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GMs: what's your take on killing PCs?


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"In the end, every adventurer faces mortality’s sharp bite."

RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, pg.7

 

So, do you actually kill your PCs? 

Once i TPKed with a waterfall. Everyone missed the jump roll, only one PC managed to swim out, but went back to save a friend and both died. That was super realistic, but man i got bullied for like 10 years after that... (This happened using RAW RQ3)

 

How often do your players manage to die?

One of my players once died 5 sessions in a row. I got a few stabs from some other players but as always, everything was rolled in the open, not my fault! 

In my current campaign i'm getting about one close call every session, but so far they managed to avoid dying (they have a really strong group composition and some luck)

 

Do you cheat?

I roll everything in the open, but some use a screen. If you do, do you change rolls you don't like?

If not, do you use your GM Powers to change fate?

For example, once a traskar ate one of my players, but the humakti critted it in the head the same round, instantly killing the monster. RAW the snack player should be have died to asphyxiation, but i let the humakti pull her out and revive her with 1st aid because MGF and reviving a drowned person with 1st aid while they lie on the beach is a classic movie scene.

 

Do you do traps?

If you do, how is that working out for you?

I use the same trap twice in a row. Always. Its up to the PCs to figure it out; 1st ocurrence of the trap is usually easier to spot or already triggered.

When i want to screw with my players i just use 2 different types or i put just one (maybe broken) trap with no follow up (but thats pretty evil so i do it with tact)

Also my traps are not the automatic kind, if you fail to spot it you get some sort of skill or characteristic roll to avoid or reduce damage. Having said that, if you are unlucky you better succeed at your DI.

 

How about really tough monsters?

I always describe those, and give them a fair but vague idea of how tough they are.

"The broo has metal regalia and holds their weapon like a Master, clearly this is no ordinary foe, and it would bring honor to take it down in single combat"

Also i let the players run their mouth at least once in tense social encounters, and then tell them next time that means a fight.

With minis this get easier, noone pictures the Scorpion man, at least twice as big as them, as being a pushover.

 

Well, thats it, hope you find the topic interesting and share your GM style with us!!!

Edited by Scotty
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"It seems I'm destined not to move ahead in time faster than my usual rate of one second per second"

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At first (1984-1989) I used to let the dice decide who lived or died. though I was lax with Ressurrection if you had money, as that meant impoverished players.

Then we imported Fate points from WFRP, and nobody died anymore. Most people were quite cowardly when they ran out of points, which was funny. 

Now I cheat all the time, and when I do not feel like cheating I let the player roll and tell me the result, so they can cheat if they feel enough about it. 

As a player, I am pretty sure the GM cheats, but I do not mind. I died once, by running out of Fate points and then being heroic. It was a good death so it felt right. 

The games have evolved from adversarial or competitive games to communal storytelling modified by chance, so it shows. 

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All my answers below are based on RQ2 and RQ3, and mostly not in Glorantha. It's very easy to die or be crippled if you play RQ RAW and don't use your head, as we all know, especially if the number of opponents goes up - take on 20 peasant militia and one or two are bound to roll criticals. This is realistic, of course, so the answer is not to fudge rolls and keep PCs alive, but for the players to play intelligently and have their PCs use cunning rather than brute force to prevail. You do have to look at the RAW critically IMO, because any advantage always ends up favouring the more numerous party.

 

So, do you actually kill your PCs? 

Maiming was more common, but death was not uncommon. Most rolls out in the open unless PCs shouldn't know the outcome (e.g. guards' Spot Hidden rolls). Shit happens with D100.

 

How often do your players manage to die?

We had a run where one PC died once a session, for a run of about 5 or 6 sessions - mostly down to critical hits by the enemy. Luck of the die. Never had a player die during a game.

 

Do you cheat?

I roll everything in the open except for results that should stay hidden from the PCs. The closest to "cheating" on my part would be house-ruling, I guess, but that's always discussed and agreed as a group.

 

Do you do traps?

As and when appropriate, but I try to keep them realistic (within the setting). That means PCs usually have a good chance of finding and disarming or avoiding them if the players play smart. Part of that is them being able to make educated guesses as to when and where traps are likely to be found.

 

How about really tough monsters?

Yes. Running away (or just saying "no") is always an option. My first encounter with fantasy as a youth was Siegfried and his slaying of Fafnir through trickery, so I never expected PCs to charge into battle at every opportunity. Foes can be overwhelmingly powerful (or just numerous) if the adventure calls for it, I've never been a fan of adjusting the world to fit the PCs' power level.

 

Edited by Vile Traveller
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Before everything

1) I disliked to see too many resurrection spell

2) same with major wounds, you miss a left arm ? you need more than one hour to get it back. Note that there is no issue to have fun with one arm (see the white bull campaign)

 

So, do you actually kill your PCs?

then yes. but death should not be the conclusion of a ridiculous event (except when the player dislikes the character or the gm ) That should be the output of a great action, or a ridiculous decision (yeh yeh jump into the volcano, let's try your tactic, I m tired...)

In your drowning example, I would probably consider they succeed to save their life (you know, when the movie hero wakes up after a big fall)

however the notion of loss must be here : pc lose their gear (a part at least), and would gain some passion (fear water, fear heights, maybe fear danger)

 

How often do your players manage to die?

depends too much of the situation, the campaign (not the same if you are in Argrath army or being a waha initiate dealing with duke Raus, or some heroes exploring the hell to bring back life

 

Do you cheat?

if cheating means to breach the rules for the purpose of winning against the players, I never cheat because my role, as a gm, is not to win. So your reaction with the traskar seems to me appropriate (but as said, I would give them penalties, passion, etc...) I would never say you were cheating then.

 

Do you do traps ?

trap is exactly the same than ennemy : a dangerous opposition, so that is exactly the same, could be mortal or not

 

How about really tough monsters?

well you should anticipate what I m going to write, right ?

tough monsters are like volcano, "yeh yeh jump into, I m hungry I will command a pizza"

of course it means gm must warn there is a too big danger, and let the pc choose if / when they flee. But if they decide to face the bat, or to challenge Harreck, well I hope they are well prepared. the big issue would be the mass of effort I would have to describe how heroically they will be transform into ... nothing (bat) porridge (Harreck).

 

Edited by French Desperate WindChild
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My PCs die a lot less than I expect them to, even though I don’t hold back. Rune Magic is just devastatingly powerful when it gets turned on. 

I fully expected someone to die in the Scorpionman Raid scenario in Dorastor (because it has two enemies that can easily one-shot anyone (POT 53 Poison, sheesh!) and others with 14 pts of armor).

So I no longer even feel concerned about doing things like ”I will design this Bad Dog by lightly tweaking an Allosaur”. 

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3 hours ago, icebrand said:

So, do you actually kill your PCs? 

Vasana died in the first scenario, cut in half by one of those boney dudes.

3 hours ago, icebrand said:

How often do your players manage to die?

It's fairly rare. It's a little more common for the characters to die, but still quite unusual. I've only had two players die, but to be fair neither were directly caused by the game I was running.

3 hours ago, icebrand said:

Do you cheat?

I might be tempted to occasionally, but I don't like to. I might forget to roll for something now and then.

3 hours ago, icebrand said:

Do you do traps?

Traps are a bit boring, to me.

3 hours ago, icebrand said:

How about really tough monsters?

Oh yes. Tough monsters are great. They don't get a ton of HP in RQG so it's not that hard to take them down, but there's a real thrill in the air that they can take you down with one lucky roll at any moment.

Edited by PhilHibbs
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I like death moments to be special in some way.  I liked Hero Wars using the Mortally Wounded condition rather than Dead.  It allowed me to talk to the players about what they wanted to do.

I have agreed for a last effort that allowed the dying warrior to rise, hold off enemies while his comrades escaped.  I have agreed for a character to be healed (taken to dwarves to replace his heart - chest wound- with a Heart of Stone).  I have agreed for access to healing magics for a price.

These moments should be epic if possible, the loss of a character is always mitigated if it comes with a cool memory or story.

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6 minutes ago, StephenMcG said:

I like death moments to be special in some way.  I liked Hero Wars using the Mortally Wounded condition rather than Dead.  It allowed me to talk to the players about what they wanted to do.

That was so great! You got to have final words, deliver a dying prophesy, and all kinds of things that just aren't possible under RQ rules.

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13 minutes ago, Akhôrahil said:

That was so great! You got to have final words, deliver a dying prophesy, and all kinds of things that just aren't possible under RQ rules.

You can still do it.  At the death moment, talk to the player, let their God deliver five minutes of Rune-driven activity, more if it is necessary.

It is all explainable within the rules, should you want to do it.  A good idea remains just that.

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4 minutes ago, StephenMcG said:

You can still do it.  At the death moment, talk to the player, let their God deliver five minutes of Rune-driven activity, more if it is necessary.

It is all explainable within the rules, should you want to do it.  A good idea remains just that.

You have a point there - the players just need to be told in no uncertain terms that the character is already dead and no amount of healing can fix that. 

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13 hours ago, StephenMcG said:

I like death moments to be special in some way.  I liked Hero Wars using the Mortally Wounded condition rather than Dead.  It allowed me to talk to the players about what they wanted to do.

I have agreed for a last effort that allowed the dying warrior to rise, hold off enemies while his comrades escaped.  I have agreed for a character to be healed (taken to dwarves to replace his heart - chest wound- with a Heart of Stone).  I have agreed for access to healing magics for a price.

These moments should be epic if possible, the loss of a character is always mitigated if it comes with a cool memory or story.

I think this perfectly fits with things like Divine Intervention already in the rules. In a suitably awesome moment for a player I would definitely let them "Give their soul to Orlanth", same thing as rolling exactly your POW on a DI roll. You get an epic moment and then go to your God. The GM could work with the Player to make it memorable and Epic/Mythical. Depending on the style of game and player they could use the moment for all sorts of awesome scenes.

A suitably Heroic band of adventurers could even figure out how to visit the dead PC with their God or even retrieve the dead PC if that fits the campaign. We did it at least a few times. 

Edited by HreshtIronBorne
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It depends on the circumstances.

If the player is new to RQ, the first time their character dies I use it as a warning. They go unconscious and can't be revived until the end of the fight. If the party survives, they're fine. If the party retreats or TPKs, they're dead.

I prefer that character deaths are dramatic and interesting. I'm all about the 'blaze of glory' if at all possible. We all like the Heroes of the tale to go down like Boromir.

But RQ is a dangerous game. I tell them that at the beginning, and that warning is hollow if it isn't followed through. And combat is disturbingly random. There is real meaning in the phrase "I'd rather be lucky than good." Sometimes the trollkin minion gets the critical hit and the PC doesn't Dodge. Remember, King Richard the Lionheart was dropped by a nameless crossbowman who was using a frying pan for shield!

 

Edited by svensson
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I have only had eyes for thus in Runequest but I am veering heavily to think it should be part of all games.  The death of a character should be seen both as a sorrow and an opportunity.  In Sentinels of the Multiverse, even a character who is eliminated from the combat can play a role.  I like that, keeps players involved.

If a character dies, and the player is content with that, then give a boon to the party (plot information, an advantage, an item) that aids the game moving forward.  In many cases, I reckon two turns of plot invulnerability and 100% attack rolls to the dying character that allows the party to succeed, escape, etc would be a common request and deliver heroic stories that would be remembered.  Much better than just bleeding to death as your friends run away.... 🙂

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12 hours ago, svensson said:

King Richard the Lionheart was dropped by a nameless crossbowman

aka the french version of a sword of humakt, a crossbow of hum.. act, that was not luck, just skill and super transe magic

 wrong example but right vision, I fully agree

seems I m so desperate irl that I have to find my forum way in eurmali teaching. Sorry for that

 

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I'm not really interested in in deaths for the sake of simulationism. But risk is fun and warranted. For the most part, if the dice say my any of my player characters should die, they'll get a choice in terms of what kind of consequences to pursue, and what sort of risks will be involved in them however they choose. If I think death is a truly unavoidable risk in a scenario, they'll be getting an advance warning of some kind-- not so much "if you enter that room you are likely to get killed and eaten in your current state" as "this area has man-eating monstrosities in it and even resurrection will be difficult if you perish here."

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My character deaths have been some of the most memorable gaming experiences! Even the one that died within 30 seconds of me joining the game, even the one where I turned up for the first time in an ongoing game and my character had already died last week!

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25 minutes ago, PhilHibbs said:

My character deaths have been some of the most memorable gaming experiences! Even the one that died within 30 seconds of me joining the game, even the one where I turned up for the first time in an ongoing game and my character had already died last week!

yep but sometimes, a player (I include myself) may have a  plan in mind, wants to explore something, and a death at the wrong moment, once a lot of things were already done and some attachment is clear, then the death (if it must be a final one) must be at least glorious (or absolutly infamous) . That must be memorable and fair. Or open some door (like let's make a come back heroquest)

 

 

of course, it's fun to see your new one dead after 1hour of play, you just can replay the same character with another name and few background change (if you wish)

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Personally I find death to be one of the least interesting consequences of failure. I, and my players, spend a lot of time and investment in our characters and I do not want that to just go poof because of a bad dice roll. Maiming, getting captured, dramatic moments, losing resources or standing, the clan losing something due to your failure there are so many more things that I find add stories to the game. Death generally just ends it.

There are of course exceptions, and in a dramatic fight against a dangerous opponent death can happen, but I will give my players the benefit of doubt and drama!

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3 hours ago, French Desperate WindChild said:

aka the french version of a sword of humakt, a crossbow of hum.. act, that was not luck, just skill and super transe magic

 

the 3 trollkins that killed Ruric thrice...

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I have noticed that tend to kill my PC's thusly:

1) Too green to make it death.  Normally I am pretty lenient with new characters but sometimes they just can't get out of their own way, and there are only so many dues ex machnina's in the bag.  Pretty rare, especially with RQ:G dramatically upping the power of the PC's.

2) Stupid choice death.  Sometimes the players are strongly warned, or just have a very, very, very bad idea and won't get away from it.  This is sometimes a case of daring big, but more often a complete mental lapse on the part of the player.  I let the dice fall where they may when the player is voluntarily executing a non-scenario driven "bad idea".  Sometimes they work out and the newbie thief makes off with the crown jewels, but more often than not, they overreach and get killed.  This is more a case of non intervention as a GM than actively killing them.  They do that themselves.

3) PC level NPC's.  Some power or important NPCs, especially antagonists, I run as if they were my own PCs in terms of attempting to win/do sensible things with the tools on the character sheets.  The Lunar Coders I would run this way, for instance.  If a player tangles with these sorts, they have generally been well introduced and understood by the story, and the player knows that they are tangling with not merely a powerful adversary, but an intelligent one.  The dice fall where they may.  I have noticed that my players tend to win these encounters, possibly due to their advantage of focus on a single character versus my global spread as a GM.  But they do not always prevail.

4) The noble death.  The rarest of all.  Sometimes it is time for a PC to go out Viking style.  Typically this is sort of understood, or even initiated by the PC as a way to wrap up the storyline.  They might do the self sacrifice play, or they might want to dramatically conclude their time with the character.  Always very moving, and in some ways refreshing.  Most PC's cling to their character with everything they've got, then they sort of retire, unplayed. 

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On 5/19/2022 at 9:00 AM, Bill the barbarian said:

the 3 trollkins that killed Ruric thrice...

Ruric's death was EPIC and exemplifies all thats awesome and right about RuneQuest. I will fistfight you over this Bill!!! 😂😂😂

PS: please don't hurt me too badly!

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"It seems I'm destined not to move ahead in time faster than my usual rate of one second per second"

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On 5/17/2022 at 3:12 PM, icebrand said:

So, do you actually kill your PCs? 

If the dice say so, then yes. However, I play that 0 HP is unconscious, not death, and that you have until the end of the round to become not dead, so even death is not-dead-yet.

On 5/17/2022 at 3:12 PM, icebrand said:

How often do your players manage to die?

Players not so often. I haven't killed any Players at the gaming table, yet, but one did pass out through laughing, not my fault though.

PCs can die, but I always like to be able to bring them back through Divine Intervention, Resurrection and so on.

In my last non-Gloranthan campaign, the Adventurers did not die, but became quite ill a few times.

In my last non-Gloranthan campaign, the Adventurers did occasionally die, but always came back again.

On 5/17/2022 at 3:12 PM, icebrand said:

Do you cheat?

Never.

However, I do forget tactics and mess up things like when poison kicks in. Not deliberately, but I have a lot to think about as a GM.

On 5/17/2022 at 3:12 PM, icebrand said:

Do you do traps?

Not really, they are generally tedious.

Sure, pit traps and so on are fine, but there had better be a good reason why they are there.

Gone are the days of checking up, around and down for traps, every ten feet.

Quite from our RQ2 Game: "Who's got the best Spot Traps?" "Oh, he's dead, he fell down a pit".

On 5/17/2022 at 3:12 PM, icebrand said:

How about really tough monsters?

Hur, hur, hur!

I do like really tough monsters and use them all the while. My Players whinge about it and ask how they are expected to defeat them, but that's their problem not mine.

I describe them as they are. I compare the SIZ to something similar, horse-sized, rhino-sized, mammoth-sized and so on.

If they are armed, I quickly describe them.

If I have a picture I show it to the Players.

On 5/17/2022 at 3:12 PM, icebrand said:

Well, thats it, hope you find the topic interesting and share your GM style with us!!!

My GMing style? Cruel but kind.

 

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Not quite on topic, but very related:

Our group now has a lot of Rune Levels (with Allies), and a lot of MP and rune points.  So, in a big thrilling climactic combat, if they take a nasty blow and lose a limb, or their Head goes slightly negative, it gets fixed up pretty quickly.

How can a GM knock a player out of a combat, adding tension and drama, without just killing them?

  1. Mindblast (and similar spells like Fear)
  2. Demoralize and Befuddle tend to get Dismissed pretty quickly. I think we may be too easy letting the PCs do so.
  3. er, I'm running out of ideas...  What have you done?

D&D has things like "send them into another dimension" and "lose levels" which have end results I like, scaring the affected PC and making the other PCs nervous, even if the effects themselves are somewhat corny and artificial.

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  • Scotty changed the title to GMs: what's your take on killing PCs?

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