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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    AssassinGuy

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    Default Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    You know, being an adventurer is a pretty risky business. Besides the odds of dying in an even fight, you literally live in a world where somewhere a dragon flies though the sky, surveying all the good prey animals, any hole if a cliff wall could house a giant Scorpion, and various Wizards and outsider lords possess powers beyond your imagining and use Immortal souls like yours as currency. Or worse, an energy source....

    Now, the real reason that level 1's never stumble unto a Wizard's tower (at least, not one still in use.) is because the GM is polite enough to keep anything like that far away from anywhere the PCs might stumble unto. Usually its simply case of if the GM doesn't prepare it, it doesn't exist.

    But let's say that the PCs really do find something much higher on the food chain then they are, as if the GM just placed a really strong monster there to be funny. They take a wrong turn, possibly at Albuquerque, and now found a tunnel that leads into the capital of the slave-hungry Drow Empire. Or they get lost one night and find Dracula's Castlevania lair. Or maybe there is a portal to the elemental plane of Fire which will kill the player probably in a round or two disguised as a hot spring. Or a Sleeping Dragon that uses old D&D edition rules for and you roll that it is in fact, only pretending to be sleeping while kicking an artifact sword out of its hoard. Or if they are noobs and don't know what a "Tarrasque" is.

    Consider how these super beings live. What kinds of "subtle hints" would clue a player in that "this is a very, very, 'in-over-your-head' place to be."?
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  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    If they're with an NPC, the first time they fight something, have it attack the NPC and wreck him. Or, alternatively, just describe something in deadly detail. If the players are used to fighting "mangy rats, about a foot high and three feet long", they might think twice about jumping into a place with a "twelve foot tall red humanoid with a flaming sword and wings, and a claw dripping with blood from a freshly killed adventuring party".
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    Troll in the Playground
     
    Katana_Geldar's Avatar

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    A lot of it depends on the player's experience, a lot of roleplayers get the idea within a few rounds if the fight they are in is not one they are meant to win through combat. That said, there are other ways of "completing" an encounter, even if it DOEs mean doing a Sir Robin.
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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    The best explanation I can give for level inappropriate challenges not noticing the PCs is that they're too busy with more appropriate enemies that are worth more to them. As for random encounters, knowledge checks or even common knowledge (DC 5-10 int check if PCs are local and a gather information otherwise) should cover what's living in the woods. That's not to say PCs shouldn't see level inappropriate encounters, they're just unlikely to be too far away from the PC's level and after a few PCs should learn to run. Ooh, there's another method: knowledge checks to know about a monster.

    If you fiat in monsters instead then I suppose fiating in warnings becomes equally appropriate, but I don't like seeing either. TV clichés to reveal something's strength are on about the same level.
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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    If it's an environmental hazard, say they found a portal to the Abyss and want to assault Lolth (or any deity) in her fortress. Ask just once, "Are you sure?" A smart player will get paranoid about that and change his mind. If he doesn't, and promptly dies due to said environmental hazards, it's his own fault.

    If it's an enemy like Big T, or a Balor, some good descriptive texts should work. Have Big T run over a town, then commence to start eating a mountain side while describing it.

    I'm personally against the Worf Effect, especially if you included an NPC in the group just for this reason.
    If you have to Worf it out, roll out the fight for the PC's, where they can see the dice. Level 4 characters, see how I just rolled a 6 on his first attack, and still hit over a 30 AC? Yes, I said first attack, then proceed to roll the overpowering encounters other 5 attacks all at once. That fistful of dice seems to unnerve players more.
    AND THEN, you roll all his damage dice at once. 3d6+1d6 sonic+9 (str and magic) +20 power attack per hit. Guys, can I borrow some of your dice, I don't have enough. Then grab a calculator and make sure they hear you announce the damage.
    If you pull a Worf effect solely with description (In box text, for those who are accustomed Living Greyhawk/Living Forgotten Realms), it won't have the same impact.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    any level 1 party that attacks a colossal anything deserves what they get. often times determining if something is level appropriate is much easier the bigger the gap. when the fight is to hard to win but not by much is when you really have a problem because they might not try and run until it's two late for them to do so.

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    Colossus in the Playground
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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    Sense Motive has a use to gauge how tough, approximately, the creature in question is for you. Along with Knowledges and "Wow, that's big", PCs tend to have all the warning they need. If they die...well, their fault and I'm a happy camper
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    Titan in the Playground
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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    I tend to run games with a disclaimer: "I run a persistent and realistic world that has some basic rules, grounded in logic and 'that makes sense'. If you really think that just because you are the PCs that you can kill the big bad dragon at the top of Death Mountain that I put there for ambiance and for a later challenge... go ahead and try. If you get slaughtered like bitches, well, you knew the risks, and tried it anyways. Not my fault. Use some common sense here people."

    They have tools in-game to determine such things. If they fail to use them, it's hardly MY fault. Now, to be fair, I also try to not spring crazy bull**** on them if I can help it, but sometimes, overpowering encounters can be enjoyable and might serve a plot purpose. In that case, I use description and context to explain to the PCs that maybe "CHARGE!!!" isn't the wisest tactic atm.

    All that I say applies only to myself. You author your own actions and choices. I cannot and will not be responsible for you, nor are you for me, regardless of situation or circumstance.

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    1. I know PCs can get pretty dense, especially if they have a mentality that "WE HAVE TO KILL THAT THING TO MOVE ON," but typically, a cinematic shot of something very, very large should be enough to let them know that they can't win a battle. I think even complete newbies should be aware that the 80-foot long, firebreathing lizard that is slumbering IN LAVA is something that they really couldn't hope to beat at level 1. Or that the giant, armored monster whose head is almost entirely mouth and can probably eat an entire dairy farm in two bites is something that magic missiles simply can't kill.

    When my PCs crossed a bridge to see a valley full of hobgoblin soldiers doing military drills, warforged titans with siege weapons, and multiple dragons soaring overheard, they knew they didn't really need to fight them right away.


    2. You could show the monster smashing a whole bunch of enemies that the PCs consider challenging. It could be eating them like peanuts. (The Worf Effect)

    3. If they insist on being stupid, then let stupid happen to them.
    Last edited by AslanCross; 2010-09-22 at 09:47 PM.


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  10. - Top - End - #10
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    ShneekeyTheLost's Avatar

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    First off, I use their own character's knowledge. If, for example, someone has Knowledge (Religion), running into a Balor would probably yield the following information from a Knowledge check:

    DC 10: That thing looks pretty big, it might be best to avoid it
    DC 15: That's a pretty powerful looking demon, who generally can only be affected by Good-aligned and occasionally also requiring Cold Iron weapons. Do you have any good aligned cold iron weapons in the party?
    DC 20: Holy Crap! That's a Balor! As in possesses a vorpal freekin' sword and a flame lash, and has more hit points than the entire party COMBINED
    DC 25: Okay, that's a Balor. It's a CL 20 encounter. That's 18 levels above the party. Now, the DMG says anything above 5 or so is supposed to end up in a TPK...

    In other words, the characters would know this thing is hella dangerous, so I let the players know.

    Assuming no one has any Knowledge skills in the party, I try the following...

    1) Get very descriptive. "The beast's scales glitter off the sunlight like the strongest adamantine, glowing more than the reflected light could allow for... talons longer than your body flex absently"

    2) If the monster has special abilities, give some clue in the description "... the eyes glow fiercely with magical power", "the red lizard-like being is wreathed in a nimbus of fire, you can feel the heat even from your location". I also like to sometimes steal the Power Display from the psionic rules.

    3) Red Glowing Eyes. Seriously, this alone should be warning bells and claxons. My players have come to realize that ... 'with red glowing eyes' generally means whatever it was has taken several levels in Badass and should not be taken lightly.
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    Orc in the Playground
     
    SamuraiGuy

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    There are several ways to do this
    1 ) Don't have unbeatable encounters in the players' path. This is impossible if your group likes to screw around with every community they go to
    2 ) Don't use the '-10 and you're dead' rules, just don't do it. Say they're incapacitated when the enemy beats them, and then whip up the story to include them waking up. Presto! New question : get all of your stuff back.

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    Kobold

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    For the sake of consistency and in aid of both keeping players alive and suspending disbelief, your players should never (or very rarely) just stumble over something significantly more powerful. Not because you prevent it outright, but because news about powerful beings spreads. If there's trolls in the swamps out west, the PCs will know about it because everyone in town knows. If they run into Dracula's castle, well, Dracula was significant either politically or vampirish-ly to everyone for miles around - between "hey look a castle" and "Dracula is killing you" the players should have passed a dozen locations with people that know who owns the castle - farms, a village at the base of the mountain (or everyone around the castle) and so on.

    Basically, it's really tough for beings powerful enough to affect the area to go unnoticed. So, let the PCs know what everyone around them knows. If they insist on going into the castle (or the troll-swamp, or the dragon's lair, or whatever) then, well, squash 'em.
    Last edited by Lapak; 2010-09-23 at 12:18 AM.

  13. - Top - End - #13
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    How about, you don't warn them that they are going to run into something too powerful for them, and instead, have that being act like it's nature.

    If you are on the Prime Material Plane, Demons are all literally Two standard actions away from killing some random commoner. If your level 1 Party waltzes in on a Demon... The Demon doesn't even have a reason to waste a few standard actions killing them if they don't get in it's way.

    Likewise, Dragons are big on treasure, and minions, and stuff like that, and not on eating medium sized creatures on sight. Getting up from the pile of gold is probably more costly in energy than they get back from eating your average set of adventurers. So if they walk in on a Dragon... The Dragon has a conversation, mocks them, and demands a tribute, or demands they perform a task, or whatever.

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    PirateGirl

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    I like that last idea - evil beings as questgivers.

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    Quote Originally Posted by Lapak View Post
    For the sake of consistency and in aid of both keeping players alive and suspending disbelief, your players should never (or very rarely) just stumble over something significantly more powerful. Not because you prevent it outright, but because news about powerful beings spreads. If there's trolls in the swamps out west, the PCs will know about it because everyone in town knows. If they run into Dracula's castle, well, Dracula was significant either politically or vampirish-ly to everyone for miles around - between "hey look a castle" and "Dracula is killing you" the players should have passed a dozen locations with people that know who owns the castle - farms, a village at the base of the mountain (or everyone around the castle) and so on.

    Basically, it's really tough for beings powerful enough to affect the area to go unnoticed. So, let the PCs know what everyone around them knows. If they insist on going into the castle (or the troll-swamp, or the dragon's lair, or whatever) then, well, squash 'em.
    However, players can sometimes be completely oblivious to the hints and rumors you seed throughout your campaign world. If they run into something assuming, "The DM wouldn't throw a level-inappropriate encounter at us," you should just destroy them. After all, the world does not, in fact, revolve around them, and they should learn this (the hard way, if necessary). But experienced players should realize that the encounter is too tough and abort the mission before it's too late.
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    panaikhan's Avatar

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    I have tried, and tried, to warn my players against doing things.
    They combine the idea "We should never encounter anything we cannot kill" with the equally suicidal "No retreat. No surrender".
    I have had to resort to OOC warnings in the past, just to stop the idiots TPKing themselves. I've also seen them walk through an encounter 'pitched over their heads' without breaking a sweat.

    'Level-appropriate' is a misleading term, I think. I've been on the other end of the stick, in a party going into the 'last encounter' against the BBEG (supposedly a level-appropriate encounter) and getting my rear politely handed to me in a bucket.

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    Quote Originally Posted by panaikhan View Post
    I have tried, and tried, to warn my players against doing things.
    They combine the idea "We should never encounter anything we cannot kill" with the equally suicidal "No retreat. No surrender".
    I have had to resort to OOC warnings in the past, just to stop the idiots TPKing themselves. I've also seen them walk through an encounter 'pitched over their heads' without breaking a sweat.

    'Level-appropriate' is a misleading term, I think. I've been on the other end of the stick, in a party going into the 'last encounter' against the BBEG (supposedly a level-appropriate encounter) and getting my rear politely handed to me in a bucket.
    Now, I've had players walk through BBEG encounters that were at +6 ELs, and it was like eating cake. (THE CAKE IS A LIE!!!) I've also had players get destroyed by a +0 EL BBEG. (These were the same players, by the way.)Kinda makes you wonder.
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    Knaight's Avatar

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    Default Re: Warning players of level-inappropriate encounters?

    Quote Originally Posted by dsmiles View Post
    However, players can sometimes be completely oblivious to the hints and rumors you seed throughout your campaign world. If they run into something assuming, "The DM wouldn't throw a level-inappropriate encounter at us," you should just destroy them. After all, the world does not, in fact, revolve around them, and they should learn this (the hard way, if necessary). But experienced players should realize that the encounter is too tough and abort the mission before it's too late.
    [/$0.02]
    I would agree with this, but at the same time, things they don't threaten may well not bother them. The dragon on a horde looks up, sees people, and goes back to sleep, just like humans usually don't swat mosquitoes until they actually land on them.

    On another note, the kill everything mentality is a symptom of D&D's experience system more often than not. If experience is not gained primarily through overcoming challenges involving monstrous beings, it rarely comes up. Sure, the PCs will probably get in over their heads once or twice, but they won't be picking needless fights at all, barring those characterized as quick to anger or some such.

    In D&D, it is assumed that eventually the party will be powerful enough to handle just about anything in a straight fight, and that constant combat is the way to get there. Remove those assumptions, and everything changes. Take e6, level 6 characters are probably going to be cautious around big, dangerous things as said big dangerous things are and always will be beyond their capabilities if the try to go head to head. Warnings in these situations are actually listened to.

    Then there is how to implement the warning. Reputation is the obvious one, but sometimes there are more direct ways. If the PCs have been having trouble with one type of creature (say a sorcerer channeling demonic powers), and they see another get into a fight with a group of them and take them down (say, a spirit created by trawling for exceptional warriors, magic users, etc. in the underworld), the only reason the PCs would attack them is if they are stupid, hotheaded, or have serious delusions of grandeur and the players are roleplaying them as such.
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