Now suffer the consequences HAHAHAHAHA!" Of course, this doesn't always mean the players' plans will go off without a hitch, just that I don't try to twist their plans like a monkey paw.

Let me give an example.

If I ran a dungeon for my players, and they try to do something... sub-optimal, like sneak past a group of enemies guarding the door, I would tell them straight up, "sure, you could sneak past them... but you'd better make sure you're stealthy in the rest of the dungeon or you could do something to cause them to come back and check on things. Are you sure you want to try sneaking?"

Or, alternately, if I realized how little sense the players' plan made after they've done it, it's always possible to add a twist in the players' favor later. For instance, if the players start fighting a group of enemies inside the dungeon, and it'd just break my vision of the game too much to have the guards outside not come in and check on things, I could have them send one guy to make sure everything's alright at first, so the party can kill him before he reports back. Or, perhaps, the players have an opportunity to ambush the enemies inside the dungeon before the guards come in because they expect the guards to raise the alarm if adventurers show up. There are a lot of ways to show the players that they didn't think things through without just beating them over the head with your gavel.

note: I do make an exception about not countering player expectations for when I have a pre-planned deception, like if an NPC is a double agent.

Totally Guy
2013-08-13, 02:19 AM
Tell them the possible consequences and ask.

Trinoya
2013-08-13, 02:51 AM
Always tell your players this.

"I will not put you into an unbeatable situation. I will not, however, stop you from placing yourselves into one."

I've had players charge a fixed fortifications (entire forts) by themselves after the fort was placed on high alert and looking for people to attack and wonder why they got shot by sixteen arrows, four crossbow bolts, and two catapults...

I've had players wonder why, when they blow up the big magically explody thing that it exploded and I had the audacity to make them take damage.

I've had players wonder why when they make a vague response to a near wish like entity such as, "save X by any means" that the means don't always add up with the way they would do it (completely ignoring the fact they have no comprehension of how the entity in question could have done it).

I've had players randomally attack a guard and wonder why the other guards attacked them.

And I've had players openly and willingly attack other members of the party in a manner that could cause death... only to be shocked when I let the rest of the party kill them.

In short... players can be extremely short sighted and have tunnel vision. You should always try to plan around that idea, and the idea that they may not always see the solution you've set fourth... and you should certainly let them have try their ideas...

You should not, however, cuddle them through those ideas. Let them fail or succeed on their merits, and on the dice. If it will greatly disrupt your story a simple, "are you sure" will always suffice as the only warning.

And sometimes, just sometimes, they will shock you with how much better a solution they created then the one you thought.

Other times they will drop a bomb on a city tower without really thinking through the fact that sad action might make the city mad at them...

Anteros
2013-08-13, 03:28 AM
I think your not the problem. Your players are. If they aren't willing to logically assume there actions might have consequences. Then it's their fault. It would be a different story if this happened once. But, over years of you dming and this always seems to happen? Sounds like they are the ones that need to get some new tactics.
Even if you plan things differently, they will still try find ways to skip encounters or rush ahead.
The problem isn't you. It's player entitlement.

I disagree entirely. The job of the DM is not to maintain "realism" at all costs. The job of the DM is to ensure that everyone at the table is having fun. If your players enjoy bypassing challenges then let them do so. Some people enjoy difficult and realistic challenges, but equally some don't. It's your job as a DM to balance these things. What's the point in maintaining realism if it comes at the expense of everyone's enjoyment?

I'm not saying you shouldn't ever punish recklessness or abject stupidity...but if you have a group that you know enjoys sneaking past encounters...start building ways for them to do so into the encounter.

Sith_Happens
2013-08-13, 03:39 AM
I disagree entirely.

Though I wouldn't go that far, I might have been inclined to suggest a "meet them halfway" solution, were it not for who posted this thread. Talakeal's (former) players are, in fact, entitled manchildren. Every last one of them.

Vitruviansquid
2013-08-13, 03:47 AM
"I will not put you into an unbeatable situation. I will not, however, stop you from placing yourselves into one."

My experience has been that different players will consider the same thing to be "suicidally reckless," "heroic and awesome," and "a tactically sound plan, all things considered." But what's actually tactically sound, or what's "real" isn't always going to win at the table, what's always going to win at the table is what the DM approves of.

Ultimate_Coffee
2013-08-13, 03:49 AM
I disagree entirely. The job of the DM is not to maintain "realism" at all costs. The job of the DM is to ensure that everyone at the table is having fun. If your players enjoy bypassing challenges then let them do so. Some people enjoy difficult and realistic challenges, but equally some don't. It's your job as a DM to balance these things. What's the point in maintaining realism if it comes at the expense of everyone's enjoyment?

I'm not saying you shouldn't ever punish recklessness or abject stupidity...but if you have a group that you know enjoys sneaking past encounters...start building ways for them to do so into the encounter.

I have to agree with Anteros here. As a DM, you should be having fun, but I feel that the DMs primary responsiblity is to ensure that the players are having fun. Based on the OPs example, it doesn't sould like anybody is having fun in these situations.
To me, it sounds like your players are somewhat opposed to the traditional min/max uber power kill everything player style. Even if they are bad at it, they seem like they prefer to try and use stategy rather than brute force. That is good! Reward your players for coming up with clever solutions to problems, and maybe give them more puzzles instead of fortified fortresses.
If this DMing style doesn't work for you, them maybe you and your players aren't compatible. That is not a failing on anybodies part... just something that can happen. Perhaps someone else should try DMing in your group...

BWR
2013-08-13, 03:50 AM
Is this this same group of people who disintegrated earlier or a new group?

Cleving thinking is a good thing. If they manage to bypass a big unnecessary encounter, good for them. They should have some sort of reward for tht. But it sounds like they go to a lot of trouble to bypass something but ignore that the fact that these encounters are not blind, deaf, dumb and dumb. If they really expect to walk past a door and not have its occupants come after them when there is a new battle down the hall, there is something wrong.

You might, as others have suggested, try pointing out that just because the PCs circumvent some people it doesn't mean that they cease to exist or be a threat.

jedipotter
2013-08-13, 07:27 AM
What should I do as a DM? Should I simply have the monsters wink out of existence once they are off the map?

You could just change things. Make foes good spotters or make it so they can't teleport. Not every foe, but you can make at least half of the encounters hard or impossible to by pass. You can even toss in things like locked doors and alarm spells.

Greed works too...give the foes shinny loot. Few players will pass that up.


But if the players just do something bad...let them. Just have the world react normally. Most people can learn from mistakes, so it should only happen like a dozen times.

valadil
2013-08-13, 08:19 AM
I'm torn. I really want to say that the players took a risk that didn't pay off and should deal with the consequences.

On the other hand I really like what the players are trying to do. They're thinking outside the box and attacking the problem from all angles instead of the one you expected. That's commendable. They're just not doing it very well.

Anyway, my advice is to give them scenarios where this kind of plan can work. Look at the big picture when planning. Each of the castle's five encounters is balanced, but do they stay balanced if X, Y, and Z take place?

If they don't, is there anything you can do to rejigger it so that you get a harder fight instead of just a TPK? If not, is there anything you can do to inform the players of this situation?

I actually think that second question is the more important of the two. Give the players a nudge to do some scouting. If they find out that there are three encampments of orcs within 100 yard of each other, they should realize that the orcs can get help. But until they know the layout of those encampments, it may not occur to them that this could happen.

I guess what I'm saying is that there's not much you can do once the PCs' plan goes all pear shaped. But since that's happening over and over maybe you can do something to improve their plans. My vote is more information up front so their plans won't be so fragile.

jedipotter
2013-08-13, 08:56 AM
is there anything you can do to inform the players of this situation?

I'm not a fan of the DM telling the players such things directly. Like saying ''Um, guys if you attack the gnome, then the group of guards that are ten feet away just outside the door will hear and react" or "Um, guys it might be dangerous to touch the bone chest that is pulsing with necromantic energy."

Now I'm all for making the description a bit more noticeable, ''As you walk over to the bone the necromantic energy from it sickens you and makes you feel quite weak.''

LawfulNifty
2013-08-13, 09:03 AM
Another thought: assuming the players are facing human(oid)s, their enemies have a self-preservation instinct that, at some point, could overpower their loyalty to the BBEG. I think it would actually make sense for some of the enemies they'd skipped to "disappear." Think about it--your PCs have managed to break into the supposedly-impenetrable fortress of the BBEG. Some of the random minions are going to figure that if they stick around they're just going to get killed, and decide that it's better to get out of there before the ceiling starts caving in.

Enemies should absolutely call for reinforcements if the battle isn't going their way, but maintaining realism doesn't mean you have to have every single guard that you had put in the place show up. In fact, if you have a villain you're willing to have look stupid, it would be a funny change of pace for the players if, just once, the BBEG calls for reinforcements and it turns out all the guards have up and left.

Also, a question: are the players having fun playing this way? Because it occurs to me that if they keep making tactically unsound decisions over and over, maybe it's because that makes the game more fun for them. I've seen players deliberately try to get themselves killed so they could make new characters--maybe your players just really like rolling up new PCs every session or so.

Grod_The_Giant
2013-08-13, 09:12 AM
I'm going to chime in with those suggesting that you design your adventures with more and better opportunities for the kind of strategies your players seem to enjoy. And you don't always have to play your enemies smart-- to take an earlier example, sending one guard to check on a disturbance inside is a perfectly reasonable action. As Anteros said, the goal of the game is fun, not realism.


I'm not a fan of the DM telling the players such things directly. Like saying ''Um, guys if you attack the gnome, then the group of guards that are ten feet away just outside the door will hear and react" or "Um, guys it might be dangerous to touch the bone chest that is pulsing with necromantic energy."

Now I'm all for making the description a bit more noticeable, ''As you walk over to the bone the necromantic energy from it sickens you and makes you feel quite weak.''
I would say that it's OK for DMs to blatantly remind players of things they ought to know. There's a lot that goes on in a game, and it can be hard to keep it all straight-- to say nothing of the fact that two people can interpret descriptions in very different ways. "You know there are a bunch of guards just on the other side of the door, right?" is kind of metagaming, but it's something that the character ought to remember because he saw them just ten minutes ago. Meanwhile the players have been going for an hour since then, including a major fight, and "a half-dozen bypassed guards" are easy to forget about.

valadil
2013-08-13, 09:23 AM
I'm not a fan of the DM telling the players such things directly. Like saying ''Um, guys if you attack the gnome, then the group of guards that are ten feet away just outside the door will hear and react" or "Um, guys it might be dangerous to touch the bone chest that is pulsing with necromantic energy."


Nah, I didn't mean something so heavy handed. I'm not a fan of that either. Just give the players the opportunity to scout things in advance. If the players are taking back a castle overrun with orcs, maybe a servant escaped and the PCs can get the layout from him. Or maybe Honest Nostradamus's Shop of Discount Scrying is having a 50% off sale, so the players can figure out what they're getting into. Or they can take the social route and bribe a guard somewhere to give them the schedule of guard routes.

There are a million ways to get these things in advance. That's the sort of information I was refering to.

Jay R
2013-08-13, 09:36 AM
I had one group fighting giant scorpions in a hallway. One PC, who couldn't reach the enemy, started trying to open another door. If he had succeeded in unlocking it, they'd have been trapped between the scorpions and a blue dragon - at 2nd level. I invented a lock on the door, and fortunately, other players explained to him what the problem was.

When possible I try to give them a little understanding of the situation in time to allow them to re-think.

PC: We attack the guard.
DM: It crosses you mind that you are in sight of three other guards, who could call for help from dozens more. Do you still want to do this?

PC: We sneak away from the bounty hunters.
DM: It occurs to you that you are leaving tracks, which competent bounty hunters can follow. Is this what you want to do?

PC: We run away from the ogres through the door and close it.
DM: You're in a 30 x 30 room with three chests.
PC: We carefully examine the chests.
DM: You hear the door opening, and ogre war cries.

Angel Bob
2013-08-13, 10:20 AM
That being said, it sounds like your players have a preference for solving encounters without straight-up combat. I would try, when it makes sense in-story, to make sure there is a way to defeat an encounter without combat. A fortress the players are infiltrating (for example) might have defense mechanisms that can be turned against the enemies. Say the players teleport past the first group of guards. Maybe there's a portcullis they can close and lock behind them, so that if the second group of guards sees them and raises the alarm, the first group won't be able to come in and help them.

It's also okay to have enemies make tactically unsound decisions. After all, players do that all the time. "Hear that? Sounds like someone got through the gate! We'd better split up and find the intruders." I just wouldn't do stuff like that all the time. If the players figure out you're pulling punches then every victory after that feels hollow. Which is why, again, sometimes you just have to let them TPK themselves.

This. So much this. That's my style of DMing as well, and it works wonders.

Talakeal
2013-08-13, 01:50 PM
Is this same group of people who disintegrated earlier or a new group?


Same group. I am more or less done with these people, but I was telling a gaming story to my brother the other day and he told me I was being a "killer DM" by not having monsters disappear once they were off the map as the game is about PCs winning, not PCs being challenged or simulating reality.



Also, a question: are the players having fun playing this way? Because it occurs to me that if they keep making tactically unsound decisions over and over, maybe it's because that makes the game more fun for them. I've seen players deliberately try to get themselves killed so they could make new characters--maybe your players just really like rolling up new PCs every session or so.

No. Absolutely not. These players throw very nasty real life temper tantrums when they lose, sometimes going so far as to smash objects or hit people, and usually involving threats, insults, screaming, crying, and weeklong pouting sessions.



So the specific story I was telling me brother is that I was running a flooded dungeon with waist deep water. The enemies were similar to Aboleths, very intelligent fish creatures. The PCs decided that rather than wade in they would create a path of down the center of the cavern using control water.

If the enemies tried approaching the PCs with their pathetic land speed the PCs could just walk backwards shooting them, and so they stayed in the water and followed the PCs*. The PCs just kept going deeper and deeper into the dungeon with more and aboleths following them.

Finally in the fifth room they ran into one who was a mage who dispelled the control water effect. Suddenly the PCs are in the water fighting an aboleth mage and four schools of normal aboleths all at once. The result was a near TPK and retreat, and a lot of very angry players.


*The PCs were using a homebrew metamagic feat that allows an area spell to move with the caster.

kyoryu
2013-08-13, 02:11 PM
So, in general, I'd say two things, assuming a healthy gaming group:

1) Make sure that the opponents are doing logical things *for them*, with the information that *they have*. They don't have perfect knowledge. They don't know what the PCs are going to do next. They don't know if more "bad guys" are coming. They have limited information and limited time. Ask yourself what they actually know, and what decisions they'd make based on that. They also might well be more concerned with their own lives than defeating the PCs, so at points a full retreat may be in order. It takes a lot of fanaticism to lay your life down for a lost cause.

2) When something like you've described *does* happen, explain what happened to the group after the fact, so that they understand how the consequences were tied to their actions and can have an understanding of how you run things so that they can factor that into their decisions later.


Same group. I am more or less done with these people, but I was telling a gaming story to my brother the other day and he told me I was being a "killer DM" by not having monsters disappear once they were off the map as the game is about PCs winning, not PCs being challenged or simulating reality.

"Assuming a healthy group".


No. Absolutely not. These players throw very nasty real life temper tantrums when they lose, sometimes going so far as to smash objects or hit people, and usually involving threats, insults, screaming, crying, and weeklong pouting sessions.

"Assuming a healthy group". Seriously, when you start dealing with *actual violence* at your table, you need to set some serious boundaries of what behavior will be tolerated. The crying and screaming and pouting is bad enough, but threatening is unacceptable, and *actual violence* doubly so.


If the enemies tried approaching the PCs with their pathetic land speed the PCs could just walk backwards shooting them, and so they stayed in the water and followed the PCs*. The PCs just kept going deeper and deeper into the dungeon with more and aboleths following them.

So long as they were made aware of this fact.


Finally in the fifth room they ran into one who was a mage who dispelled the control water effect. Suddenly the PCs are in the water fighting an aboleth mage and four schools of normal aboleths all at once. The result was a near TPK and retreat, and a lot of very angry players.

Why? Do they think they should be immune to Dispel Magic? It doesn't sound like they even lost any characters, they just *didn't win*.

I don't think "winning every encounter" is a game style that I'm interested in. And I'm a bit skeptical of players that have that expectation and whether I want to game with them.

Jay R
2013-08-13, 04:57 PM
... he told me I was being a "killer DM" by not having monsters disappear once they were off the map as the game is about PCs winning, not PCs being challenged or simulating reality.

Some people believe this. Both kinds of games exist, but They can't mix. I should not be the DM for the kind of players your brother is describing.

Maybe you shouldn't, either.

Vitruviansquid
2013-08-13, 05:21 PM
Finally in the fifth room they ran into one who was a mage who dispelled the control water effect. Suddenly the PCs are in the water fighting an aboleth mage and four schools of normal aboleths all at once. The result was a near TPK and retreat, and a lot of very angry players.

It might make perfect sense to you to have this happen, but here's what I would've been thinking when you have this happen, if I was playing at your table. Disclaimer: I don't claim to be a mature or even good person, please don't take what I would likely think as a model for what *you* should think in this situation.

"How is this even legit?! You never ever see the door guards come in after you sneak past them in the movies I watch. The hero alw

"I bet the DM just thought of this water controlling mage to put in the last room to 'beat us' at this game because he probably thought we were bypassing the rest of the dungeon too easily."

"This is ridiculous, of course the DM's going to win if he wants to compete with the players. The DM can just put infinite rooms with infinitely harder bad guys in the dungeon."

"Can't we feel smart about doing anything in this game without the DM trying to shut us down?"

"All our plans get knocked down, but the enemies never seem to do anything stupid in this world, it's like the DM's playing this game just to sneer at us and prove how much smarter he is."

"Why do we have to play an encounter that's supposed to be five times more difficult to beat? Can't we just call this a TPK and get it over with? It's like the DM's dragging this out just to torture us."

At this point, my thoughts probably diverge dramatically from your former players, as I would think,

"maybe next time we play, after this TPK, we can say, 'oh boy, Frank has this awesome idea for a campaign that we all wanna try out, Talakeal, do you want to play with us?' and kinda hope Talakeal's campaign kinda fades into obscurity"

whereas your old players would think,

"HULK SMASH."

Talakeal
2013-08-13, 05:51 PM
"How is this even legit?! You never ever see the door guards come in after you sneak past them in the movies I watch."

There was no sneaking involved. I flat out said that the enemies didn't leave the water (which would have been suicide) and instead hang back in the water and follow just out of arrow range.


"I bet the DM just thought of this water controlling mage to put in the last room to 'beat us' at this game because he probably thought we were bypassing the rest of the dungeon too easily."


It wasn't a water controlling mage. It was just a standard mage with dispel magic. And it would be silly to not expect to fight at least one magic user in a high level dungeon.

Also, this is one of the big problems with my group. I refuse to cheat, either for or against my players. If I was willing to cheat, it would likely be in their favor, and I would be a hell of a lot more likely to remove an enemy that screws up their plan than to add one. Of course, my players, being a paranoid lot, always seem to believe the opposite.


"This is ridiculous, of course the DM's going to win if he wants to compete with the players. The DM can just put infinite rooms with infinitely harder bad guys in the dungeon."


Yep. As I said, every individual dungeon room had an even CR, and there was nothing to stop the PCs just fighting through them one at a time. It was only when they started bypassing mobs that it got to be a problem.


"Can't we feel smart about doing anything in this game without the DM trying to shut us down?"


This goes back to my OP. Should I just sit back and say "**** it" and turn my brain off when running adventures even if there is an obvious solution that doesn't involve any meta gaming or cheating?


"All our plans get knocked down, but the enemies never seem to do anything stupid in this world, it's like the DM's playing this game just to sneer at us and prove how much smarter he is."



I wouldn't say the enemies never seem to do anything stupid, I make mistakes all the time. When I do, however, I get flack from the players for that as one of them always accuses me of "playing favorites" by not killing one of the other PCs when I have the chance.

And from my perspective it always seems like the opposite. The players always come up with a really flawed plan, and even if I warn them about the flaws (which I almost always do) they go ahead with it. Its like they are trying to prove they can outsmart me rather than just going along with the game normally.


"Why do we have to play an encounter that's supposed to be five times more difficult to beat? Can't we just call this a TPK and get it over with? It's like the DM's dragging this out just to torture us."



I actually told them straight up "guys, please retreat and try this again. If you survive this fight you won't be in any condition to finish the dungeon afterwards. You need to fall back and regroup and give the enemies some time to stand down and go off alert status." They didn't listen until 4/6 of the party was already dead and they had used up almost their entire stash of consumable items.



"maybe next time we play, after this TPK, we can say, 'oh boy, Frank has this awesome idea for a campaign that we all wanna try out, Talakeal, do you want to play with us?' and kinda hope Talakeal's campaign kinda fades into obscurity"
."

Actually, that's a lot like what did happen. The one player who threw a tantrum explicitly said that he was quitting, and he hoped my game died as a result, and he was glad that I would be moving at the end of the summer so he didn't have to put up with me anymore.

Of course he apologized afterwards and said he regretted it, but that didn't stop him from throwing similar temper tantrums the next two settings. During each of these tantrums he gave a similar, if somewhat more profanity laden, rant with added regrets about apologizing for the previous rant as well as violence towards people and objects.

As for someone else DMing, no one around here will put up with it except me. The games don't play out any better, and other DMs don't have as much tolerance for BS (or the experience to know how to handle it) than I do and their campaigns die a quick flaming death.




Another example of what I was talking about that occurred in the last dungeon I ran. I had a series of rooms shaped like this:

[ ] [ ]
[ ] [ ]

Each of the four rooms had a door connecting to the two adjacent rooms. Each room had a group of intelligent monsters within.

The PCs cleared the NW room, then went into the NE room, saw it was full of monsters (and a door on the south wall) and cast a wall spell to cut the room in half so the monsters couldn't reach them. There was NOTHING stopping the monsters from using the south door, but for some reason the PCs thought the monsters would instead stay bottled up forever and starve to death.

The PCs then went into the SW room, and where amazed to see that the monsters from NE room simply went around using the same path, and had alerted the enemies in the SW and SE rooms as they moved through.

kyoryu
2013-08-13, 06:35 PM
There was no sneaking involved. I flat out said that the enemies didn't leave the water (which would have been suicide) and instead hang back in the water and follow just out of arrow range.

I would have also called out the numbers of them on occasion, if you didn't. Even explicitly calling out "you know, these guys are looking pretty ticked off, and it seems likely that they'll rush you if this spell fails or they get the chance" wouldn't have been a bad idea.

It's often better to give out *too much* information rather than just assume the players catch what you're saying, and the characters would certainly be aware of the growing horde of aboleths glaring at them.


Yep. As I said, every individual dungeon room had an even CR, and there was nothing to stop the PCs just fighting through them one at a time. It was only when they started bypassing mobs that it got to be a problem.

Nothing wrong with bypassing fights. It's good strategy. Hell, I'd argue it's not even "bypassing", it's just deciding how you're going to work through the dungeon.


I wouldn't say the enemies never seem to do anything stupid, I make mistakes all the time. When I do, however, I get flack from the players for that as one of them always accuses me of "playing favorites" by not killing one of the other PCs when I have the chance.

That's kinda dysfunctional.


And from my perspective it always seems like the opposite. The players always come up with a really flawed plan, and even if I warn them about the flaws (which I almost always do) they go ahead with it. Its like they are trying to prove they can outsmart me rather than just going along with the game normally.

Make sure that you don't design your dungeons in such a way that if people do what you expect, it'll be easy, and if not, it'll be tough. There's more than one way to skin a cat, and your players aren't mind readers. There's got to be room for them to go their own ways, and make mistakes, and do things not in *just the way* you plan.

Try going through the dungeon, room by room, and ask yourself "what would I do in this scenario, if I knew only what I had seen so far, and didn't know what was beyond the next door?"

I don't know how you design dungeons, so don't take this as an accusation or anything. It's just the only thing that's been somewhat suggested by your description that I see as a potential area of improvement.


I actually told them straight up "guys, please retreat and try this again. If you survive this fight you won't be in any condition to finish the dungeon afterwards. You need to fall back and regroup and give the enemies some time to stand down and go off alert status." They didn't listen until 4/6 of the party was already dead and they had used up almost their entire stash of consumable items.

They probably don't like being told what to do. They want to make the decisions. Sometimes giving the same information out in a more neutral way (as facts, rather than advice) can be useful. "Okay, based on what you've seen and heard, it seems likely that the enemies will be on alert and prepared for attack, and will be preparing defensive positions. Previous experience would suggest that they'll probably stand down after a while."



The PCs then went into the SW room, and where amazed to see that the monsters from NE room simply went around using the same path, and had alerted the enemies in the SW and SE rooms as they moved through.

Clearly they didn't think the rooms would be connected, and they had no real reason to think they would, if you think about it. It's obvious if you know the whole layout as you've described to us, but it isn't necessarily obvious that the rooms would be connected *that* closely.

It's still not a reason to get upset, just kind of go "yeah, okay, that didn't work well." But if this was on top of a bunch of other things that basically ensured that they could never "bypass" an encounter, then I could see where people might start to get a bit upset.

One thing that may be of help to you, to at least understand your players, is to ask yourself (or even them!) why they did the things they did. Again, try to put yourself in their shoes and forget what you know of the dungeon layout, and how you expected them to progress through the dungeon. I mean, for that matter, *don't* expect them to progress in a particular way. Even deliberately, when designing dungeons, think of what they might do besides what you expect.

Amphetryon
2013-08-13, 06:54 PM
I do not know how experienced your Players are with other DMs and their DMing styles. I do know that many DMs consider that bypassing an encounter is, in fact, a method of defeating it, and reward Players accordingly. Given that your reaction appears from here to be diametrically opposite of that - not only did you not consider the encounter defeated, but you required them to actually fight the creatures you put in the dungeon - I can see how Players used to the former could be frustrated and confused by the latter.

Talakeal
2013-08-13, 07:02 PM
I do not know how experienced your Players are with other DMs and their DMing styles. I do know that many DMs consider that bypassing an encounter is, in fact, a method of defeating it, and reward Players accordingly. Given that your reaction appears from here to be diametrically opposite of that - not only did you not consider the encounter defeated, but you required them to actually fight the creatures you put in the dungeon - I can see how Players used to the former could be frustrated and confused by the latter.


I think this is a terminology issue.


Simply avoiding a situation and resolving it are different things. Likewise, there is a HUGE difference between "bypassing" and encounter, and "delaying" an encounter.

For example, there is a dragon guarding a dungeon. If I kill slip a dragon a sleeping potion and then kill it in its sleep I have defeated it. If I drug the dragon and then walk into the dungeon, it will still be there on the way out and is in no way defeated. If I come out the same way I came in, or make enough noise to wake the dragon and send it looking to investigate then I will still have to deal with it.



If I sneak in, grab the macguffin, and sneak out, I have bypassed all the guards, and they are "defeated".

If I simply run in, grab the item, and then run away with an army in hot pursuit, I have not actually bypassed or defeated anything, I have merely delayed the fight with the guards.



Likewise, if I banish the fire elemental back to its home plane, it is "defeated". If I simply cast protection from fire and walk past it, all I have done is delayed it.



In NO WAY EVER are the PCs required to actually kill the monsters in the dungeon. It is absolutely fine for them to use stealth or diplomacy to get past monsters without a fight. It is absolutely ok for them to not enter or seal up wings of the dungeon which contain monsters.

The very mission we are talking about the players were unable to defeat the dragon who was at the end of the dungeon, so they instead used diplomacy to strike a truce with the dragon. They got full XP for the adventure (I give XP for completing objectives, NOT for killing enemies) but were still pissed off because they didn't get to loot the dragon's hoard and had already spent a boatload of consumables trying to survive the five rooms at once cluster*** and thus ended the mission with less wealth than they started it.


What usually happens is the wizard "solves" an encounter with one spell (usually a protection spell, a terrain manipulation spell, or some manner of teleportation) and then walks past without actually dealing with the monsters and then gets mad when the monsters pursue them instead of just vanishing.

Vitruviansquid
2013-08-13, 07:12 PM
You're totally right, Talakeal. When you bend things in favor of the players, it can feel like cheating, and cheating makes you feel bad as a DM because you have to shake up how the game was meant to be and it can make the players feel bad because they can feel like they were cheated out of an opportunity to pull off some heroics.

But, in the perverse way of tabletop RPG's, there is actually *no* way you can play the game without cheating. Let me explain.

Let's say "cheating" is when the DM manipulates the results of an action so action A leads to result C, whereas if the game rules were followed to its logical conclusion action A would lead to result B.

Now, it is usually very clear when "cheating" takes place because a number or effect gets manipulated. The DM rolls a crit at an inopportune moment and downgrades it to a normal hit, or something. The rules clearly prescribe that the roll is a result B, but the DM manipulates it to be a result C.

However, there will be times in your RPG when the rulebooks don't tell you what exactly should happen. Let me begin with an example more grounded in "reality" and let's say your PC's are mounted knights, and they have to defeat a formation of enemy pikemen and somehow, this isn't covered specifically in the rules of the RPG you're playing. Let's say you have a skilled DM who has described and accounted for all the possible factors that could affect this battle, like the time of day, the terrain, the weather conditions, etc.

Now, let's say, the game world has been sufficiently described that if we were to get gladiators to re-enact this in real life, there would be a clear result A if the knights charge at the pike block head on.

But since that would be highly dangerous, illegal, and expensive and you clearly can't do that in real life so you have to simulate it on the tabletop. And what happens when you do that is that different things will run through each person's minds when you try to simulate it.

DM: Everyone knows pike blocks were historically made to counter heavy cavalry charges. The correct way for the players to do it is to dismount and fight the enemies on foot.

PC 1: Of course we have to charge the enemy on horse. That's what knights do! The DM wouldn't have us be knights in the first place if he didn't want us to charge enemies on horseback.

PC 2: Look at how many guys they have, and they're all on foot. We should retreat because they'll never be able to catch us, and we all know this DM isn't afraid of throwing hard encounters at us.

PC 3: Of course we should charge the enemy on horse. Everyone knows armored knights were historically the kings of the battlefield in this era, and I'll be damned if those dirty peasant footmen could put up any resistance at all against us.

PC 4: I don't know anything about medieval warfare, so I guess I should just go with what our characters are specialized at... I know we do a ton of extra damage on charges from horseback, so I guess we charge?

PC 5: ****, man... I dunno. It's the DM's job to make sure we have a story to follow no matter what we do, I'll just say whatever and not put a lot of serious thought in it.

So who is trying to "cheat" the system? Well... we don't know and we can't know, short of getting gladiators to re-enact it in a perfect spot with perfect re-creations of the equipment. Historically, there have been battles where pikemen slaughter cavalry and battles that were the other way around. What it becomes, in the end, is that the DM makes a call because he has the most power in a game, and it can't be anything but cheating because the DM doesn't even know what the actual result should be.

Now, imagine if we throw spells or fantasy elements into the mix. You can describe a dungeon, but the players will all have different images of the dungeon in their heads when they close their eyes. You can describe a certain enemy type, and the players will all have different images of what that enemy is, how it will act, or what it can do. In your case, you're describing a fantasy fish monster that are like, but not quite the same as aboleths, and let me just think of a few different ways your players can interpret them.

DM: These monsters are intelligent, they've caught the scent of the players, and know they're there, so they would of course pursue the players into the last room and gang up on them.

PC 1: We bypassed the earlier monsters fair and square. They're out of sight, out of the world... I never expected the DM to throw this at us.

PC 2: If these fish monsters are so smart, wouldn't they have set up a system so the monsters deeper in the dungeon can reinforce the ones outside when we attacked them to begin with? So clearly they keep to themselves and we should've been able to attack this fish mage without fear of being ganged up upon by the other fish

PC 3: I thought these fish had a high intelligence score because they have psychic powers or something. Didn't think they'd have a human-like society that comes and defends its leaders like that.

PC 4: I can just kick ass and take names, and it's the DM's job to make everything work out in the end, right?

PC 5: A round in the game is only six seconds. We can totally defeat the fish mage in time before the other fish come to reinforce him.

Kyberwulf
2013-08-13, 07:12 PM
There is a difference between, dealing with an encounter, and then trying to to bypass an encounter and expecting a reward.

kyoryu
2013-08-14, 02:41 AM
I'm curious what you're looking for out of this thread - are you looking for some help in understanding your players and what may be happening, including what you may be contributing to the situation, or are you looking to rant about their idiocy and get commiseration?

Either's fine, of course.

Gamgee
2013-08-14, 02:58 AM
We know the answer (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONABuJxsoo4)...

Talakeal
2013-08-14, 03:23 AM
I'm curious what you're looking for out of this thread - are you looking for some help in understanding your players and what may be happening, including what you may be contributing to the situation, or are you looking to rant about their idiocy and get commiseration?

Either's fine, of course.

A little of both I suppose, but neither is the main point. As I said the game was a while ago and the group has since dissolved on account of it beings full of psychos. But I had a conversation with my brother before posting where he told me that the most important role the DM has is cheating to make sure the players always win, and I was wondering if that actually is a basic DM lesson which I had failed to ever pick up in 20 years in the hobby.

BWR
2013-08-14, 03:47 AM
That sounds odd. It is the DM's job to make sure the stuff he throws at his players is overcomable - being all-powerful you can always win and that isn't fun for the players.
Some people think it's the DM's job to make sure the PCs never die due to their own mistakes. This is fine, as long as everyone agrees.
Some (like me) think the DM is not responsible for problems the PCs get themselves into. This is also fine. It is important that everyone plays with the same assumptions. I assume that the DM/GM/ST/HG/Keeper/whatever will happily give me enough rope to hang myself if I screw up. It seems, Talakeal, that this is just another example of the insanity that was your group. A few hiccups from misunderstandings is one thing but it seems they repeatedly screwed up and expected you to wipe their arses and blow their noses. They didn't learn, and your brother seems from what you say to support this.

Be comforted: those people are the minority. You are perfectly justified in having their actions have consequences. From what you have told us you are a good DM with an exceptional amount of patience. We can only hope you find a better group to share your talents with.

Kalmageddon
2013-08-14, 04:05 AM
I've had the exact same problem with my ex gaming group.
What I noticed was that actually it was only one player coming up with the plans, but he was quite charismatic irl and everyone listened to him without ever trying to think for themselves.
He convinced them that the plan was flawless and when it failed (mostly for the same reasons you described) he was very vocal in his frustration and sort of rallied the group to support him.

Luckly it got to the point where his plans got more and more flawed and finally the group realized they where following someone just because he liked leading and not because he was actually good at it.

Was it something like this in your group? Or were all the players involved in the planning?

Saph
2013-08-14, 04:44 AM
I'm pretty sure this has been covered before, but . . . this really has nothing to do with the encounter, and everything to do with your (now hopefully ex-) gaming group.

You've made somewhere around 15-20 of these "my group did X" threads that I've seen, and looking at them as a whole your players come across as psychotic. They're the worst group I've ever read about. I mean, I've heard of individual players who are worse than your individual players (Gamebird and Lanky Bugger's stories come to mind) but for sheer collective insanity, your group takes the cake.

So you might have made some mistakes in running the game and you might not, but you'll never get any kind of useful player feedback until you start GMing for a group that isn't completely nuts.

Endarire
2013-08-14, 04:46 AM
Determine what game you, as GM, want to play and tell your players you're going that way. How realistic do you want to be? How challenging will you be? Do you do the Dark Souls approach where the game is out to kill the PCs? What about a generally indifferent approach? It seems like your players expect a drastically different game than you, and if y'all are in such disagreement, you as GM should determine what should be done, and do it. And warn your players beforehand next time. And stick with what you said.

While one of the GM's responsibilities is making a spiffy game for his players and PCs, it isn't the GM's job to think for everyone. If your group is demanding that silly and stupid stuff work and you don't want it to work, it won't.

some guy
2013-08-14, 06:52 AM
But I had a conversation with my brother before posting where he told me that the most important role the DM has is cheating to make sure the players always win, and I was wondering if that actually is a basic DM lesson which I had failed to ever pick up in 20 years in the hobby.

No. Just no. That's not a basic DM lesson. It might be a gaming group's style (and a perfectly fine one), but it's not a basic thing.
When you start a game/campaign/group, just communicate what your style is. Some people might not be into your style, others might be. As long as they know beforehand.

Amphetryon
2013-08-14, 08:12 AM
For example, there is a dragon guarding a dungeon. If I kill slip a dragon a sleeping potion and then kill it in its sleep I have defeated it. If I drug the dragon and then walk into the dungeon, it will still be there on the way out and is in no way defeated. If I come out the same way I came in, or make enough noise to wake the dragon and send it looking to investigate then I will still have to deal with it.What if the dragon is guarding his treasure? If you slip in undetected, take the choicest bits of the treasure, and slip out without a fight, have you beaten the encounter? For many groups, the answer is 'yes,' as the point of the encounter was getting the treasure and surviving. Killing or otherwise eliminating the threat of the dragon, for those groups, is seen as entirely incidental to the main goal.

Jay R
2013-08-14, 08:48 AM
... I was wondering if that actually is a basic DM lesson which I had failed to ever pick up in 20 years in the hobby.

It's a common attitude in modern gaming, that grew (partially) from the 3E notion of Challenge Rating.

When I started gaming in 1975, all DMs tried to convince the players that they were evil, and out to kill the PCS. Many of them would actually subtly prevent death most of the time, but they were careful not to let the players see them do it. Maybe the monster would drop when the DM knew it still had hit points, or some such I know of one game in which what seemed to be a TPK at the end of one session started the next session with the PCs captured by the villains. But it was always possible to lose the game, by TPK. And it happened.

So nobody assumed that they had the right to stay alive, separate from winning or avoiding the encounter. One of our responsibilities as players was to avoid engaging encounters we couldn't win. If you attacked the king's guards, the DM hadn't sent 100 guards after you; you had done it yourself. If you run into the dragons lair with enemies at your back, you put yourself in that situation. I remember having a discussion once about whether we could simply avoid this encounter or needed to kill them now to avoid that situation. Was attacking them an unnecessary risk or a necessary one? It was a real discussion, predicated on the notion that the wrong decision might get the party killed. (We eventually set up an ambush, then let them see a couple of us to lead them into it.) In fact, they were after us, and wouldn't have stopped, and they would likely have won a straight-up fight. We needed to set up some sort of advantageous situation.

But in 3E, the fact that DMs tended to arrange survivable encounters got written into the rules, and it became possible to complain that the approaching army wasn't CR-appropriate. It couldn't happen before because the term, and the notion, of "Challenge Rating" didn't exist. (Players could complain, and often did, about how hard the dungeon was, but there was no game mechanic being violated.)

So yes, now many players exist who have learned the CR rules and consider an overly powerful encounter to be actually against the rules. And I've probably already angered them, because I'm writing this from an old-school perspective. I'm quite sure my description seems just as unfair to them as a similar description of old-school play by a 3E player would seem to me. I can't help it; I have the perspective I do.

Here's the kicker: both styles of play are common. But we can't play them both in the same game, for the same reason that it's hard to do subtle politics when one PC always attacks.

So it's a good idea to set the game conditions in advance. What you describe sounds like an old-school DM with modern players. With the same rulebooks, you are nonetheless playing different games.

It's a good idea to tell the players which approach you take. I'm usually an old-school DM, so when I changed the approach in a recent Champions game, I explained the new approach I was taking in the introduction to the game I give the players:


Because I wish characters to take the kinds of risks that comic book characters actually take, I guarantee that your character will not die. Bad things may happen, but they will not be permanent.

[Note: you are not immortal, and I cannot save you from your own stupidity. If you choose to dive into a volcano or a vat of acid, I canít save you. But the normal run of comic book adventures is not going to do you in. Spider-Man does not, in fact, get shot to death in the comics. Take risks to save people. Really. Thatís what heroes do.]

So, my advice is to give your players notice that you will not keep them alive if their actions don't justify it. Because some players expect you to.

My introduction to a new game is usually 4-6 pages. I really believe in setting the stage for them.

kyoryu
2013-08-14, 12:55 PM
A little of both I suppose, but neither is the main point. As I said the game was a while ago and the group has since dissolved on account of it beings full of psychos. But I had a conversation with my brother before posting where he told me that the most important role the DM has is cheating to make sure the players always win, and I was wondering if that actually is a basic DM lesson which I had failed to ever pick up in 20 years in the hobby.

It's an attitude that some people have. It's not an attitude everyone has. It's certainly not an attitude that *I* have.


It's a common attitude in modern gaming, that grew (partially) from the 3E notion of Challenge Rating.

I'd argue it's older than that, and goes back to DragonLance in the mid 80s - the module series that *invented* plot armor. It really invented the "modern" campaign, with the idea that "campaign = these four players, with these four characters, going through this plot". After a certain point, the modules wouldn't let you lose, or even die.

There's a certain legitimacy to this, as well - the reason that old-school games could be so deadly is the fact that the players had great leeway in terms of what they did and where they went. As the "adventure path" became more prominent, players lost this agency, and so the encounters that they had to fight through were chosen by the GM, *not* the players. As such, the responsibility for picking fights you could win shifted from the players to the GM.

If *you* choose to fight the dragon, it's totally fair for the dragon to eat you. If the GM chooses for you to fight the dragon, he owes you a fair shake.


Here's the kicker: both styles of play are common. But we can't play them both in the same game, for the same reason that it's hard to do subtle politics when one PC always attacks.

And you don't have to like both, or be willing to run both. But it's important to know that they exist.



It's a good idea to tell the players which approach you take. I'm usually an old-school DM, so when I changed the approach in a recent Champions game, I explained the new approach I was taking in the introduction to the game I give the players:

This is one of the reasons I generally think a "session zero" is a good idea. It gets everybody on the same page, and allows you to make sure you're all expecting the same things from the game.

Tangent in spoiler:

BTW, Jay R, while most of this post is just me violently agreeing with you, I'd like to point out that one of the differences that certain more recent games take is that they generally remove death as a failure condition - but instead, they amp up every other possible failure condition. It may be unlikely that you'll die, but it becomes *very* likely that the game won't go the way you want, and certainly not 100% of the time.

Even permanent bad things may happen - while actually killing a PC in Fate, for instance, is pretty rare, there are rules that allow you to permanently modify the character - think Harry Dresden getting his hand burned off, as that was the inspiration.

So you may not die, but the bad guys may win, at least temporarily. Your allies may be turned to evil. A city may get nuked. All of these things are permanent, and certainly *should* be possible. You not being dead isn't much help, though, as it just means you have to dig yourself out of the increasingly deep pit you've dug yourself into.

In Fate, in particular, most rolls and/or conflicts should have a significant chance of failure, far more than in most "traditional" games.

You may have seen/known this already, but I'm just tossing this out at you as a way of making non-lethal games still tense and, at times, harsh. There was a bit of a learning curve for me to get used to these ideas as a more old-school GM, and there's probably messages on this board showing that!

If this stuff is all old hat to you, my apologies.


For something that we just call "roleplaying games" as a single monolithic description, there's a surprising amount of variation in how each group plays, what their goals are, what their expectations are, and what they're trying to get out of it - even if they're nominally using the same ruleset.

Jay R
2013-08-14, 01:53 PM
Thanks for the additional information. I've never played DragonLance or Fate, and knew nothing about them.

Talakeal
2013-08-14, 02:53 PM
What if the dragon is guarding his treasure? If you slip in undetected, take the choicest bits of the treasure, and slip out without a fight, have you beaten the encounter? For many groups, the answer is 'yes,' as the point of the encounter was getting the treasure and surviving. Killing or otherwise eliminating the threat of the dragon, for those groups, is seen as entirely incidental to the main goal.

That depends. Did you cover your tracks well enough that the dragon can never track you down to get revenge? Is it the type of dragon who will vent his frustration on nearby innocents because "humans" are responsible for the theft? Are you the type to care?

As I said, I don't actually care how the PCs resolve the encounter, just as long as it is actually resolved rather than merely postponed.

I DO NOT give XP based on kills or even bypassing encounters, I give XP at set storyline milestones. This is purely about whether or not the PCs actions are allowed to have consequences down the line or if the enemies are supposed to disappear like video game enemies once you reach the "zone border".



Oh, on a side note. I don't actually "kill" characters. If there is a cleric in the party I allow raise dead without a level loss, and if there isn't one I declare that people reaching -10 HP are merely incapacitated until they can take a bed rest back at town. This has NEVER stopped the PC who happens to "die" from throwing a temper tantrum when it happens.

Jay R
2013-08-14, 03:08 PM
Oh, on a side note. I don't actually "kill" characters. If there is a cleric in the party I allow raise dead without a level loss, and if there isn't one I declare that people reaching -10 HP are merely incapacitated until they can take a bed rest back at town. This has NEVER stopped the PC who happens to "die" from throwing a temper tantrum when it happens.

Paradoxically, this may actually be part of the problem. If you want the players to take consequences of their actions seriously, then the consequences need to be serious.

valadil
2013-08-14, 03:53 PM
I DO NOT give XP based on kills or even bypassing encounters, I give XP at set storyline milestones. This is purely about whether or not the PCs actions are allowed to have consequences down the line or if the enemies are supposed to disappear like video game enemies once you reach the "zone border".

Good! Me too. Things like this are what keep me playing tabletop instead of video games. I mean, I play video games too, but they're too easy to outsmart.

Anyway I think this quotation sums up your problem. Here's my question. Have the players said they expect the enemies to disappear once they've left the encounter area or are you assuming that's what they want? I find it hard to believe that anyone would actually want to play that way so I'm hoping that's just your hypothesis based on the evidence.

(Not trying to accuse you of putting words in anyone's mouth, it's just hard to read between the lines to find out if what they want is a direct quotation or your interpretation of the situation.)

TriForce
2013-08-14, 04:12 PM
A little of both I suppose, but neither is the main point. As I said the game was a while ago and the group has since dissolved on account of it beings full of psychos. But I had a conversation with my brother before posting where he told me that the most important role the DM has is cheating to make sure the players always win, and I was wondering if that actually is a basic DM lesson which I had failed to ever pick up in 20 years in the hobby.

my 5 cents as someone who DM's for the past 10 years or so:

the biggest compliment i seem to get about my DM-ing, is the fact that im "fair" as a example, i set up a encounter against the group consisting of a single demon, since the group was low lvl, they would need the entire party to deal with it. one person ( the shaman ) decided to wander off and walked right into it. now, i KNEW that he alone would have a VERY small chance of actually defeating it, or even surviving the encounter, but i let the demon attack the guy anyway. I ofcourse let the rest of the party make listen checks to see if they realized the screams of the missing party member, but other then that, i just played the encounter as planned. the shaman got hit pretty badly, and help was not close enough yet to save him, so our shaman was almost sure to die next round, perhaps 2 rounds if he was lucky.
then, in his possibly last attack he critted with his bow, rolled a 2, x3 is 6 damage. the demon had damage reduction 5, so only recieved 1 damage, end of the line for the shaman right?

not really, this specific demon had a special weakness. now, none of the players knew it when they were fighting it, and in fact, i only saw it myself when looking up the HP of the thing, but it has a weakness vs critical hits. its actually instantly destroyed the moment it gets critted and recieved damage from a crit... even if its just 1 damage. so the shaman instantly killed it.

tl;dr: i believe a DM should challenge the players, and, good OR bad, should let player decisions determine the outcome. reward creative and smart thinking, punish stupid and reckless actions, give them always a fair chance, but NEVER a guarentee to survive. you CAN give them encounters they win easily, if for no reason then to make the group feel good about their own power, but it should NEVER be the norm. if your players cant lose, your not actually playing a game imho

kyoryu
2013-08-14, 04:32 PM
tl;dr: i believe a DM should challenge the players, and, good OR bad, should let player decisions determine the outcome. reward creative and smart thinking, punish stupid and reckless actions, give them always a fair chance, but NEVER a guarentee to survive. you CAN give them encounters they win easily, if for no reason then to make the group feel good about their own power, but it should NEVER be the norm. if your players cant lose, your not actually playing a game imho

Absolutely, one way or the other, the game is about player choices. If players aren't making choices, or their choices have no impact, it's not much of a game.

On "fairness", in Luke Crane's post about Basic D&D on G+, he said one thing that kept happening is that he felt terrible about being so mean to the players, especially when he saw how they took their setbacks. And they'd inevitably go up to him and say "it's not you, it's how the game works."

That's pretty awesome, I think.

BWR
2013-08-14, 04:36 PM
tl;dr: i believe a DM should challenge the players, and, good OR bad, should let player decisions determine the outcome. reward creative and smart thinking, punish stupid and reckless actions, give them always a fair chance, but NEVER a guarentee to survive. you CAN give them encounters they win easily, if for no reason then to make the group feel good about their own power, but it should NEVER be the norm. if your players cant lose, your not actually playing a game imho

That's the way I like to play and DM, that's the way my friends do it but there is nothing inherently wrong with the DM saving the group's collective arse. If that's the sort of game all parties like and want, that's their business. It really only breaks down when the players demand the DM babysits them when that's not the sort of game the DM wants to run.

I've been on both sides of "players want one thing, DM wants another". It's awkward and unpleasant but it needs to be resolved so everybody can have fun. For the most part, I tend to side with the DM as long as the DM makes it plain in advance what sort of game she's going to run.