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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    Default Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    I'm playing my own customized version of the Kingmaker adventure path. Besides using the Iron Heroes ruleset, I'm giving it a mix of low/weird fantasy flavor and a lot of political intrigue in the background.

    The last adventures the PCs have embarked upon is exploring a monastery that an old monk told them was inhabited by an "unholy presence". Supposedly they were to clean it so that his order would move in and provide a boon to their barony.

    I used a modified version of the "Tower of the stargazer" module for the adventure, the tower was the bell tower/library of the monastery. Spoiler ahead for the module:
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    There is an encounter with a wizard trapped inside a circle. He tries to get the PCs to help him break the circle. If they don't, he just can't do anything. If they do, they get a shot at him if they win initiative, but if they don't, they are screwed, as he overpowers them. It's not a combat, it's a trap, they should not help him or touch the circle.


    Well, one of my players (actually, the one I came looking advice for some time ago to this forums, check my posting history to learn about him) broke the circle. The others were wary of the wizard, asking him to leave the circle if he could, sensing something was wrong. But this player, he just went and broke the circle, saying he thought "the wizard was summoning a demon and wanted to stop him".

    I told him the wizard trapped him into a force cube. Then I gave the other players a chance to kill the wizard before he could kill them, and one of them was lucky enough to get several good rolls, critically hitting him with the only magical weapon. The wizard died, but I said that the force cube crushed the first PC who had broken the circle.

    I now feel a bit bad. He didn't have a chance against the wizard, and although I made him roll two dice, hoping he would get a high number, he didn't (I was kind of making the DC up in my head, as I hoped they would never come to a confrontation with the wizard, so that adds to me feeling it's a bit unfair, it's not like I told him, "roll a 16 or more to save your life", I was just improvising). I felt like maybe I should have asked him "are you really sure you want to break the circle?" but the way he acted, not caring for the rest of the party, made me feel like I had to go with the encounter and follow it.

    I don't want to get bad blood between us, but his decision was rash. I know feel bad though. I said that we could leave his character in a coma, making the force cube disappear just before he was crushed, as the wizard died, but he said that no, it didn't matter, he was dead. But you know, you're never sure if they're just being passive agressive, he really doesn't care, etc.

    What do you guys think I should do? Roll it back? He kind of half-messed the adventure too, as the objective was that
    Spoiler: Spoiler
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    the PCs found the observatory and made it collapse on the wizard. Now the adventure is a bit anti climatic
    , because there is no "final objective", just finish exploring the tower.

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    Pixie in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    If your players go into the game knowing that character death is a real possibility, leave it dead. Use this as a learning experience for yourself that save-or-dies are generally poor choices for a GM to include. If you want to punish a player next time, have his scuffing the circle trap him in the circle with the wizard, who incapacitates him and begins to drain his life force. If the party kills the wizard in time or breaks the magic he's safe, if the party doesn't he dies. It builds tension and includes a punishment, but also a situation where you punish the player but also give an opportunity for counterplay.

    If they beat the dungeon (killed the main boss, got the information, found the essential loot), just bring down the whole dungeon with the observatory next time. Tell the players that they successfully destroyed the laboratory, and let them move forward--empty exploration serves nobody.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    I'd be inclined to say no. It seems a little late to retcon for a fairly minor reason. As to if it was unfair that is tricky to say without a number of other factors such as the level of death in the campaign, if the player has run across the concept of circles containing things within them, etc... I don't agree with people saying don't have NPC's use save or die spells, if you are that worried about those then just remove them completely from the game.

    Still less embarrassing than when one of my characters had their entire skeleton sucked out through their index finger (the physics of which slightly baffle me).

    I'll definitely second that if the tower was empty don't make them waste their time exploring after that, you can skip and handwave if that will work better for the session (which it almost always does).
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Everything was looking pretty "normal", up until here:

    Quote Originally Posted by guileus View Post
    The wizard died, but I said that the force cube crushed the first PC who had broken the circle.
    The wizard dies; and the spell gets a new, worse effect? What?

    Yes to unfairness.
    No to retconning. Retconning is stupid. Everyone needs to own their mistakes.
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Can you even kill someone by crushing them with a force cube? That sounds suspect.

    Anyway, speaking in more general terms, as I'm sure the wizard could have cast some other save or die spell. Don't wing stuff like this. If you're casting a spell on someone that will kill them, determine the DC, tell him the DC he has to hit, and tell him he'll die if he doesn't hit it.

    If you're playing a game where you want the prospect of killing people the way to be fair is to be true to your prep. Don't make things up on the spot. You write everything down in advance and you stick to what you wrote down, whether it be good or bad for the PCs. You should have planned for the prospect of the PCs breaking the circle, because let's face it, that's what PCs do. And you should have had the exact results of breaking the circle written down, and you should have stuck to those results, whatever they may be.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    Can you even kill someone by crushing them with a force cube? That sounds suspect.
    Yeah, what was up with that part? I just assumed it was some PF effect since I don't play that system but I did a little looking around and couldn't see anything.
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tinkerer View Post
    Yeah, what was up with that part? I just assumed it was some PF effect since I don't play that system but I did a little looking around and couldn't see anything.
    It is a cool magical effect. Presumably the nasty wizard/unholy presence knew a customized version if the standard version doesn't allow it.

    As for the unfairness issue, that depends on the motivation.

    Breaking magical circles without knowing what you are doing has always been a big no-no in fairytales and fantasy, and summoning circles (what the player apparently thought it was) are for summoning something inside while you are safely protected on the outside, also standard fantasy and not something roleplaying specific, so if you killed him off because that's what you intended (barring a lucky save) should anybody break the circle, that is completely fine because doing what he did qualified him for a Darwin award.

    If you killed him because it annoyed you that he was operating solo and with no thought for potential outcomes and for that reason chose to make the situation deadlier than what it otherwise would have been, yes, it is unfair.

    Not very unfair, because roleplaying is telling a tale for all involved where the GM is an actor and not just a referee, and changing things to punish or reward players depending on their behaviour is part of the GM's job, up to and including killing off player characters as needed for narrative purposes, but unfair and definitely not the best way to handle the issue.

    Either way, retconning the death at this point would probably only make matters worse. The adventurers may have learned a lesson about caution and teamwork, there, and overall it is better if players know their characters are mortal than if they get second chances when the GM second-guesses himself. (Unless you are playing a game with exceptionally low mortality.)
    Last edited by Deliverance; 2017-12-23 at 08:20 PM.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Koo Rehtorb View Post
    You should have planned for the prospect of the PCs breaking the circle, because let's face it, that's what PCs do
    This. Sure, Deliverance has a point that the players should have known that breaking the circle was a bad idea, but, yeah, I would have absolutely assumed that someone would do it.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    As far as I can tell you're fine. If the other players had a good idea that it was a trap and he broke it anyways, then that's probably on him. Though by his reasoning it did seem like he was confused about the situation.

    In my opinion retconning doesn't help most situations anyways.

    This reminds me of the time one of my player's characters died in my game. They mysteriously acquired a large bottle of strange liquid from a city full of shadow cultists, and one of them (being antagonistic) was going to break it in the most dramatic place he could (while having no idea what it would do). Me being the DM, I made sure there was a suitably dramatic location and disastrous consequence.

    Half a town died on top of the antagonistic character. He was fine with it, as he was a serial killer and knew his time would be limited to walk this earth. They almost caught him before he died, too, but one of the other characters killed him before enough proof was obtained. Good times.

    Moral of the story: know your players, if possible. If not possible, talk to them until you do.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    PC death aside, this sounds like a pretty weird adventure to me.

    1) There's a Wizard in a circle, and that's "obviously" a trap? Why? Maybe it's different in IH, but in D&D that Wizard is just as likely to be good as evil.

    2) They're expected to collapse a tower on him, but not to ... I dunno, shoot him to death from outside the circle? Even assuming they know he's evil and want to kill him (a big step from merely "not trusting" IMO), this seems like an overkill way to do it.

    3) What the heck is with this "show how smart you are by not interacting with stuff" thing I see in certain adventures anyway? It's just not very entertaining, IMO, and by that standard the /really/ smart move would be to avoid dungeons entirely and run a business instead.

    Maybe it makes more sense in context?
    Last edited by icefractal; 2017-12-23 at 04:13 AM.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Ask the player whose character died how he feels about it.

    If he feels that it was an obvious risk, knew that what he was trying to do had danger, and is content that he got what his actions deserved, there's no problem.

    If he feels that he was treated unfairly, ask him to explain why. If it's just sour grapes that he died and didn't want to then I don't think there's anything else to do, but if he says something specific and you find yourself agreeing with it even just a little bit, then offer him some compensation in his next character; let him start with a magical item, or some extra spells that he might not ordinarily have access to.

    Don't retcon the game. He fought a powerful wizard and died, that's just how it goes sometimes; it's a bigger inconvenience to everyone else to replay or discount a session because one of them has a small issue with the story that you haven't yet finished telling. Make it clear that you weren't out to kill him on purpose and that you're willing to learn from your mistake by letting him do something fun next time around.

    Don't go overboard with the gift though; make it clear that you're ONLY doing this because the circumstances were exceptional. Otherwise you might be teaching your players that if they die they get given riches and power that they wouldn't for simply adventuring the normal way, and that could lead to hard feelings... or a spiral of suicides as everyone tries to see what cool stuff their next 'toon gets.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Guys, thanks for all the help. You are also right, but let me explain the whole situation a bit further (not trying to justify myself, but to let you know about my campaign etc.).

    I'm running the game in a mix of low fantasy (for those parts involving civilization: interacting with the neighbouring established feudal kingdom and their intrigues) and weird fantasy (when characters venture into the wilderness and find beast men, demonic curses on forgotten pagan temples, little grey men growing baby fetuses in their caves, stuff like that).
    The way I frame this is very sword and wizardry: I've repeatedly made it clear to my characters that magic is something to be seen as alien, unfathomable knowledge that humans should not tamper with (think Lovecraft), that gives you a lot of power but eventually corrupts your soul. No magic using character classes are allowed, and the only magic item there is has a narrative purpose, as it is the dagger trapping the soul of the general of an ancient human empire (one of the reason we use Iron Heroes: 90% of the classes are martial, big focus on combat, no magic items etc).

    This last adventure was taking part in the wilderness, in an abandoned monastery. As I said, I like to giv
    Spoiler: Spoiler for the module
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    e it the weird fantasy flavor, so reading about Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I decided I could adapt the module Tower of the Stargazer. Now, reading about the module in hindsight, it seems one of the big criticisms of it, and in general of all LOTFP modules, is that it is very unfriendly to characters. I mean the sort of: you do almost anything fun or interesting? Save vs. death. To the point that it seems the module is out to get the characters. Think old school modules with high death ratio (Tomb of Horrors etc.), only TO THE MAX.

    This was coupled with the fact that my player is very prone to acting without consulting the rest of the players, has somehow a tendency to impose his decisions on the others etc. So when he went and erased the circle and then tried to attack him, I thought he had to face a very likely possibility of death. I hadn't expected the player to erase the circle, so I was scrambling, trying to improvise the response: in the module it says that if the characters release him and don't leave, he will kill them. The way it's presented in the module, the wizard is designed to clearly overpower the characters. The module is designed for 1st level characters, and the wizard is level 13.

    So, improvising I told him to make a die roll and thought that if he got an 18 or more he would make it and dodge/resist the spell. I guess I should have told him the target number then to make it more transparent. The problem is that he has a tendency to argue rules and modifiers, and I knew that if I told him 18 he would say that that wasn't taking into account whatever bonuses, and try to debate me into lower them (this could have been averted had I looked his saving throws earlier and calculated the save based on that, I guess, so another mistake on my part), and I didn't want him to eventually get an easy save out of a very dangerous situation he had gotten himself into.

    The whole "force cube that crushes him" was just a made up spell. As I said, I'm going for the "magic is unknown and dangerous" and sticking to known spells kind of defeats the purpose, because they expect them. Mind you: when I've thrown an encounter with a wizard of roughly their level at them, I've used the Iron Heroes NPC classes to make them balanced (basically: they have a few powers they can use so you don't need to go through a spell list).
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    But being that this one was supposed to be super powerful, I felt warranted in having him use a death spell like that one (in the module he actually has "inmunity to normal weapons" and "death spell" in his memorized spells).


    I'll talk with the player and see how he sees it the day after.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    I think the first question you should have asked yourself, was if you wanted to include the possibility of this happening at all. Running an encounter where a single bad player decision kills their character is risky if the players aren't prepared. And if you do include these traps, it is fair if you decide the conditions in advance, and follow through. It seems like you did more or less, killing the character in the end when that was the premise of the scenario, and also giving the others a chance. Though, including the trap in the first place was maybe a bad call.

    I would also talk with the player. If the player would be happy to make a new character, that is probably easiest, but you should still sort out your expectations.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    So, a lot depends.

    First off, a lot depends on your description. If it's just "a wizard in a circle" then you haven't given enough information to really make a good decision, so players can't be blamed for filling in the blanks.

    In a case like that, paint a picture. And, if players do something that doesn't make sense (like immediately breaking the circle), it's safe to point out "Okay, so you know the wizard is just sitting there, right? He's not doing anything. You do have a chance to think about this - is that what you want to do?"

    Secondly, I kind of agree with the others about it being kind of a gotcha encounter without a lot of real value. I'd consider if that's what you really want in your game, and how it will make players react to things in the future. A bunch of things in the game where the only "success" is to not interact with them will make players avoidant of interacting with anything unnecessary - which can slow the heck out of a game.

    The whole thing is, in my mind kind of sketchy. Here's something that seems to primarily exist to screw the players if they don't do what you consider the right thing, and the ending of the adventure is canned, with something the players are "supposed to do." That just tweaks me all the wrong ways. The immediate response of the wizard putting him in the cube, by your description, sounds pretty arbitrary and fiat. Isn't there a chance for initiative, or something? What are the rules on the cube? Just *deciding* what happens feels quite arbitrary to me. The only thing I see similar to that is a Cube of Force, which is an impenetrable barrier but doesn't talk about crushing anything, and explicitly goes around *the possessor*.

    Plus, what does the wizard have to gain by attacking the party? Until they initiate combat, it seems to be a high-risk, little reward maneuver. If the wizard just wants to be free, why wouldn't he just make up some garbage about "oh, thanks for saving me from the evil magic prison blah blah blah" and walk off and continue his plans?
    Last edited by kyoryu; 2017-12-23 at 06:54 PM.
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    So, a lot depends.

    First off, a lot depends on your description. If it's just "a wizard in a circle" then you haven't given enough information to really make a good decision, so players can't be blamed for filling in the blanks.
    At which point players either act hastily and run the chance of reaping either glory if their gut instincts are right or getting burned if they are not, as this player did, or decide not to rush into things but consider the situation more closely, as the other players did.

    I don't see any reason that players should be given enough information up front to make good decisions without a bit of exertion on their part.

    In a case like that, paint a picture. And, if players do something that doesn't make sense (like immediately breaking the circle), it's safe to point out "Okay, so you know the wizard is just sitting there, right? He's not doing anything. You do have a chance to think about this - is that what you want to do?"

    Secondly, I kind of agree with the others about it being kind of a gotcha encounter without a lot of real value. I'd consider if that's what you really want in your game, and how it will make players react to things in the future. A bunch of things in the game where the only "success" is to not interact with them will make players avoidant of interacting with anything unnecessary - which can slow the heck out of a game.
    OTOH, he did expand on the situation now and explain how it is a magic scarce setting where magic is actually something people consider alien, not meant for man to know, something you shouldn't tamper with as it corrupts the soul, the wielders people to be wary of (due to tampering with things not meant for man to know and being corrupted by it) and here, in some ruins that they've been told contains an unholy presence, they come upon a magic user.

    Dying in that situation with no warning will do a lot to reinforce the danger of magic in the setting, which I would consider of great value.

    I quite agree that serving up a player with lots of situation where not interacting with them can result in players being overly cautious and slow things down (I started playing in the 10 foot pole days :D), but that doesn't seem to be what the players were presented with here.

    The other players chose, when facing the wizard in his circle asking them to help him break the circle, to interact with the wizard by conversing with him and asking him to leave the circle, because they thought something might be wrong. This player chose to break the circle to attack the wizard out of hand.

    The whole thing is, in my mind kind of sketchy. Here's something that seems to primarily exist to screw the players if they don't do what you consider the right thing, and the ending of the adventure is canned, with something the players are "supposed to do." That just tweaks me all the wrong ways. The immediate response of the wizard putting him in the cube, by your description, sounds pretty arbitrary and fiat. Isn't there a chance for initiative, or something? What are the rules on the cube? Just *deciding* what happens feels quite arbitrary to me. The only thing I see similar to that is a Cube of Force, which is an impenetrable barrier but doesn't talk about crushing anything, and explicitly goes around *the possessor*.
    Different style of roleplaying, I guess. The idea that all magic should follow predetermined rules that players can look up in rulebooks or, indeed, should follow hard rules in the first place explicitly laying out its limitations, takes much of the magic feeling of magic away from it to me.

    If you really want all magic to follow rules, then just accept that just like players (in some settings) can make their own custom magic, so can others, and that since this wizard is so very powerful in this setting his magic can do this. Or if you don't like that, then perhaps he was granted that ability by some Lovecraftian horror or whatever.

    Plus, what does the wizard have to gain by attacking the party? Until they initiate combat, it seems to be a high-risk, little reward maneuver. If the wizard just wants to be free, why wouldn't he just make up some garbage about "oh, thanks for saving me from the evil magic prison blah blah blah" and walk off and continue his plans?
    Perhaps the wizard doesn't want just to be free?

    Perhaps he is the wielder of powers beyond the ken of men that has corrupted his soul and he no longer acts rationally where fight/flight instincts are concerned? Or assuming he's that unholy presence that that monk could sense, perhaps he thirsts for souls for magic power? Or flesh for nourishment? Perhaps the magic circle that imprisoned him also sustained him so he now needs food badly? Or perhaps it didn't and he's been sustaining himself by his magic the whole time and is desperately hungry?

    Perhaps his twisted soul made him a monster that loves killing and can't help itself? Perhaps he made a pact with some unseen power that requires him to kill people? BLOOD AND SOULS FOR LORD ARIOCH!

    Perhaps he's immensely prideful and cannot bear the thought of people who've seen him humbled and in need of help going on living?

    Perhaps he's not trapped by the circle by some do-gooder, but by a geas made by somebody more powerful, corrupted, and twisted/insane than himself, and isn't actually trapped in the circle but trapped by a geas that won't allow him to leave the ruins or kill anybody and absorb their souls unless those people have helped him break the circle (which magically recovers from any break every day) and he hit upon the "I'm trapped in the circle" to accomplish this?

    I'd say a wizard whose humanity is corrupted by sinister forces beyond the ken of men and detects as an unholy presence, who lives in a setting that is Lovecraftian, wanting to kill people who help him escape a trap... is behaving entirely consistent with what I'd be expecting of such a wizard.

    (Admittedly in some of the more weird explanations above it would be kind to the players to provide a diary or whatever after the wizard is disposed of, that explains what is going on. You know, one of those handy diaries with very few entries that, by some strange coincidence, just happen to provide answers to bewildered players.)
    Last edited by Deliverance; 2017-12-23 at 09:37 PM.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Meh. Live by the attitude, die by the attitude.

    If your player has a habit of going off the reservation, he's going to have to deal with the consequences eventually. Even if the consequences are death.

    If this was the first time your player had done something like this, I would say you were a bit heavy handed, but as it is, I would say that he's been tempting fate for a while, and fate finally decided she'd had enough, and slapped him down. From the description of the wizard in the module, the other players were lucky to escape alive, after this guy aggro'd the wizard for lulz. Death was supposed to be certain, and you let the rest walk away. Let this guy live with his characters fate.

    Never retcon. Ever. Let him make a new character and hope he's learned his lesson. Don't give him anything special, or you will set an expectation that when a character dies, the new one get's power ups. He (or your other players) will start taking stupid risks just to be able to re-roll a character that's more powerful than the old one.
    Last edited by Mutazoia; 2017-12-23 at 10:02 PM.
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deliverance View Post
    At which point players either act hastily and run the chance of reaping either glory if their gut instincts are right or getting burned if they are not, as this player did, or decide not to rush into things but consider the situation more closely, as the other players did.

    I don't see any reason that players should be given enough information up front to make good decisions without a bit of exertion on their part.
    No. But they should be given the information that the characters readily have.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deliverance View Post
    OTOH, he did expand on the situation now and explain how it is a magic scarce setting where magic is actually something people consider alien, not meant for man to know, something you shouldn't tamper with as it corrupts the soul, the wielders people to be wary of (due to tampering with things not meant for man to know and being corrupted by it) and here, in some ruins that they've been told contains an unholy presence, they come upon a magic user.
    If the player was rash, they were rash. But they should be rash based on character perception, not lack of GM description.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deliverance View Post
    Dying in that situation with no warning will do a lot to reinforce the danger of magic in the setting, which I would consider of great value.

    I quite agree that serving up a player with lots of situation where not interacting with them can result in players being overly cautious and slow things down (I started playing in the 10 foot pole days :D), but that doesn't seem to be what the players were presented with here.
    Don't play the Groggier Than Though game, if you win it won't be by much ;)

    Quote Originally Posted by Deliverance View Post
    The other players chose, when facing the wizard in his circle asking them to help him break the circle, to interact with the wizard by conversing with him and asking him to leave the circle, because they thought something might be wrong. This player chose to break the circle to attack the wizard out of hand.
    Agreed, and so long as the player had a reasonable understanding of the situation, to the extent that the characters could see it, I have no problem with that going poorly. Based on the description, it sounds like the GM imagined the wizard just kinda hanging out, while the player imagined the wizard in the middle of a summoning. That's information the character would be able to see - whether the wizard was just sitting down, or whether the wizard was chanting and waving their arms.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deliverance View Post
    Different style of roleplaying, I guess. The idea that all magic should follow predetermined rules that players can look up in rulebooks or, indeed, should follow hard rules in the first place explicitly laying out its limitations, takes much of the magic feeling of magic away from it to me.
    Actually, I agree. But.... the OP described the thing used as if it were a standard item or spell, and as such, it did not follow the rules of that standard item.

    If it was a special/custom item/spell, then it's basically the equivalent of Power Word: Kill - a 9th level spell (at least in D&D 3). That's incredibly powerful, and I'd probably question the design of that one, especially since the OP didn't mention it happening on the wizard's initiative or anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deliverance View Post
    If you really want all magic to follow rules, then just accept that just like players (in some settings) can make their own custom magic, so can others, and that since this wizard is so very powerful in this setting his magic can do this. Or if you don't like that, then perhaps he was granted that ability by some Lovecraftian horror or whatever.
    I have a hard time believing the wizard is that powerful (9th level spell equivalent) since they took him out in one round.

    Quote Originally Posted by Deliverance View Post
    Perhaps the wizard doesn't want just to be free?
    He probably doesn't. But what does he have to gain by attacking the party?

    Quote Originally Posted by Deliverance View Post
    Perhaps he is the wielder of powers beyond the ken of men that has corrupted his soul and he no longer acts rationally where fight/flight instincts are concerned? Or assuming he's that unholy presence that that monk could sense, perhaps he thirsts for souls for magic power? Or flesh for nourishment? Perhaps the magic circle that imprisoned him also sustained him so he now needs food badly? Or perhaps it didn't and he's been sustaining himself by his magic the whole time and is desperately hungry?
    All of htese are interesting ideas, but expressing them via "just immediately attack" is, to me, the least interesting thing to do with these ideas. I mean, can you come up with a rationalization for instant attack? Of course! But it's certainly not the only thing that can be done.
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    The wizard was an old monk, trapped when performing a ritual 80 years ago (the ritual trapped him and didn't let him age). He lost the notion of time and that coupled with thinking he had been stranded forever took away his sanity.
    He attacked the character that attacked him but was willing to let the others leave unharmed.

    His spell was a death spell, 6th level spell and listed in his stats in the module. I might have been wrong to make them play a LOTFP module, but I assure you I wasn't consciously trying to make it even deadlier than it already was 😅.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    I mean it was a death spell but in a different visual manifestation. The other poster nailed it when saying that just including "rulebook" spells took the magic away. I didn't make the spell up but just made it take a different format, so that magic kept looking weird and unpredictable to the players.

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    GreataxeFighterGuy

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Given the additional information we now have about the setting, I don't think this was unfair. I think you're worrying about it excessively because one of your players did something you didn't foresee happening and got his character killed as a result.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    I wouldn't call this "unfair", but I do think that you should try and think really carefully about how to fit random modules into your campaign since you're using a custom setting and rules. Modules tend to come with certain assumptions baked in from both the system and the setting, and since you're using modules from a different system and including them in your homebrew setting, you're going to get a lot of expectations-mismatches between the module and what fits in your game.

    I'd suggest in most cases to steal the floorplans from modules more or less as-is, read through how that floorplan was supposed to be used in the module just so you have some idea how it was "supposed" to work, and then actually go through and populate it with traps, monsters, NPCs, items, room descriptions, etc. based entirely on what would make sense for a building shaped like that in the location you stuck it in rather than anything from the module (you can "steal" things from the module if they fit, but I think a default assumption of "not there" rather than "there" would help you have a clear idea of why these things are in your game and what is likely to happen when your PCs encounter them). You can also tweak the floorplan at this point if you realize it would work better for whatever you're using it for if it were different.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    In the 60s TV show Gunsmoke, Marshall Dillon once said, "I never hang anybody - the law does."

    Similarly, you didn't kill the PC; the scenario did. As long as you aren't the kind of DM who crows about beating him, that's fine.

    If you feel the need to undo it (which I don't recommend unless you have a good reason), don't retcon it. That means their playing didn't happen. Go forward, not backward.

    I once saw a game in which an entire "killed" party woke up chained to the oars of a ship. Presumably, the people who "killed" them bound their wounds in time, and sold them into slavery. They've lost all their gear, but they have an escape to plan, some allies (the other galley slaves) to lead, and a ship to take over.

    Similarly, you can tell the player that his wizard woke up tied up in the presence of a character who says, "I brought you back to life because I need somebody to risk his life on a task for me. Since you don't have one except for me, I suspect you'll risk it for me."

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    Barbarian in the Playground
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Quote Originally Posted by kyoryu View Post
    Don't play the Groggier Than Though game, if you win it won't be by much ;)
    That was not my intention, but rereading what I wrote I can see how it can be taken that way.

    If it was a special/custom item/spell, then it's basically the equivalent of Power Word: Kill - a 9th level spell (at least in D&D 3). That's incredibly powerful, and I'd probably question the design of that one, especially since the OP didn't mention it happening on the wizard's initiative or anything.
    PW:Kill doesn't allow any kind of saving throws as far as I recall in that edition, just a plain hitpoint check. Whereas he allowed the player to roll two dice against some arbitrarily chosen high number, if I understood him right.

    Either way, given that he has now told us that the module had the wizard using a 6th level Death Spell specific to the module, it is amusingly enough possibly he treated the party very leniently compared to the module design by just crushing one of them out of hand after failing a few rolls.

    Because I must admit that as soon as I read Death Spell, and with all the comments about that module aspiring to old school deadliness of the best/worst/most aggravating type, I thought of the 1st or 2nd Ed. Death Spell, in which case it would be able to wipe out an entire party of level 1 adventurers with a single casting and no saving throws possible, because it was designed for pest control and didn't care about anything but the hit dice of those in the area of effect. (Larger numbers of low HD targets, fewer as they approached 8HD, 9HD or above being immune.)

    Well, perhaps toned down to fit the magic power level of later D&D games but keeping the core features.

    I wonder if it did - OP, just what did the module's Death Spell call for?

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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    I often design encounters where the smart thing for the party to do is to turn around and run, standing and fighting will get them killed. this is easier to do at early levels when you can give the enemy a distinct advantage (archers on a ridge, its a sleeping hydra etc.) I give experience to those who do the smart thing and run, and I always make sure they have a way out, and that they can see it, even if I need to put up neon signs. sometimes getting them to run is the entire point of the encounter. If they stay and fight they get what they deserve. now the question of fairness in you campaign can be answered with the following question: did you give warning signs that were ignored? I have had instances were the player did something blatantly stupid (like ringing a bell in a place where they were trying to be sneaky just because they could) and I hammered them for it, and on those occasions in which I was uncertain that the player saw the warning signs I try to ask the ever popular "are you sure about that".
    And then I may revisit said encounters after they have gained in power to help them see that they are no longer quite so squishy.
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Quote Originally Posted by vasilidor View Post
    I try to ask the ever popular "are you sure about that".
    This is super annoying, by the way.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    By the way, it's important to watch how the players react in the next few games. If they start playing more cautiously, or more tactically - and enjoy it - then it has had a good effect.

    If they enjoy the game less than before, then it has had a poor effect.

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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    How did I come across as annoying? just asking.
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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Quote Originally Posted by vasilidor View Post
    How did I come across as annoying? just asking.
    He finds asking "are you sure about that" to be annoying, not you personally.
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

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    I think, therefore I get really, really annoyed at people who won't.

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    Deliverance: the spell is a sixth level spell which reads
    A living creature requires a certain amount of order within its body to maintain its functions. This spell causes the internal organs of its subject to stop functioning as a greater whole, killing him immediately. The victim is allowed to save versus Poison to resist the spell; failure means instant death. Creatures of 8 or more Hit Dice or levels are immune to the spell, as are undead monsters, golems, and any other “creature” that is not truly alive.
    Taking into account that the module is designed for 1st level adventurers, it's obvious that the wizard is not an encounter oriented towards combat. Fighting him means probable death (unless you get incredibly lucky with your first attack or something).

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    RogueGuy

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    Default Re: Killed a PC - was it unfair? Should I retcon it?

    ah, OK. Basically my point was did you provide information for the player to know that the course of action he was engaging in would likely lead to his demise? if so you are golden ad without any reason to feel guilty. also if he simply tromped on without giving you the time to provide such info (as I have seen happen in a recent game I played in) you are still golden. any person or persons who try to ring bells in the middle of a stealth mission deserve for those bells to be mimics.
    the first half of the meaning of life is that there isn't one.

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