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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Thinker's Avatar

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    Default How do you deal with instant death?

    Hello everyone,
    I am curious how you folks handle instant death effects. Of course, not all systems or tables treat the same mechanics the same way so I've provided a few different scenarios that I'd like your input on:
    • Save or die - Do you use abilities that create a situation where a character can die instantly? If not, how do you handle effects like those?
    • Skill checks or die - Do you allow skill rolls where failure will result in death (i.e., falling off a cliff)? If not, do you allow players to roll additional skill rolls to avoid the situation? How else would you handle it?
    • Failed rolls - In games like Apocalypse World, failing a roll can be very bad and open up characters to death - if such a roll would cause character death, do you allow the player to find an alternative way out?
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    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    I've seen and used all three.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    [*] Save or die - Do you use abilities that create a situation where a character can die instantly? If not, how do you handle effects like those?
    Mechanically, I expect them to cost something (spell slot, mana, whatever) and to have a chance of failure, generally represented by the target making a save or check.

    As DM, I tend to make these rare for enemies, unless the party is at a point where reviving in combat is somewhat easy (e.g., you can toss out a Revivify or such in D&D). Some niche foes may have it, especially social ones the party knows are dangerous if cornered but generally not for martial combat, but most NPCs avoid it.
    PCs are welcome to take it. I think the action/resource economy of "use a spell slot up for a chance to auto-kill. If they resist, you lost your resource." is fair enough.

    I'll note that I'd include most "save or suck" ones in here as well. While they do not instantaneously cause death, they in effect remove you from combat and leave you at your foe's mercy (at least unless your allies save you.) This could also include things like being perma-charmed or possessed, effectively changing you into an enemy of the party.

    [*] Skill checks or die - Do you allow skill rolls where failure will result in death (i.e., falling off a cliff)? If not, do you allow players to roll additional skill rolls to avoid the situation? How else would you handle it?
    I generally frown on this, as player and DM. It could very well be failure on our part, but I and those I've played with tend not to find this very satisfying. It lacks the tension of combat. I'd prefer skill checks to set up a battle near the end as easier or harder (such as the enemy has a chance of getting prepared if you take too long, or they already have the McGuffin and now it's stop them from escaping instead of just beat them to the goal).

    I'd also dislike it on a d20 system due to the swingy nature of d20s. A 2d6 system or something like World of Darkness' d10 feels a bit less random, a bit more dependent on the character's skill.

    That said, I could see it as okay if there's some recovery mechanic. Like, you fail your first roll and something bad happens, but you get another try. I never tried D&D 4e, but it's skill check challenges sound like a decent method.

    [*]Failed rolls - In games like Apocalypse World, failing a roll can be very bad and open up characters to death - if such a roll would cause character death, do you allow the player to find an alternative way out?
    I guess my answer here is the same as with skill checks. Mechanically, it seems rather similar. Though, this situation feels more annoying... maybe because it's the character rolling bad that triggers the maybe-death instead of a situation that triggers a roll that triggers the maybe-death? Feels like more blame on the player for rolling bad, even if it's not mechanically distinct.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    Imp

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    In my opinion I don't think instant death is good design and I don't think fumble rolls that do real damage (or even death) is fun design. I'd always rather have no crits and no fumbles than crits and fumbles. (crits are not fun to at all IMO, I prefer chess to Yahtzee if you catch my drift)

    When it comes to situations like high cliffs and fatal injury from falling them the PC should know that they are in very real danger and the DM should inform the player so that they always make informed decisions. When one of the possible outcomes is death the player should know and know how likely.

    That said an alternative way out should only be offered if it makes sense according to the internal logic of the game AND the PC would know and think of it at the time.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    Save or die - Do you use abilities that create a situation where a character can die instantly? If not, how do you handle effects like those?
    If it makes sense. I'd use them sparingly, in places where instant death effects being possible are fairly well telegraphed so people on their guard to be extra specially careful.

    Skill checks or die - Do you allow skill rolls where failure will result in death (i.e., falling off a cliff)? If not, do you allow players to roll additional skill rolls to avoid the situation? How else would you handle it?
    Yes, totally. Dungeoneering is as important a part of the game as fighting and deserves to be just as dangerous. I'd usually allow another roll, if it's plausible to do something else in the situation to mitigate the first failure, that doesn't involve rolling the same thing again. If you fail the balance test to not fall off the beam into the lava then you can't roll balance again, but I'd potentially allow someone else to make a roll to throw the rope to the person falling to their death, and maybe a check to catch that rope and stop your fall.

    Failed rolls - In games like Apocalypse World, failing a roll can be very bad and open up characters to death - if such a roll would cause character death, do you allow the player to find an alternative way out?
    Respect the stakes you've set up. If you're making a roll to get to a fallen comrade before an army rolls over them and fail it, then you getting shot to death is what makes sense in the fiction. But you also bring up AW so I'll point out many games take the pressure off of you in situations like this. Yes, "life becomes untenable" if you fail this roll, but that doesn't mean your character is guaranteed dead and done in AW, the MC doesn't even have any control over that. The players are entitled to say "as the army passes over my battered and broken body and recedes into the distance, my eyes slowly open. I'm coming back with -1 hard".

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    Firbolg in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    [Save or die - Do you use abilities that create a situation where a character can die instantly? If not, how do you handle effects like those?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    Skill checks or die - Do you allow skill rolls where failure will result in death (i.e., falling off a cliff)? If not, do you allow players to roll additional skill rolls to avoid the situation? How else would you handle it?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    Failed rolls - In games like Apocalypse World, failing a roll can be very bad and open up characters to death - if such a roll would cause character death, do you allow the player to find an alternative way out?
    Yes, and maybe.

    I think character death and loss bring a lot to the game. So they should happen often.

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Save or die? Absolutely.

    Skill check or die? Absolutely.

    Failed roll, so die? Eh, that doesn't sound like Simulationist logical consequences me...

    You missed a few, though:

    Player skill or die (ie, the Titanic is sinking, maybe you don't want to lock yourself in the freezer)? Absolutely.

    No save, just die (ie, Vorpal sword)? Absolutely.

    Which do I prefer? Hmmm... Whichever makes the most sense at the time, I suppose. But probably "player skill or die".

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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    "Instant death" seems to suggest going from full or normal to dead in a single result. No.

    Not never ever. But most situations where it is fine for that to happen have actually chipped away at, not always character health in the literal sense, but the situation. If the character has taken an extreme risk or made bad decisions that has worn away at the situation, than yes. But it isn't really instant then.

    (Also I think save or die abilities are a terrible ideas that HP was meant to alleviate. There is a reason sword attacks do not trigger a save vs. beheading.)

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    BlackDragon

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    I give a warning and it all comes down to certain things it highly varies depending on player, system and more.
    I like to push things and find a balance but when players know what is going down well i frankly do not hold out i hit and i hit hard.
    If characters can die they will encounter dangerous threats and need to organize and work it out or they will suffer the consequences of failure.
    And it will end poorly for them or rather can
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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Save or Die always have counters in games and I'll allow the players to get items to counter those types of spells. Or rather, those items count as a sort of "evasion" for those spells. Low-grade versions they suffer the secondary damage of the SOD, but if they get the higher quality items they can make a saving throw and if successful, shrug off even that secondary effect.

    For skill or other roll checks, sometimes they happen. Our cleric tried to leap a gap and rolled a 4, tripping on the edge, failing to leap even 5 feet. If she had gotten a 5, she would have fallen into the pit. If that had happened, our DM would probably allowed a reflex save to attempt to catch herself, where she'd need to either be helped up, make a strength check to hold on, a full-round action to better her grip and a climb check to hoist herself back up, before falling to her doom. If she had rolled a 10 on this 15-foot gap, she'd be without holds on either side and probably simply fall to her death. If she had rolled a 14, she might have been given the same leniency as on the other side. Since we were in the middle of a fight, it would have been a lot of lost time, so it'd be fair to allow it to take so much time.

    We allow soft zones, but sometimes there's just death on all sides. And sometimes we just have to suck up a death or two and keep playing. (Personally I am not a big fan of death penalties though, I think the cost of raising someone and the loss of roleplay they get to be a part of is punishment enough)

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    [*] Save or die - Do you use abilities that create a situation where a character can die instantly? If not, how do you handle effects like those?
    Yes. I will tend to only use it where it is obvious (if the party are hunting a Beholder, they will have to expect a disintegrate ray), or where it has been well telegraphed (if facing an archmage or Lich, I will give them an opportunity to learn that the enemy has/uses these spells). I won't tend to spring it on them without some warning.

    [*] Skill checks or die - Do you allow skill rolls where failure will result in death (i.e., falling off a cliff)? If not, do you allow players to roll additional skill rolls to avoid the situation? How else would you handle it?
    Only if it is there choice to take the dangerous skill test. For example, there might be multiple routes to a destination, and one of them dangerous, if they choose that route, its on them. However, if there is only one route, I wont make them run an instant-death lottery to use it.

    [*]Failed rolls - In games like Apocalypse World, failing a roll can be very bad and open up characters to death - if such a roll would cause character death, do you allow the player to find an alternative way out?[/list]
    Can't think of an example in any of the games I play, but probably would, depending on how much choice the player had in taking the risk (if it is just a random chance on a mundane test, then probably not, but if the player is raising the risk to gain some benefit, then thats his choice).

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    Dwarf in the Playground
     
    Planetar

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    Hello everyone,
    I am curious how you folks handle instant death effects. Of course, not all systems or tables treat the same mechanics the same way so I've provided a few different scenarios that I'd like your input on:
    • Save or die - Do you use abilities that create a situation where a character can die instantly? If not, how do you handle effects like those?
    • Skill checks or die - Do you allow skill rolls where failure will result in death (i.e., falling off a cliff)? If not, do you allow players to roll additional skill rolls to avoid the situation? How else would you handle it?
    • Failed rolls - In games like Apocalypse World, failing a roll can be very bad and open up characters to death - if such a roll would cause character death, do you allow the player to find an alternative way out?
    As a default, no death is permitted at our table, with the following exceptions:
    + Resurrection is possible, and it will be possible before the end of the session (or at the beginning of the next one)
    + The player willfully made a decision that had some risk of death (in hope of a greater reward), while other choices were possible.
    + The player want to play another character. His current character will leave the party as an NPC if he survive to the session, but his death is not a problem.
    + Total party kill (characters lucky/clever enough to survive will be captured, run away, ...). This is usually followed by a special session where we play pre-generated characters that have for goal to rescue/resurrect us.
    + End of story arc. You get a new character in the next story arc (possibly a fan of your previous character, who want to avenge his death).

    So, to answer your questions:
    + Save-or-die -> As long as resurrection (or time alteration) is not a thing, they are not a thing.
    + Skill-check-or-die -> If there is a risk of death, player will be warned, and the test will be avoided. Reasonable peoples don't do actions that have 10% chance of instant death if they can avoid it.
    + Failed rolls -> It depends.

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Okay, a few caveats before I answer this.

    I don't play Dungeons and Dragons, and I consider minimal cost and easily accessible save-or-the-player-sits-out-the-rest-of-the-game to be appalling game design - especially when they're undetectable until used (like D&D spells). Because, mostly, death is just boring for the player controlling the character - especially if you do the revolving door to the afterlife bit, so the only cost is that you can't participate in the game until your character's resurrected, which may well take longer than introducing a new character would. If your character's permanently dead, at least you can work on your next one while everyone else plays the game.

    The systems I do play almost always have some form of meta currency that can be used to stave off death, until you run out of it at least.

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    Hello everyone,
    I am curious how you folks handle instant death effects. Of course, not all systems or tables treat the same mechanics the same way so I've provided a few different scenarios that I'd like your input on:
    • Save or die - Do you use abilities that create a situation where a character can die instantly? If not, how do you handle effects like those?
    I use them with great care and a lot of thought, and when I do use them I try to telegraph them so the players have a chance to prepare and plan, or just avoid the situation to begin with. They also have no place in combat, really, because the challenge is that save-or-die situation is in avoiding ever having to save in the first place.

    Let's take Perseus and Medusa. Perseus knew about Medusa, and planned accordingly. He was able to think and plan around her ability to turn all those who looked upon her to stone. In game terms? He never had to make a save to avoid being petrified.

    To use an example more relevant to the game I run; if the players run up against a tank, the challenge isn't to kill it while making desperate dodge rolls to avoid the main gun (they can do that if they want, but it's not the intention). The challenge is in achieving their objective without drawing its fire to begin with. That object might be to disable or destroy the tank, but that's best done without getting shot at by it - better it never knows the PCs are there, or that it wastes all its shells on phantom targets (which, admittedly, is unlikely).

    • Skill checks or die - Do you allow skill rolls where failure will result in death (i.e., falling off a cliff)? If not, do you allow players to roll additional skill rolls to avoid the situation? How else would you handle it?
    I do use them provided there is a viable alternative to the situation.

    For example, I might use the following situation:

    "The soldiers chasing you are close behind. Up ahead, the road veers sharply and starts to climb steeply towards the bridge. This part of the road is a big dog-leg around the river; in the summer the river can be forded here reasonably safely. But right now the river's high and fast with melt-water - crossing here could result in death if you take a single misstep, but the soldiers will likely catch you up if you take the long way. What do you do?"

    The danger is clearly telegraphed, there's an alternative option - which has its own set of consequences - and the decision to take the risk is in the players' hands. If some, or all, of them die... at least it was their decision to take the risk.

    On the other hand...

    "There's a river crossing. Flip a coin. Heads you don't drown,"

    ...is terrible and should be avoided at all costs. There's high risk for no reward, and no alternatives. There are a few - very few - situations where I consider that situation to be acceptable, but all of those do present another option: don't cross. And, you know, there's a reward. Take the following:

    "The floor's broken - and - and there's no telling how deep the resulting crevasse is. If you fall in, you won't be coming back. But the jeweled idol on its pedestal is so temptingly gleaming in the torch light. It has nothing to do with why you're here, and the chamber it's in is obviously a dead end. But gold, right?"

    Again, the option of not doing the hideously dangerous thing. And the option of minimizing risk by only having one person try and cross (and, of course, making things safer using ropes is always on the table).

    • Failed rolls - In games like Apocalypse World, failing a roll can be very bad and open up characters to death - if such a roll would cause character death, do you allow the player to find an alternative way out?
    I'm not sure what you mean here. Isn't this exactly the same as the pass-skill-test-or-die question above?
    Last edited by Aneurin; 2018-11-06 at 01:24 PM.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    I'm not one for instant death. It's no fun.

    If the characters will die, it will be an agonizing death. They will think they've won. They will believe so strongly that their convictions were strong enough... and were still evaporated like so many water droplets on a hot skillet.

    Instant death is boring, and just makes people go "Aw, come on." It's like finding out you ran out of cookies, vs. Doing everything in your power to eat that last cookie, only to watch in horror as it slips between your fingers and falls in the trash.

    The former is a bummer. The latter, you will NEVER forget.

    Go for the latter.
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    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Last edited by Koo Rehtorb; 2018-11-06 at 09:56 PM.

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    Titan in the Playground
     
    Flumph

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    It's better to make everything use the same systems for representing harm to a person's body and mind. The fewer separate mechanics for harm, and the more nuance they offer, the better.

    Whether something is meant to be deadly or not, its harm (or harmlessness) should be represented within those systems instead of being a dissociated mechanic. If a power is meant to decapitate a character, then inflict damage to the head-location. If it's meant to scare people to death or suck their souls out, then use either the head location, a psychic damage track, or the same hit-points everything else uses. And so on.

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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Thinker View Post
    Hello everyone,
    I am curious how you folks handle instant death effects. Of course, not all systems or tables treat the same mechanics the same way so I've provided a few different scenarios that I'd like your input on:
    • Save or die - Do you use abilities that create a situation where a character can die instantly? If not, how do you handle effects like those?
    • Skill checks or die - Do you allow skill rolls where failure will result in death (i.e., falling off a cliff)? If not, do you allow players to roll additional skill rolls to avoid the situation? How else would you handle it?
    • Failed rolls - In games like Apocalypse World, failing a roll can be very bad and open up characters to death - if such a roll would cause character death, do you allow the player to find an alternative way out?
    Save or dies: Usually I keep my PCs low enough level that this doesn't come up. Since I tend not to throw these at them, they don't tend to buy items that help them resist this at higher levels and so I don't throw these at them.

    Skill checks or die: For certain. Just last session, the PCs were traversing up and down a hazardous mountain and a failed climb check + reflex would basically mean they plummet to their deaths. Just make it abundantly clear beforehand that failure will probably result in death, give them an extra save or something, and let the other party members intervene quickly if it would make sense for them to do so.

    Failed rolls: Yep. Sometimes fate is rough. The same way the dice giveth they taketh away.

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    NecromancerGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Save or die: usually no unless the danger has been expressly said ahead of time and the players pushed forward regardless

    Skill checks or die and failed rolls - to me these are lumped together. Yes absolutely to both, but with the stipulation the player understands the risk of what they are trying.

    For example, I would totally allow someone to attempt to hopscotch across precarious tree limbs dangling over a several hundred foot drop, but before hand I would make sure the player understood how high the drop is and the fatality of such a fall

    Mainly my thing is it's ok as long as you make sure the players understand the risks. Sometimes it's awesome and cool to do it anyway and succeed. It sucks to die when you didnt realize how dangerous it was

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Character death should be meaningful.

    So anything like walking unprepared into basilisks or medusas who turn you to stone is bad. Triggering the temple trap that leads to a huge boulder permablocking the party in the dungeon is bad. Getting TPCed in the 10th ambush of a dungeon when the safe room is next door is bad.

    A character who runs in to the open to distract a beholder and gets disintegrated while the rest of the party can escape/kill the beholder is good. Getting TPCed in a boss fight while destroying the omnipotent weapon of doom that prevents the boss from gaining world domination is good.

    A capricious random event insta-killing someone is bad. A player taking a known risk in a heroic situation is good.

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Players earn plot tokens by doing meta-game stuff that benefits the game: artwork, journal entry for a session, etc.

    Players spend plot tokens to have a PC not die when the rules would ordinarily lack mercy.

    Then I can roll in the open and not fudge -- the players earn their own fudges.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    Character death should be meaningful.

    ...

    A capricious random event insta-killing someone is bad. A player taking a known risk in a heroic situation is good.
    Why?

    If all deaths are heroic, they aren't heroic anymore, they are just a "standard" death. Foolish, unlucky, and mundane death helps make the heroic ones stand out all the more.

    If normal encounters and monsters can't kill a character, you are just wasting everyones time by including them. There is no uncertainty of result, and there is no cost in resources, since the players will come to know they can just walk through them on basic attacks.

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    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    There's already plenty of standard deaths for NPC's, if you just have PC's dying willy-nilly, you're just making a trivial case of death. Heroic deaths are deaths from whence you shouldn't be able to return.

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    PaladinGuy

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glorthindel View Post
    If normal encounters and monsters can't kill a character, you are just wasting everyones time by including them. There is no uncertainty of result, and there is no cost in resources, since the players will come to know they can just walk through them on basic attacks.
    This seems like a misreading of what was being said. Saying that insta-death effects depending mostly on dice rolls aren't good is different from saying that the PCs should be coddled and protected from actual harm unless facing the big bad.

    But still, I am against random encounters (both as a GM and a player). I prefer encounters to be part of the narrative, and not random wandering monsters in the countryside. That way, if a character does die or suffer some permanent loss, there will be a certain gravitas that isn't there when the foe is a randomly determined creature which has no connection to story and characters.

    Save or Dies are very much like random encounters: there's very little entertainment to be derived from losing just because you didn't pass a single saving throw. I much prefer the character's losses to derive from mistakes or shortcomings on their part.

    EDIT: I'm referring to long-lasting campaigns with mid-to-heavy plot. Obviously there are different styles of games (like oneshot or dungeon/hex crawlers, or more sandbox-y campaigns) where I think random encounters are acceptable and work better.
    Last edited by Silly Name; 2018-11-08 at 08:13 AM.

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    Daemon

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    I find SoD abilities to be un-fun. In my mind, it causes a few problems.

    a) if there are perfect countermeasures (items or spells that totally nullify the effect), then the presence of SoD becomes merely an optimization tax. Either you dive through the books looking for the particular items and spend your in-game resources on these items or you die. No fun. Items and spells that become "you must be this tall to ride" hard gates exacerbate imbalance and are, like items that provide the missing mechanical bits, boring.

    b) If there aren't perfect countermeasures, SoD effects promote rocket tag. You can be unavoidably taken out of combat before you have a chance to act. For NPCs, this is fine. There's always more NPCs. For PCs, this means that the player (because characters aren't the ones experiencing anything really) has to sit there to the end of combat (up to an hour or more at worst) without being able to do anything. This isn't very fun at all. It means they're going to check out of the game, which doesn't help anyone. I feel the same about hard CC that you can't shortcut (by breaking concentration, etc).

    I don't mind (or mind less) abilities that take time and require a string of bad decisions or bad rolls to result in death. No single roll should (for normal things) be life or death, starting from a baseline of normal function. Breaking things up into smaller pieces, each with meaningful consequences keeps the tension going.

    The exception is voluntary do-or-die actions--the heroic "throw yourself in front of the bullet" actions, the ones where you knowingly, voluntarily up the ante and put death on the line for a single action.
    Dream of Hope: a 5e setting. http://www.admiralbenbo.org
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  24. - Top - End - #24
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    OK, let me talk about the game design layer of this.

    Personally, I find only having one angle of attack - say HP - to make the game boring and samey, like 4e. I want different types of attack, like HP, exhaustion, confusion, crippling, poison, diplomacy, terrain, healing*, grappling, positioning, SoD, etc etc etc.

    I want to encounter cool, amazing things, that do different cool amazing things. I don't want the Medusa to just do HP damage. And I want the PCs to do different cool amazing things, too.

    I don't want there to be one optimal strategy.

    The thing I love about 3e is that there is so much power to be had, that it is really hard to imagine a concept that you can't either tone down or beef up or add enough cheese to in order to make it balanced to the table. There is no "optimal" strategy (outside no-limits TO, at least) - there is only the question of how difficult it is to implement a version of that strategy that is appropriate for your table. For example, my AoE SoL caster? She finally got an 18 in her primary casting stat around the time the party hit level 15-17. Because balance.

    Most systems, you can't say that.

    Most systems, there are genuinely dumb strategies, like the toxic waste gun, or techno magic, or attacking with your king. You can't say that about 3e - people have even optimized the Commoner! So long as you pay attention to balance, you really can play whatever you want, use whatever strategy you want, at almost any playable power level.

    And that's a good thing.

    * Yes, healing. Until you explode.

    -----

    Now, a few specific issues I'd like to address.

    Character death to SoD:

    By RAW, yeah, it can happen in a random encounter (if you use such things). Yeah, it can happen without warning or foreshadowing as a "have this or die" tax. And, if that's the way you want to play your games, that's fine.

    If it's not, then don't play your games that way. Don't put SoD monsters in random / non-boss encounters. Or don't use random encounters at all. As much as I'd love to, I promise I won't come to your house and tell you that you are having BadWrongFun by not playing as Gygax intended. Don't spring a Medusa on the party without telegraphing it with the Rule of Three (did someone rename this? If so, I didn't get the memo), and "soft" / protection from stoned (don't inhale) / whatever won't be part of a list of 100-odd Jumbo Christmas Tree must-haves.

    Play the game you want to play.

    -----

    SoD monsters ruling the roost? Well, either the party needs to get smart, and get counters for such things, or the GM needs to realize that they're too powerful for the table, and tone them down / treat them as "higher CR" (to use the 3e term).

    -----

    SoD/SoL effects do tend to mean that you're sitting out until someone fixes your character. I fully agree with this, and personally really hate it when someone (especially me?) has to sit there not playing the game for hours.

    Funny thing, though - unconsciousness and death - those things that happen with HP - do exactly the same thing*.

    My personal solution to this is to prefer to play multiple characters. That way, if one character is down, you're still playing the game. The best solution I've heard from the Playground is to have NPCs in the party, and let the player(s) of the downed PC(s) play an NPC until their character is operational again.

    Point is, you've got the same problem regardless how many paths to "not playing the game" you have. No matter how you got there, you've still got people not playing the game. That's the problem you need to solve.

    * Unless you rules lawyer that the "dead" condition doesn't say anything about limiting your actions, of course.
    Last edited by Quertus; 2018-11-08 at 06:40 PM.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Troll in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    But death due to HP damage usually (except in 3e's rocket tag) takes more than "before you can act". That lets you take actions to avoid it. What's more, SoD effects often (due to the magic of optimization) tend to be "no save just die" effects. And rocket tag, whether it comes from uberchargers or mailmen or SoD casters are all boring. The battle's over as soon as you know who goes first. It also pushes an optimization arms race (both between players and between the players and the DM).

    You don't get a nice array of strategies that all work, each with tradeoffs. In the extreme case, you get one strategy, although dressed up in different colors--go first and nova. Whether that's "charge and deal 1e99 damage" or "they're just dead from spells", those boil down to the same thing. It's the illusion of choice--either you get curbstomped or you curbstomp. There are no close battles, no tension, no lucky breaks. It's all or nothing, completely binary.

    It also makes campaign design rather silly and absolutely invalidates 99.99999% of settings, but that's a side effect.

    Count me out.
    Dream of Hope: a 5e setting. http://www.admiralbenbo.org
    PhoenixPhyre's Extended Homebrew Signature
    5e Monster Data Sheet--vital statistics for all 533 MM and Volo's monsters

  26. - Top - End - #26
    Ogre in the Playground
    Join Date
    Oct 2011

    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    But death due to HP damage usually (except in 3e's rocket tag) takes more than "before you can act". That lets you take actions to avoid it. What's more, SoD effects often (due to the magic of optimization) tend to be "no save just die" effects. And rocket tag, whether it comes from uberchargers or mailmen or SoD casters are all boring. The battle's over as soon as you know who goes first. It also pushes an optimization arms race (both between players and between the players and the DM).

    You don't get a nice array of strategies that all work, each with tradeoffs. In the extreme case, you get one strategy, although dressed up in different colors--go first and nova. Whether that's "charge and deal 1e99 damage" or "they're just dead from spells", those boil down to the same thing. It's the illusion of choice--either you get curbstomped or you curbstomp. There are no close battles, no tension, no lucky breaks. It's all or nothing, completely binary.

    It also makes campaign design rather silly and absolutely invalidates 99.99999% of settings, but that's a side effect.

    Count me out.
    So, personally, I like the idea of choosing between "depleting 10% of the target's HP" and "a 5% chance of eliminating the target altogether". And of choosing between attacking the foe that does one vs the foe that does the other. Just like how I like that MtG has creatures that attack, spells to kill creatures, spells to counter spells, spells to regrow creatures, etc etc etc. It's that variety that's fun, not the tournament-level "everyone's playing the same deck. That's boring.

    So, you don't like "no save, just die?" Don't play with that. You don't like SoD alpha strike? Don't play with high-DC SoD, and/or invest in rerolls. You don't like Łbercharger rocket tag? Don't play at that optimization level. That all seems pretty sane / pretty consistent power level to me.

    Set the table balance point there, play at that level. What's the problem?
    Last edited by Quertus; 2018-11-09 at 03:53 PM.

  27. - Top - End - #27
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Oct 2016

    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Glorthindel View Post
    Why?

    If all deaths are heroic, they aren't heroic anymore, they are just a "standard" death. Foolish, unlucky, and mundane death helps make the heroic ones stand out all the more.

    If normal encounters and monsters can't kill a character, you are just wasting everyones time by including them. There is no uncertainty of result, and there is no cost in resources, since the players will come to know they can just walk through them on basic attacks.
    Are you running a tactical wargame or are you running a role playing game? In the former SoD instdeath is fine, and probably a good thing because it is about winning the battle. In the latter the players and DM are collaborating to tell a story.

    From a story telling perspective, look at Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. In RPG terms a couple of NPCs got instakilled alerting the party to the type of danger. They tooled up. One PC got instakilled, but not permakilled because she was protected, then the other PCs took out the big bad. Then the PC who was instakilled got resurrected. Makes for a great story.
    But how would you have felt if the story went in chapter 3. Harry and Ron were walking in the corridor talking about their classes for the upcoming year. Ron turned the corner and got turned into stone instakilling and permakilling him. Thereís no drama in that unless you want to write fanfic shipping Harry and Hermione.

    The problem with SoD in non-critical encounters, it robs the story of drama, especially when the PCs arenít aware they are walking into a SoD situation. Now SoD in a boss fight where it has been foreshadowed makes for good drama. A PC choosing a SoD risk in a non critical situation is fine as long as the PC knows the risks.

    Another situation is if the partyís thief takes it in her mind to kill you while youíre asleep. Technically the DM can say yep she made her stealth roll, now youíre dead. Most DMs will prevent that, not because itís a SoD situation but because it makes for bad drama and bad player interactions.

    If I want to play a tactical wargame there are systems that do it much better than any RPG, and I will play them. If Iím playing an RPG I want to be immersed in the story, so there need to be story telling elements - foreshadowing, opportunity to tool up, heroic sacrifice, hubris leading to being punished by the gods. Randomly putting main characters into SoD situations isnít part of good story telling unless youíre writing in the Ďwar is hellí genre.

  28. - Top - End - #28
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    To the "fall off cliff" idea:

    In 3.5, falling off a cliff is rather rarely an instant death scenario. First you have to fail your Climb DC by 5 or more. But then if you fall, you only have to deal with falling damage. It is possible (if difficult) to catch yourself while falling, so after rolling a nat 1, you can still roll to try for a nat 20. Then falling damage can still be negated by Feather Fall (or even Slow Fall in this case, since you are by definition next to a wall). Even if you have to take falling damage, you can tumble to reduce the damage and falling damage caps out at 120 (for 20d6). High level heroes might just have more HP than falling can punch through (and falling damage is automatic, which means it can't double damage on a critical). I mean, you can put spikes and acid at the bottom to finish them off, but at that point, it isn't just falling off a cliff.

    Falling off a cliff really is only an instant kill threat for lower level characters trying to do too much. Smaller heights deal damage comparable to an equal CR encounter, magic is accessible early, and relevant skills start trivializing a lot of it almost as quickly). Not to mention the eventual development of magic transportation to eventually obliviate the need entirely.

    I pick on it because it's a common fantasy trope that the rules actually marginalize if the players are even halfway prepared for it. They almost have to be trying to put themselves into no win scenarios.
    Last edited by Pleh; 2018-11-09 at 05:42 AM.

  29. - Top - End - #29
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    Players earn plot tokens by doing meta-game stuff that benefits the game: artwork, journal entry for a session, etc.

    Players spend plot tokens to have a PC not die when the rules would ordinarily lack mercy.

    Then I can roll in the open and not fudge -- the players earn their own fudges.
    I brought this up with my group and we liked it a lot. Because we are using a milestone type of experience system (well, it still uses xp, but everyone receives xp at the same time and levels together) we also came to discuss how to handle xp loss from use of spells and death or loss of familiar etc, and decided we'd use the optional craft rules, but use them as currency for xp loss and allow players to restore it as rewards or spend it similarly to how you described here.

    It also now has become the fuel which measures a souls worth in the after life, which fiends use in dealings and deities use to power their planes.

    Thanks for the nudge, we'll be working on the details for this over the weekend.

  30. - Top - End - #30
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    RangerGuy

    Join Date
    Jul 2017

    Default Re: How do you deal with instant death?

    Lethal skill checks and SoD are both great as long as players can make informed decisions on how to approach or avoid them.

    "If you try to climb that cliff, the DC will be 15. If you fail, you will fall and if you haven't secured yourself take 10d6 damage."

    "You recognize the grazing creature as a catoblepas as described by Pliny the Elder. Reputedly, if it looks at you, you die. Do you want to walk around it, or try to sneak past or kill it to save time?"

    Quote Originally Posted by Quertus View Post
    * Yes, healing. Until you explode.
    Excessive exposure to healing magic causes cancer, right?
    Last edited by Pelle; 2018-11-09 at 06:46 AM.

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