Dealing with PC amorality in an intended good campaign

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Hello,
I'm actually making my own system, which I have been playtesting as of late. Unfortunately, one of my playtesting groups has a tendency toward a moral code which could be best described as "nonexistant."

Here's a summary of what has happened.
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The story itself, being a prologue to a greater story, begins with our heroes, a licensed adventuring group, finding themselves in a lot of debt. The means of acquiring the debt ranges from unpaid weapon repairs to broken tavern furniture and the like; basically unimportant, miscellaneous stuff. The important thing is that they were in a huge amount of debt, and suddenly they find a contract that pays a large sum of money, far more than required to pay off the debt. The contract was to find and rescue a missing merchant baron. After a few days of searching (which happened before the game actually started, to expidite the process), our heroes managed to track the baron's location to a cave, which was rumored to be full of cultists that worshipped the spawn of a beast that was slain there years before.

So, given this obvious plot hook and motivation to take the plot hook, what's the first thing that comes to the players' minds to solve their conundrum? Their solution was, of course, to kill the people they owed money to, and forget about the contract that was going to give them a whole lot of money. I reminded them above the table that, as licensed adventurers, there would be consequences for that: for one, they'd lose their adventuring license and the benefits that came with it; they'd also lose most of their business; and finally, and most obviously and importantly, they would probably be arrested for serial murder, and promptly executed.

So the players reluctantly decided to go along with the story I provided for them. They managed to kill the cultists and loot the cave, but then came the problem of rescuing the baron, who was chained to a defaced statue of the hero who killed the beast in the cave long ago, and the statue itself was in the middle of a pool of gross-looking water (deep in which rested a spawn of the beast). So what does the party tank do? He grabs our skirmisher-type fighter (who, by the way, had done most of the looting and thus had most of the treasure on him), and throws the poor fellow at the statue. The skirmisher then falls into the water, and is promptly eaten by the spawn. At that point, the mage decides to "negotiate" with the baron, who is now showing a lot of fear, by demanding that the baron will all of his estate to the adventuring party, in case they don't get him across the water alive. The baron hastily writes out a will with the pen and paper provided by the party, and then the party leaves. After I told them (above the table, again) that the whole thing would raise a lot of suspicion, they reluctantly went back to save the baron.

After saving him, they took him outside the local town and demanded that he go to the bank and take out all of his money and personally deliver it to the people that the party was in debt to. In order to ensure cooperation, they also kidnapped the baron's eldest son. By that time, the DMPC healer I had along with them had snuck away from the party to warn the local police force about his comrades, because the DMPC had morals. Anyway, they sent the baron to the bank, with the tank to watch him and make sure he didn't go to the guards or anthing. The baron, however, writes out a note (which the tank doesn't notice) and hands it to the bank teller, who then sneaks out the back of the bank to alert both the town guard and the local military presence (the Tank was very, very obviously tough), who, having already mobilized due to the tip from the healer, quickly surrounded the bank and sent in an assault team. The tank was knocked out in two rounds, leaving the baron unharmed. The tank, having been incapacitated, awoke a couple days later. The court system had, in that time, managed to find him guilty, given the extreme amount of evidence against him, as well as through the influence of the baron. So the first thing he saw when he woke up was a noose. He tried to rat out his fellow party members with his last words, which caused the executioner to speak the memorable comment "He will have died as he had lived... A total ****!" The rest of the execution proceeded as normal, killing the tank.

The rest of the party, which now only consisted of the mage and the party archer, along with their hostage, panicked, having not heard from the baron or the tank in the expected amount of time, and proceeded to travel on foot (really slowly, because the mage was the slowest member of the team), as fugitives, to the coast (which was far away) to leave the country. They quite surprisingly made it about two thirds of the way before getting intercepted by the military of a mercenary group/vassal state of the local kingdom. The mage was killed in one hit when the mercenary that intercepted them critted on a surprise attack, and the archer, who had a racial ability allowing him limited flight, abandoned his hostage and tried to flee. The group that the mercenary belonged to, however, was known for its specialty in running really, really fast, and for long distances, so for the entire flight of the archer (who apparently forgot he had a bow), the mercenary was right underneath the archer, holding a spear up. The archer, obviously, got tired, and fell onto the spear, killing him.


Obviously, the players have been playing with no moral code whatsoever, with only the legal implications of their actions pushing them towards the plotline, and at that, not for long. How can I get my players to get their act together, so we don't get a similar party kill?

I will admit, however, that I did tell one of the players what would happen after the intended rescue of the baron (the baron, who was never in any real danger, would betray them as part of a conspiracy to eliminate adventurers in the area in order to reduce the amount of resistance to a demonic invasion, because as everyone knows, the greatest weakness of any major villain is a ragtag band of adventurers with diverse skills and backgrounds. The party would then deal with the baron in a justified manner, and being justified, they would be forgiven, and given a contract by the government to investigate the conspiracy further.). The reason I told the player, however, is that the plan for this campaign was that he would eventually take over part of the campaign, and we would co-DM the campaign as part of the playtesting.
Only the players can chose to bring the mindset desired to the table. You made it fairly obivious what kind of campaign you intended to run but they had other ideas and chose to chose the most morally evil/stupid route possible. It's clear that either you need to change your campaign or they will need to radically change their frame of mind in approching this situation. They simply did downright immoral things at every given oppertunity, so it's clear you and your players need a good natter on the campaign you intend to play.
Hello,
I'm actually making my own system, which I have been playtesting as of late. Unfortunately, one of my playtesting groups has a tendency toward a moral code which could be best described as "nonexistant."



*sound of record scratching* Your job is not to judge morality - it's to honestly portray the world and be a fan of the player characters, filling their lives with fantastic adventure. I'll be giving my advice through that lens.

The story itself, being a prologue to a greater story, begins with our heroes, a licensed adventuring group, finding themselves in a lot of debt. The means of acquiring the debt ranges from unpaid weapon repairs to broken tavern furniture and the like; basically unimportant, miscellaneous stuff. The important thing is that they were in a huge amount of debt, and suddenly they find a contract that pays a large sum of money, far more than required to pay off the debt.



Okay, so is this something you told them at the campaign's start or did you work on this premise as a group? Because if it's the former, you tied the rope on your own hangman's noose. It definitely sounds like you didn't have a discussion prior to playing and there was little to no conversation between the players and you about the player characters, their motivations, or role in the world. That would have removed any chance of a problem like this, or allowed you to prepare for it.

Even if you don't allow any input on your plot, you can still frame it prior to play, using what the players give you to inform the fiction going forward: "Wizard, you find yourself in debt to [NPC/faction]. How did this happen?" Then just listen to the answer and write it down. "Fighter, who do you owe money to and why haven't you decided to just kill those people?" Then listen some more. "Thief, what do you think is the best way to get yourselves out from under these debts?" See what he says. "Cleric, what do the tenets of your faith say about repaying debts?" Etc.

Then ask all the players (through their characters), "What have you heard about the cultists who are rumored to have kidnapped the merchant baron? Why do you think everyone has been saying the cultists are trying to bring back an ancient dread said to live in the caves to the west of town? What do you know about that?" Let them make up their answers. Then use what they say, altering your story and plot in minor ways to reflect their input.

If you're clever with your opening questions, not only did you say what the premise is about, you got the players to buy-in on the story and add their own elements that you can use. You've also kind of told them how to go about solving their problems by suggesting other avenues of approach without outright telling them how to act. You simply started a conversation.

After saving him, they took him outside the local town and demanded that he go to the bank and take out all of his money and personally deliver it to the people that the party was in debt to. In order to ensure cooperation, they also kidnapped the baron's eldest son. By that time, the DMPC healer I had along with them had snuck away from the party to warn the local police force about his comrades, because the DMPC had morals. Anyway, they sent the baron to the bank, with the tank to watch him and make sure he didn't go to the guards or anthing. The baron, however, writes out a note (which the tank doesn't notice) and hands it to the bank teller, who then sneaks out the back of the bank to alert both the town guard and the local military presence (the Tank was very, very obviously tough), who, having already mobilized due to the tip from the healer, quickly surrounded the bank and sent in an assault team. The tank was knocked out in two rounds, leaving the baron unharmed. The tank, having been incapacitated, awoke a couple days later. The court system had, in that time, managed to find him guilty, given the extreme amount of evidence against him, as well as through the influence of the baron. So the first thing he saw when he woke up was a noose. He tried to rat out his fellow party members with his last words, which caused the executioner to speak the memorable comment "He will have died as he had lived... A total ****!" The rest of the execution proceeded as normal, killing the tank.



This smacks of sitting in judgment of the PCs. You do seem to have done what the fiction suggested, but I imagine given more input from the PCs in the beginning, you could have saved them from themselves by using what they gave you. Alternatively, you could have made some crafty DM maneuvers like giving them an opportunity with or without cost that might have allowed them to turn back from their path. Or you might have complicated their situation by telling them the requirements of what they wanted to do and ask if they thought it was worth trying, adding weight to the requirements or consequences.

How can I get my players to get their act together, so we don't get a similar party kill?



In short, have a conversation prior to playing as I described. If you have a canned plot, there are some players who will fight you. Get their input and their buy-in. It will save you a lot of problems and give you plenty of great ideas.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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*sound of record scratching* Your job is not to judge morality - it's to honestly portray the world and be a fan of the player characters, filling their lives with fantastic adventure. I'll be giving my advice through that lens.




Well, I wasn't trying to make that my job. It goes without saying that, as the maker and maintainer of the game world, it is part of my job to make the world react according to what the players do. I tried to do that, in addition to providing an adventure for the player characters and fulfilling the role of the DM in general.



Okay, so is this something you told them at the campaign's start or did you work on this premise as a group? Because if it's the former, you tied the rope on your own hangman's noose. It definitely sounds like you didn't have a discussion prior to playing and there was little to no conversation between the players and you about the player characters, their motivations, or role in the world. That would have removed any chance of a problem like this, or allowed you to prepare for it.

Even if you don't allow any input on your plot, you can still frame it prior to play, using what the players give you to inform the fiction going forward: "Wizard, you find yourself in debt to [NPC/faction]. How did this happen?" Then just listen to the answer and write it down. "Fighter, who do you owe money to and why haven't you decided to just kill those people?" Then listen some more. "Thief, what do you think is the best way to get yourselves out from under these debts?" See what he says. "Cleric, what do the tenets of your faith say about repaying debts?" Etc.

Then ask all the players (through their characters), "What have you heard about the cultists who are rumored to have kidnapped the merchant baron? Why do you think everyone has been saying the cultists are trying to bring back an ancient dread said to live in the caves to the west of town? What do you know about that?" Let them make up their answers. Then use what they say, altering your story and plot in minor ways to reflect their input.

If you're clever with your opening questions, not only did you say what the premise is about, you got the players to buy-in on the story and add their own elements that you can use. You've also kind of told them how to go about solving their problems by suggesting other avenues of approach without outright telling them how to act. You simply started a conversation.




Like I said, this game is in its playtesting stage, and as such the players are new to the system. In order to expidite things, I made pregen characters with reasonable stats. Now that the players are somewhat accustomed to the system, though, I think I'll let them make their own characters to replace the previous party, which would allow some background customization.

The debt was more of a background motivation for them to take the plot hook, to attempt to give the player characters a stake in the adventure, because in the game world, adventurers can at least make a (very modest) living by taking contracts to, say, get rid of vermin on a regular basis, and given that, there would be less of a motive to complete a dangerous task. Granted, it was a sloppy attempt that lacked in-depth detail, so that's my fault entirely.



...Or you might have complicated their situation by telling them the requirements of what they wanted to do and ask if they thought it was worth trying, adding weight to the requirements or consequences.




I actually did that, or at least tried to. I told them several times that their actions were overtly illegal and would have serious consequences for their characters.
The debt was more of a background motivation for them to take the plot hook, to attempt to give the player characters a stake in the adventure, because in the game world, adventurers can at least make a (very modest) living by taking contracts to, say, get rid of vermin on a regular basis, and given that, there would be less of a motive to complete a dangerous task. Granted, it was a sloppy attempt that lacked in-depth detail, so that's my fault entirely.



Definitely try letting them come up with their own backgrounds and motivations. You can still "frame" it in the context of your hook. In fact, I recommend just outright stating what they're doing, then let them fill in the "why's." The rest of the session is "how" and "what happens." Ideally, nobody at the table, including the DM, should really know how it will turn out.

"You're off to save the merchant baron, now a day's march from town. What compelled you to accept this assignment?" It's all in how you ask... and keep asking questions to tease the fiction out of the players with open-ended follow-ups. They'll love it because it's their ideas being implemented, not just the DM's.

I actually did that, or at least tried to. I told them several times that their actions were overtly illegal and would have serious consequences for their characters.



This will depend often on how you convey the threat or cost. "Serious consequences" usually means "Get ready for some awesome combat!" to most players. Combat is a reward, so why wouldn't they want to provoke you into getting into a fight? I'm not sure if you're testing a campaign or a new rules system. If it's the latter, try to work up a way to give the DM big leeway on what failure means with the caveat that it should always be interesting.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
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Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

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It sounds to me like your players, play testing a game with pre gen characters, were treating this like a one shot, and kind of using your adventure as a chance to do some outside the box/high risk role playing that they're normally scared to do in a long term campaign with charcters they're more invested in.  This is, believe it or not, perfectly normal, even for people who aren't jerks by nature.  The chance to really stretch their role playing muscles can actually be good for your players too.  Though you clearly viewed this adventure as a failure it sounds like you're players might have been having a blast with it.  So honestly, if I were in your place I would chalk it up as a win if they did.  

As mentioned above, when starting the next set, definately take a whole session with the party build and decide as a group what kind of game you want to play.  The descdent into darkness can be fun if your players are interested in being evil.  Or you could go the other route and run a redemption campaign where they characters start out as bad, but realize they aren't as bad as all that.  

Anyway, the point is, your game wasn't an epic fail, you were just a little unprepared for how fast and loose your player's were feeling.  And it doesn't spoil the game to figure out as a group what the general theme of the campaign is going to go.  You can give them options based on what you have the interest and material for, but giving them a say usually works out best for everyone.  
 


This will depend often on how you convey the threat or cost. "Serious consequences" usually means "Get ready for some awesome combat!" to most players. Combat is a reward, so why wouldn't they want to provoke you into getting into a fight?




Just for the record, I tried to keep the idea of combat in a traditional sense out of their minds as far as consequences are concerned. The only "combat" I said would result from their actions, and I did tell them this, was a one-sided curb-stomp battle against the local military presence (the town is home to a battlemage academy in homage to the hero who slew the beast in the cave, not to mention that the town isn't too far from the nation's capital), which was both larger in number, better trained, and better equipped than them, and in the .01% chance the players survived that, it would then result in the king himself stepping off his throne and into his adamantine field plate, grabbing his super-powerful explosive mace, and handing out severe beat-downs on an epic scale (literally - the king of this nation, despite his age, is level 8 in this system, which would translate into low-to-mid epic tier in DnD, thus answering your question of what I'm playtesting: my own rules system) against this miraculously still-standing low level (as in level 1, discounting any experience gained from surviving the military onslaught) threat to the security of his nation.

Given that, and the fact that they went through with their decisions anyway, you'd think these guys would be entirely apathetic to this game, but they have mostly given a positive review of the game so far, and I don't think they were being dishonest, based on how they said it and their expressions
The idea of the world "acting accordingly" is a trap DMs set for themselves. Avoid it.

Killing the people to whom they owe money is a great idea. You should have let them pursue that. That doesn't mean they'd be successful, of course, but you could set up a reasonable challenge without resorting to instakills or punative "legal" measures. They might even manage to kill a couple, before the others got wise and struck a deal or hired their own assassins. Magic might come into play which opens up even more interesting possibilities.

In short having or threatening to have the world "act accordingly" as a way to keep the PCs in line is a cop out.

I think your PCs are trying to call your bluff. They didn't think you'd kill them all. And why would you? How does anything that happened in your description add up to a fun game? You negated every interesting thing they wanted to try. Now, they were negating every interesting thing that you had planned, sure, but they can't know your plans, and apparently the only one who thought your plans were interesting was you. You had a table of people who thought it would be interesting to kill their debtors. You could have made that interesting.

I used to be in your position, making deviations from my story, or any inventive thing the PCs wanted to do, simply not work. Or I'd talk them out of it. Fight the instinct to block ideas, and fight it with everything you've got. This takes work, and it takes trust, and it takes practice. But since it can help you avoid situations such as what you described, it can be well worth it.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.



This will depend often on how you convey the threat or cost. "Serious consequences" usually means "Get ready for some awesome combat!" to most players. Combat is a reward, so why wouldn't they want to provoke you into getting into a fight?




Just for the record, I tried to keep the idea of combat in a traditional sense out of their minds as far as consequences are concerned. The only "combat" I said would result from their actions, and I did tell them this, was a one-sided curb-stomp battle against the local military presence (the town is home to a battlemage academy in homage to the hero who slew the beast in the cave, not to mention that the town isn't too far from the nation's capital), which was both larger in number, better trained, and better equipped than them, and in the .01% chance the players survived that, it would then result in the king himself stepping off his throne and into his adamantine field plate, grabbing his super-powerful explosive mace, and handing out severe beat-downs on an epic scale (literally - the king of this nation, despite his age, is level 8 in this system, which would translate into low-to-mid epic tier in DnD, thus answering your question of what I'm playtesting: my own rules system) against this miraculously still-standing low level (as in level 1, discounting any experience gained from surviving the military onslaught) threat to the security of his nation.

Given that, and the fact that they went through with their decisions anyway, you'd think these guys would be entirely apathetic to this game, but they have mostly given a positive review of the game so far, and I don't think they were being dishonest, based on how they said it and their expressions

haha, yeah.  Totaly sounds like you might have been the only one who didn't have a good time with it.  

Normally I would suggest that you can't, and shouldn't try to force your characters to stay on script, they need to feel like the world has some depth.  although I certainly will question the wisdom of a course of action if I think they players have misunderstood or missed something their characters would probably have considered.  Are you SURE Bob wants to do that? 

However, if you really need them to stick with the adventure for playtesting purposes, just tell your players so.  Things might be a little more mechanical, but you'll get the data you need.

The idea of the world "acting accordingly" is a trap DMs set for themselves. Avoid it.
...
In short having or threatening to have the world "act accordingly" as a way to keep the PCs in line is a cop out.



I wasn't necessarily doing it to keep them "in line." If I was that desperate to keep them in line, I'd have just said "no" to everything they said, which would have been infinitely worse than what ended up happening. The problem is that the campaign will go nowhere and get really boring, really fast, and with no one gaining anything from the experience if the players keep it up. Realistically speaking, their extreme amoral hedonism in the game world results in harsh consequences. Anything less than that would be not only unrealistic, but overly nice and forgiving. Nice and forgiving are not things a DM wants to be in a game, because the word "game" implies a challenge of some sort.

I actually remember a time when I was DMing a DnD 4.0 campaign in which I was too nice. We had a guy playing a psion, I repeat, a PSION, who repeatedly charged into melee and expected anything other than certain death. And I let him survive every time, with only a few consequences (such as the death of a rage drake mount he desperately wanted for some reason). The other players also made some (not quite as) tactically moronic (and overtly OOC, for a general specializing in guerilla tactics) decisions, such as directly and openly assaulting an enemy encampment filled to the brim soldiers which were of similar level, with only their small party. I went nice on them by changing most of the soldiers into slaves who would have been transformed into monsters by a ritual, and then released on the good guys, thus making the camp less well defended.

I lost players fast, and the one player who stayed the whole time probably did so out of pity.


You negated every interesting thing they wanted to try.



"Interesting" and "stupid evil" are not the same thing, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that. Nevertheless, I allowed them to do what they did, and what happened as a result was the only logical thing that could happen.


...and apparently the only one who thought your plans were interesting was you.



As I said before, I actually told one of the players where this story was going, and he seemed quite interested. I knew he was an experienced roleplayer and former DM, so I was quite surprised, given his reaction and background, when he not only engaged in the hedonism but showed signs of metagaming in a way that would overtly avoid the story, and casually admitted to metagaming when asked. I think I'll have to ask him if he's sincerely enjoying this, or if he's just being nice.
Personally, I would have used the characters' actios to set up the next plot. Fugitives from another country on the lam is a great plot hook, in my humble opinion. Still, the PCs definitely stepped into the realm of Chaotic Stupid alignment in the early adventure. You seem to have handled the situation realistically, though. It could have gone worse than it did.
I wasn't necessarily doing it to keep them "in line." If I was that desperate to keep them in line, I'd have just said "no" to everything they said, which would have been infinitely worse than what ended up happening. The problem is that the campaign will go nowhere and get really boring, really fast, and with no one gaining anything from the experience if the players keep it up.

That's up to you and your world. I'm not sure why you'd make a world in which making an interesting choice leads to a boring game that goes nowhere.

Realistically speaking, their extreme amoral hedonism in the game world results in harsh consequences. Anything less than that would be not only unrealistic, but overly nice and forgiving. Nice and forgiving are not things a DM wants to be in a game, because the word "game" implies a challenge of some sort.

This is wrong. Or anyway, it's not necessarily right.

You will never hear me say that a game should not have harsh consequences. I will however say that a game should be interesting. A game that isn't interesting is a waste of everyone's time.

Harsh consequences can be interesting, if you let them be. You talk of unwinnable battles as the result of plausible (if evil) choices the players might make. I assume these will lead to death or imprisonment (possibly leading to execution.

Uninteresting.

You are building a world. You have infinite options before you. Even if you only want to stick to a very narrow subset of those, you have options for harsh consequences that are still interesting. Say they lose their adventuring license. So what? That opens the door to interesting interactions with underworld people who will hire them anyway. Say they kill someone in cold blood. So what? In the next scene they've been driven out of town and simply (by fiat if you want) can't return and must live a harsh (but interesting) life back in town. Or, if you prefer, they sneak back in.

The point is that you SHOULD be harsh. But there are plenty of harsh consequences short of death. Harshing the players by giving them a boring game is not to anyone's benefit.

Now death can be made interesting, but I get the impression that you want it to be punishment. Find a better way.

I actually remember a time when I was DMing a DnD 4.0 campaign in which I was too nice.

That's why combat should not be about the monsters trying to kill everyone, but about the monsters trying to achieve some sort of interesting goal. The psion's tactics will still fail, but failure just means the monsters succeed and the world has changed, rather than a wiped out party.

"Interesting" and "stupid evil" are not the same thing, but I'm sure I don't need to tell you that. Nevertheless, I allowed them to do what they did, and what happened as a result was the only logical thing that could happen.

Going after their debtors isn't "stupid evil," unless you want it to be, and why would you want it to be? What happened WAS not the only logical thing that could happen. It's just the only thing you allowed to happen.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

That's up to you and your world. I'm not sure why you'd make a world in which making an interesting choice leads to a boring game that goes nowhere.



What you just said there can be taken at least two ways, the way I see it. You could be saying that I'm trying to actively stop interesting stuff from happening, which is a hyperbolic strawman argument. Therefore, I'll assume you mean that I should try to accomodate any actions the players could possibly take by any means to keep the players alive while still challenging them. Unfortunately, while your point is valid, it's overly idealistic. The problem is that the challenge of a roleplaying game isn't just succeeding in the choices you've made, it's also to make the right choices in the first place. While there may be multiple right choices and multiple wrong choices, as well as choices the DM hasn't considered, making the wrong decisions will cause the players to lose, even if they succeed in accomplishing their goals. I'm not saying that the players should be railroaded into one path, not at all. But if they keep making overtly bad decisions, they can't expect to be rewarded. My point is, they can make decisions that are simultaneously interesting and intelligent and/or morally sound, and doing so will earn them a reward in-game. So far, though, they have made ideas which are only debatably interesting, and definitely neither intelligent nor morally sound.

EDIT: Trying to fix some confusing formatting issues in this post.
The problem is the game tells a story.  If your players want to tell the story of outlaws killing debtors and robbing people they save, and you want that to be a wrong choice that quickly leads to the end of the game, you are making it boring.  The players are trying to have an interesting fun story and you are shooting it down.  It isn't a wrong choice to want to do those things it is just a choice the DM did not expect and therefore you shot it down.  Making the choice lead to basically guaranteed party wipe is shooting it down.  You executed one party member and hunted down the others with people that could not be escaped even with flight.  You also have said basically if this group didn't kill them another group would have and lastly the king would have.  Now having all those groups try to hunt them down, but the party avoiding capture could have been fun.  Or even getting captured, but having ways to escape to keep the hunt going could have been fun.  Yes instead of playing the group of heroes setting out to wipeout evil.  Playing the outlaw being hunted like a savage animal.  All I see is possibilities for fun, but all you saw was wrong choice dead, get back on the train, it is the only way to survive this railroad.
Credit where credit is due though, fellahs. According to Jadebrain, the players did say they have fun and the summary that I read sounds like an interesting enough jaunt if it was run well at the table. Games like Fiasco or Call of Chthulu (as I understand the latter) have assumptions that the characters most likely won't make it or at least not unscathed. Obviously, that wasn't what was intended from the get-go, but it's not impossible to have a fun, non-boring game that ends with everyone pushing up daisies.

It's not how I would have done it and it could have been a lot worse. Last time I checked, nobody was perfect.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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That's up to you and your world. I'm not sure why you'd make a world in which making an interesting choice leads to a boring game that goes nowhere.

The problem is that the challenge of a roleplaying game isn't just succeeding in the choices you've made, it's also to make the right choices in the first place. While there may be multiple right choices and multiple wrong choices, as well as choices the DM hasn't considered, making the wrong decisions will cause the players to lose, even if they succeed in accomplishing their goals. I'm not saying that the players should be railroaded into one path, not at all. But if they keep making overtly bad decisions, they can't expect to be rewarded.

Everyone always thinks I'm talking about rewarding bad choices. I'm not.

I am working from the assumption that you're playing a game and you want everyone to have fun, including yourself.

If everyone, including you, had fun with what you described then nevermind. But you are here to find out how to avoid another party kill. Some of us are trying to tell you that trying to "get their act together" is not the approach to take toward that goal. It will probably make the problem worse as the players rebel more and more at your attempts to get them in some sort of moral line.

I'm not talking about rewarding bad choices. The players can and should lose, and lose badly. What that doesn't need to mean is that their characters are killed or imprisoned. Characters in stories fail all the time, suffer horrible consequences, yet aren't killed or imprisoned. It's even made perfectly plausible within the fiction of the story, though if you want there are bountiful real world examples of horrific non-lethal, non-imprisoning failure resulting from bad choices. Being stranded, losing a loved one, losing property, etc.

Mere survival is not necessarily a reward.

In a way I am talking about rewarding behavior, but I'm talking about rewarding the behavior of coming together as friends to enjoy a game. This can be entirely independent from in-game rewards and there are plenty of games on the market that are fun to play even though almost nothing good ever happens to the characters. It's all about making those horrible consequences interesting for the players.

My point is, they can make decisions that are simultaneously interesting and intelligent and/or morally sound, and doing so will earn them a reward in-game. So far, though, they have made ideas which are only debatably interesting, and definitely neither intelligent nor morally sound.

I don't see what's uninteresting about their initial decision to attack their debtors. The other decisions weren't very interesting, but the interest there seemed to be in yanking your chain. Attacking their creditors only wasn't "intelligent" because you decreed that the results would be death. As for morally sound, I think we have characters we find interesting who aren't saints and may even be unrepentant criminals. We don't have to like them or want to be like them, but they can be very interesting.

And yes, reward in-game the behavior you want to see. Punish in-game the behavior you want to see. Character death is arguably and out-of-game punishment, as it ejects a person from play. If you have provisions for that and everyone's cool with it, fine. Since you're here about it, I assume you're not.

Bottom line: Find in-game punishments other than death and imprisonment. They exist.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

If your players want to tell the story of outlaws killing debtors and robbing people they save, and you want that to be a wrong choice that quickly leads to the end of the game, you are making it boring.



Hey, I never said I wanted anything to be "wrong" or "right" based solely on what I feel about it - granted, I wanted a game in which the players played heroes and not villains, but it isn't right for me to force that on them. And I'm not trying specifically to force anything on them. I listen to what they say they're going to do, and I come up with the world's reaction to what they do. Could there have been other reactions based on what they did? I'm not saying that there couldn't be; it depends on what I happen to think about. I'm not very good at on-the-spot thinking, though, and so the first thing that makes sense which comes to mind is usually what I go with, especially when things have to be done in a timely manner.

I'll admit that their amorality caught me off guard, and that it would have been possible, had I thought of another reaction, that they wouldn't have all died, but at the same time, they made some bad rolls and some choices which made it almost impossible for them not to die (not the general decision to be evil, but all the little choices regarding what to do in a specific situation. For example, the tank was, perhaps unsurprisingly, the worst of them at coming up with a plan; first demonstrated when he was fighting the cultists, and his hammer proved to be an effective means of fighting them, so after killing two cultists easily, he of course tries using his words to convince the rest of the single-minded, suicidally fanatical cultists to submit to his will. He went in the opposite direction when cornered by the military, when his strategy was to try to kill everything that moved, and continue to try to do exactly that even after he was whaled on by 5 soldiers who took a total of 46 out of his 52 HP in one round.)

You executed one party member and hunted down the others with people that could not be escaped even with flight.



In my defense, the concept for the mercenary and his people were thought up and put into the world long before playtesting began, and their lands were directly in the path the players took to the coast.

You also have said basically if this group didn't kill them another group would have and lastly the king would have.



You do realize that the first group we're talking about is the nation's military, right? Granted, it's a small portion of the military, as the military is spread out across the nation, but even then, you've got around 100 soldiers by profession in that town alone. That's not even getting into the 1000+ battlemages at the local academy, the local patriotic volunteer military forces consisting of most of the people in the town, and the reinforcements which would arrive from the capital if the party somehow lasted long enough to get their attention. All of which were already there as part of the world before the campaign started, and which I had explained to the players before they even chose their characters, as their characters would know these things by virtue of living in that place and thus knowing what is common knowledge there.

Then there's the adventuring parties which would help out long before the military takes a dent in its numbers. An (miraculously) undefeated threat to national security being holed up in a town with a strong military presence that somehow can't defeat the threat will draw a lot of attention from adventurers and anyone seeking fame, glory, or a trophy or two. And the King himself is not the blue-blood aristocrat who sits around issuing jobs he's "too good for" to his underlings - he serves his people with a passion, to the degree that he himself made it legal for his own death to occur in the event that it is deemed to be the right thing for his people, so if he needs to personally handle a threat to his people, he'll do so. And when you (somehow) manage to kill most of a town with a strong military presence with what seems like no discernable motive, you are a threat to the nation.

All of these aspects of the game world had been determined long before I had even typed up the first set of rules for the game, and any such aspect which I thought would come up was explained to the players before the game began. If I had ever made the impression that I was making all of these things up just to deal with the players, well, I apologize for that.
I'm not very good at on-the-spot thinking, though, and so the first thing that makes sense which comes to mind is usually what I go with, especially when things have to be done in a timely manner.

Yes, we all struggle with this. Having a prearranged world with easy cause-and-effect is alluring, but it can end up in situations like this unless one is very careful and lucky.

All of these aspects of the game world had been determined long before I had even typed up the first set of rules for the game, and any such aspect which I thought would come up was explained to the players before the game began. If I had ever made the impression that I was making all of these things up just to deal with the players, well, I apologize for that.

That was my impression, since your question was about how to get the players to get their act together. I thought you were trying to use the game to do that.

Your world sounds fine, but it seems premade to quash anything that doesn't go along with your designs, or at least to make it very, very hard. Step back from the absolutes a little and give things some room to go wrong.

On the other hand, absolutes aren't necessarily a bad thing when they don't end the game. It's okay to have an insurmountable military force in the game, but it's not good to use (or threaten to use ) them to kill the PCs. It's somewhat more acceptable to drive the PCs out of the region by fiat. They're still alive, just in different circumstances, which they can theoretically improve if they're a little less chaotic. And, story-wise, the military WAS gunning for their heads, but the PCs escaped and the military chooses (you decide why) not to continue to hound them into the wilds.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Your world sounds fine, but it seems premade to quash anything that doesn't go along with your designs, or at least to make it very, very hard. Step back from the absolutes a little and give things some room to go wrong.



Well, I didn't intend for it to be that way. The game I'm making isn't like DnD 4th edition, where the PC's are assumed to already be established heroes with above average abilities from level 1 onward. A generic soldier in my game, given PC stats, would probably be somewhere in the range of level 2, or possibly 3. Level 1 is someone who has, at most, a few months of field training, which he or she maybe prepared for in a safe, controlled environment with little or no risk. With min-maxing, of course, a level 1 character could easily go toe-to-toe with a level 3 character with less focus... but this is kind of a tangent anyway.

The nation in which we've playtested is but one unique part of the game world. It's almost a political/social utopia in which the government constitutionally has a small amount of control, and most of the extra power it weilds is given directly from the people, who are extremely patriotic due to the mutual loyalty of their leaders, the relative quality of life they enjoy, and the fact that the nation itself was founded less than a century earlier after the fall of a previous nation which was a complete dystopia that went out of its way to make its own people suffer (unbeknownst to the people, the reason for the sadistic tendencies of the government was that it was ruled by an oligarchy of devils in disguise, and devils, which in this game are beings twisted and corrupted by a form of energy foreign to the world, are sadistic by nature), and the people, despite being long out of the revolution that founded their nation, still have the force of will that drove the revolutionaries forward. They will gladly fight against anything that threatens their freedoms and their lifestyle, from foreign invaders to the more domestic problems of criminals.

Contrast this with Calmekani, the desert nation to the south, which is in a bad situation not because of a sadistic government, but because of a government which is powerless to stop the many gangs of criminals that themselves are mostly given their resources and weapons in exchange for servitude to various independent factions vying for power in the region. Now, that at first sounds like a perfect place to run a campaign with chaotic or evil characters - and indeed, it is -  but the lands of Calmekani, being a desert and thus an area where ether (energy in its purest form, converted to other forms through its environment) is mostly used up for thermal energy, thus making it a low-magic area, has adapted to become a great international superpower despite its domestic problems because of superior technology. For now, this is a problem because, well, I haven't actually made rules yet for things like firearms, flamethrowers, weaponized tesla coils, or any of the other advanced weaponry which would be primarily used by combatants in Calmekani. And don't worry, I will try to make the weaponry balanced so that it will not be overpowered, probably by controlling its availability in-game with the high price of the weapons and ammo.
I'm sorry if this comes off the wrong way, BUT... it is *not* your job as a DM to judge morality. It sort of seems like you were dead-set on punishing your players for not playing your adventure as it was intended to be played. I think your main problem is arising from the railroad-y feel of the adventure. Now, I'm sure that you were just planning on a simple adventure to test out the system, but I think your friends were coming in with a different attitude. Oftentimes, players will intentionally screw over our campaigns if they can't play how they want to play. Its childish and selfish, yes, but let's be honest... Its OUR job to entertain THEM. So my advice is to give them more freedom and not to punish them so evidently for not following your storyline. Let them do what they want; you give consequences impartially. Telling them they couldn't just kill off their debtors automatically put them at odds with you. You should have let them act like idiots and had them fail and get arrested and sent on a 'mission to atone for their crimes' if you *really* wanted them to get that merchant. But even that is railroading.
I apologize for being so obtuse.  It did sound rather like many of the things were reactionary to the PC actions.  It does also sound like everyone had fun.  I struggle at times with making things up on the fly too, so I understand that problem as well.  Just think of our additional options as ways to possibly handle it in the future if PCs try the unexpected.
It sort of seems like you were dead-set on punishing your players for not playing your adventure as it was intended to be played.



Trust me, it was tempting to give a TPK simply out of a desire to punish them for their complete and total disregard for any sort of decency in the game, as well as their flagrant and intentional, yet insultingly unjustified dismissal of a plot hook. I mean, if they really want to play an evil game, they could tell me so, and I would understand (whether or not I could satisfy that need is another matter entirely, but I'd at least understand that they weren't interested). Of course, that's assuming that's what they want, but if it is, it's almost insulting that they would try to keep from hurting my feelings by being dishonest about it.

I maintain that all I did was have the world react accordingly, in a way which I felt was reasonable in the context of how the world around the PC's would act given what they did. Plus, not to talk trash about them, but they made some hair-brained decisions regarding how they would accomplish what they set out to do, let alone how they were going to get away with it. I mean, the guy who I was planning to allow to co-DM was the guy who thought to kidnap the baron's son. He was metagaming anyway when he tried justifying his actions by mentioning how the baron would betray the party anyway, so he may as well have made the connection between the baron's pompous, self-centered, generally sociopathic personality (the baron is basically the PC's with cleverness, subtlety, and otherwise the general ability to be evil without announcing it to the whole world) and the fact that the death of the baron's own son would be regrettable, yet acceptable collateral damage in order to further the conspiracy the baron was involved in. Kidnapping the baron's son may have made the baron hesitate for acouple of seconds, but ultimately did nothing. Basically, their plans would have eventually gotten them killed anyway.

Telling them they couldn't just kill off their debtors automatically put them at odds with you.



In my defense, I didn't actually say they couldn't kill off their debtors. I did, however, tell them of the potential consequences, plus the futility of the whole idea. They'd go through the trouble of killing them, probably with their only stealthy member, which doesn't mean much stat-wise at level 1 given the fact that he's also invested in a little in his combat abilities, and as such he'd probably get caught eventually. Even if he managed to kill his mark without getting caught, his stats make him completely unreliable at hiding evidence, so they'd be found out eventually anyway. They could hire someone else to do the job, but since the reason they want their debtors dead in the first place is to avoid paying debt, it would be entirely pointless to do so. And even if they managed to kill their debtors without getting caught directly, they'd be suspect due to their connections with the victims. Finally, they'd have to kill not only their debtors, but all the debtors' next-of-kin, anyone promised a share of the debtors' property in a will, and anyone who the debtors themselves owed money to, as their debt would simply shift over to the estates of their debtors according to Milandrian law (Milandria being the nation they are in). All that said, they decided it would be too much trouble to go through with their original plan, though they still brought it up on occasion.
3 words - Talk to Them

Not while DMing - over coffee, on facebook, on the phone, whatever.
Get each individual's feedback, then Divide & Conquer.

From what I gather, you will have to roll with them - and drop most of your homebrew world's plot hooks and let them pursue their own adventure - or persuade them to follow your homebrew. Alternatively, roll up a new campaign setting. Either that, or stop DMing for them.

As a side note, if morality is a bothersome issue, draw up a wild world setting with few countries and civilisations, and that can usually get morality out of the way quite fast. Let them know that you can run combat games for them, but not RP games as you're not comfortable with the way they go about it.
Whether the Character is good or evil, he'll still have to fight or run against that raging Tyrannosaurus to survive, not much to moralise about it.

Of course, depending how much they enjoy that sort of thing, don't be surprised if they walk.

And personally, I do find pure Heroism pretty boring at times.

I am Blue/White

I might be misunderstanding you, but it sounds like you are REALY morally opposed to role playing evil characters.  You are certainly within your rights to hold firm to your beliefs, but it sounds like your players don't hold the same view.  So you may need to be totaly transperant with them. 

If your resistance is only because you equate their evil actions with reckless stupidity, I would point out that people do commit criminal or amoral acts all the time with few or no consequences at least in the short term, and cautious and thoughtful criminals have gotten away with it in terms of social justice.  Not all evil actions are against the law, not all crimes are witnessed, not all laws are well enforced.  I mean clearly you players didn't do a great job of covering their tracks, probably a good sign that they don't have the instincts of career criminals :P, but it is possible to play an evil/criminal campaign.

I honestly think your players were just trying on different hats.  That may be all they needed, but they may have a real interest in role-playing a fall from grace, an evil redeemed, a flirt with the dark side, or even an epic descent into darkness.  If you are willing to DM those kinds of stories, it can be done without making the evil actions a win.  Think along the lines of Knights of the Old Republic.  The way the game is set up, you have moral choices and those choices have consequences for you and the people around you, but you're only as evil as you want to be, and the chance at redemption is there every step of the way.  You can even play an evil character right up until the last encounter.

I think I had a point...Ok to sum up, if you find the idea of an evil adventure distasteful, be honest about that and give your reasons.  If it's something your players really want to try and you are willing to give it a shot, I would look to stories about anti-heros and the Ravenloft campaign setting for some inspiration.  Also, if you've spent a lot of time preparing material, I don't care what other people say, it's not against the 'DM Rules' to tell your players from the get go that you've got several sessions worth of stuff planned out.  We use real life time and energy to get a story ready, and while you will almost always need to adapt and correct the story as it goes, it's not realistic to expect most people to be able to come up with completely new adventures and storyline on the fly when things get totally derailed.  Only time and experience can fill up your bag of tricks enough to do that well, and you have to DM to get that experience in the meantime
I'm going to start, and finish, my advice with your thread title:

How do you deal with amoral/evil PCs in a game about good PCs?

You tell them to knock it off, their characters are inappropriate.  They can either play Good PCs, or not play at all, because you aren't interested in running a game about evil PCs.  You told them, right from the start, that you wanted Good PCs, and they need to either play that, or not play.

Both of those are fair options.

If none of them wants to play in your game if they have to play Good characters, then you need different players, but there's nothing wrong with that.  You have a fundamental disconnect about what game you want to play, and it's no more a problem than if you want to run D&D and they want to play Shadowrun.
Confused about Stealth? Think "invisibility" means "take the mini off the board to make people guess?" You need to check out The Rules Of Hidden Club.
Damage types and resistances: A working house rule.
Don't set NPC personalities in stone, especially before the PCs deal with them personally. If the PCs want to go after their debtors, fine. Turns out (basically because the PCs made this decision) that their debtors are really nasty people (or fronts, witting or un, for really nasty people). If the PCs are evil and you want them to be good, try making the badguys worse.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Agree with Centauri (shocker). Give your NPCs an impulse, instinct, or motivation at best. One sentence or half a sentence that has nothing to do with the PCs specifically. If you're not sure how to react to the PCs in a given situation, just refer back to that and it should inform your decisions.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Don't set NPC personalities in stone, especially before the PCs deal with them personally. If the PCs want to go after their debtors, fine. Turns out (basically because the PCs made this decision) that their debtors are really nasty people (or a fronts, witting or un, for really nasty people). If the PCs are evil and you want them to be good, try making the badguys worse.



Well, as I think I recall saying, the whole point of this part of the story was to be a prologue for an invasion of devils, which would involve the PC's by having them be the first to have any clue of what's going on. Basically, it would turn out that the baron was a nasty guy, who would end up being killed by the PC's anyway (but with justification, which is important in a practical sense and not just in a moral sense). Those NPC's who investigate his mansion looking for any records that would settle the matter of what to do with his property would find that he was involved in a conspiracy to get rid of adventurers in preparation for the devil invasion. Seeing then that his murder was justified, the PC's would legally get off scott free (Milandrian law is more about the spirit of using law to achieve goodness rather than using the letter of the law to set a standard of order), and even get a contract from a representative of the king himself to investigate the conspiracy further. They'd find out that Mayor Koorich of the city of Libar to the north was the one leading the conspiracy, and while confronting him, they'd be interrupted by the cataclysmic start of the invasion. After escaping from the (now burning) city of Libar, they'd get back to the king, and the king wouldn't have any specific orders for them, which would then allow them to either try to help resist the invasion domestically or gather aid from abroad, assuming the players don't have their own ideas on how to help out. Of course, that's all according to plan, which very well might not happen.
Of course, that's all according to plan, which very well might not happen.

Let's face it: the plan was never going to happen, not with this group and probably not with any other group.

That's a fine framework, but even with a reasonable group you're going to have to be able to deal with them doing something you don't expect at every single juncture.They won't investigate the mayor, they won't confront him (or they'll just kill him), they won't try to escape, they won't rejoin the king (or they'll just kill him), etc.

I'm not a fan of the sandbox setting, but a DM has to be able to deal with the PCs doing anything. It's hard to prepare for anything so it's important to have at least some ability to concoct the adventure on the fly, without railroading or just killing everyone who doesn't do the "smart" or "moral" thing.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

And in a pinch, if you don't know how to react to the characters' actions such that it's fun and drives the action forward in a positive way, take a 5-minute break, walk away, and think about it.

Or do what I do - ask questions. Just start asking as many questions as you can think of regarding the situation and let the players answer them. Pick one of their ideas or use it to formulate your own, then go from there. My players usually have much better ideas than I do because they outnumber me.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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(Milandrian law is more about the spirit of using law to achieve goodness rather than using the letter of the law to set a standard of order)...Of course, that's all according to plan, which very well might not happen.


Let's face it: the plan was never going to happen, not with this group and probably not with any other group...
I'm not a fan of the sandbox setting, but a DM has to be able to deal with the PCs doing anything. It's hard to prepare for anything so it's important to have at least some ability to concoct the adventure on the fly, without railroading or just killing everyone who doesn't do the "smart" or "moral" thing.



As a gentle note - I like the sandbox setting for precisely that reason.
If you want to run a pre-run plot with a somewhat railroad-y thing, let your players know in advance and see if they want to play. Tell them you're ready to switch to a more open-ended game if need be.

Now, sandbox, yes exactly, the DM has to be able to deal with the PCs doing anything (including razing the entire nation to ground or die trying). But that is why it gives the most fun to the PC, and... (and this the part I think most don't get) generally speaking, the LEAST work for the DM.

Drop the Story. Screw the Plot. All you need is basically a setting, with Characters You (the DM) don't care about / attach a higher value to than your Players. The NPCs have their own motivations, have a few quest hooks going on in the background, and just let the PCs RIP in. Tear it apart, or build it up, whatever they please. Now that is a Sandbox.

Don't overprepare. At most plan to the end of the current Adventure, and the starting (enough to cover 2 hours) of another 2-3 Adventures (so they have a choice and you can react / adapt to what they might do). So all in all you prepare the rest of the Current Adventure, and the beginning (estimate 1/3 or less) of 2 adventures. So maximum the material you have to prepare at any one time is probably about 2 Adventures worth ; and no more.

What's wrong with overpreparing? Well, basically you've spent real time, effort (and maybe money) preparing an Adventure. Your Players (accidentally?) miss it. What happens then?
(a) they get railroaded and become unhappy  
(b) you don't get to run the things you prepared and become unhappy
(c) you both get unhappy
And that's just the tip of the Glacier.

I have a friend who (like me in the past) is primarily a Storyteller. He likes long elaborate plots that go exactly where he wants them to be, and gets incredibly frustrated DMing. As a person who has actually tried writing a Book before, I can also tell you this - knowing exactly where it goes kills the fun of writing. It really really does.
I chose a sandbox setting just so that I would (by default, as the creator) know more about the world than my players, and they can't tell me things I didn't know or simply missed while reading through ERPG, FRPG, DSCS or whatever.

Basically if you want to write a script, DMing may not be your thing. You're not Director + Script Writer, though it may look like it.
Your PCs are not your Actors, they are your Co-Writers and Co-Directors. So Don't overprepare.

On the other hand, if you really really want to be Director + Script Writer (D&D is not the best game for it), and you want to find Actors, then tell your Players that's what they are. The plot is set, the adventure is rail roaded. If your story plot is really exciting, drop them a few sneak Trailers like people watch so that they go to Movies, and rope them in. But in that case they are set - its a movie, its a ride, and they're just riding the wave, not trying to twist it around and pop it back on its head.
(At this point, consider other games that give less power to the Characters in terms of mechanics and powers. Seriously, save yourself the headache.)

=============

On a separate note, its tough (and I end up doing that too a lot) not to judge. In terms of tactics, efficiency, roleplay, and most importantly - MORALS.

"Tactics, Efficiency, Roleplay" - I catch myself doing things like thinking "Hmm, they could have done this a bit / a lot better. Maybe I should grant less XP, or withhold that next Magic Item loot..."
Just refrain from judging and award them XP for clearing the thing successfully. If they didn't do it successfully (got captured, killed, failed the skill challenge), then just give them half XP. Last I checked in 4E we don't award more XP to 4 Successes 0 Failures as opposed to 4 Successes 2 Failures (based on updateDMG.pdf). Its very very tempting, I really feel the pinch too, but I try to control myself.

Morals - You seem to be grappling with that, as well as "They aren't good, why aren't they good? They should be good, this is about good! I don't like this, it makes me sick..."
I don't know what are your religious views, if any, but remember a DM is there to facilitate the game for players. If its disturbing you from inside out, talk to your Players and let them know this is what you can run comfortably without getting burned out. Let them understand you're not trying to railroad them, but you get uncomfortable when you feel you're dealing with megalomaniac world-domination bent PCs as opposed to goodly Heroes who try to do what is right and sometimes make mistakes.
If it still doesn't help, maybe you should re-consider if you're cut out for DMing.

So... yeah that's about the main thing.


I am Blue/White



*everything before the divide in post*




I'm actually not railroading, or at least, I'm not trying to. The thing is, as has been explained, everything in the game world the party has encountered so far is reasonable given the design of the world which existed long before the playtesting began. I believe I already explained this.

In fact, I've forgotten to say this several times now, and I'm sorry for that, but the reason I object to their actions in game is the fact that I can only see the general attitude of the players regarding the actions of the characters leading to more TPK's, which will continue frequently for as long as the players have this attitude. One TPK is okay, maybe disappointing for some or all involved, but it's not a game breaker, and a few laughs can even be shared over it. A game where the party gets TPK'd at least every other session, however, becomes really boring, really frustrating, really fast. And that's just the scope of this campaign as it's played. This campaign was supposed to test the average adventure with the rules made so far, to see what works and what doesn't work. The campaign as it has gone represents an extreme niche campaign, and at that, one in which playtesting a new rules system is bound to be unproductive in all ways. Do I object to what they did on a moral level? Absolutely! But more importantly, this campaign can't keep going where it's going and remain a fun, productive experience at the same time.



=============

On a separate note, its tough (and I end up doing that too a lot) not to judge. In terms of tactics, efficiency, roleplay, and most importantly - MORALS.

"Tactics, Efficiency, Roleplay" - I catch myself doing things like thinking "Hmm, they could have done this a bit / a lot better. Maybe I should grant less XP, or withhold that next Magic Item loot..."
Just refrain from judging and award them XP for clearing the thing successfully. If they didn't do it successfully (got captured, killed, failed the skill challenge), then just give them half XP. Last I checked in 4E we don't award more XP to 4 Successes 0 Failures as opposed to 4 Successes 2 Failures (based on updateDMG.pdf). Its very very tempting, I really feel the pinch too, but I try to control myself.

Morals - You seem to be grappling with that, as well as "They aren't good, why aren't they good? They should be good, this is about good! I don't like this, it makes me sick..."
I don't know what are your religious views, if any, but remember a DM is there to facilitate the game for players. If its disturbing you from inside out, talk to your Players and let them know this is what you can run comfortably without getting burned out. Let them understand you're not trying to railroad them, but you get uncomfortable when you feel you're dealing with megalomaniac world-domination bent PCs as opposed to goodly Heroes who try to do what is right and sometimes make mistakes.
If it still doesn't help, maybe you should re-consider if you're cut out for DMing.

So... yeah that's about the main thing.





I'll admit, I'm not fond of evil - not in the least. As an amateur moral philosopher, I see no, well, good coming out of evil in any way, as it's not only extremely destructive to others, but self-destructive and unsustainable as well. Not to mention the intense aversion to evil I have for many reasons I care not to explain. I do get extremely uncomfortable when being involved in evil acts, even if they're purely fictional, but due to a complex case of self-loathing and altruism, I don't care about my own emotions. As I explained above, that's not the reason I want the players to act with decency.
In fact, I've forgotten to say this several times now, and I'm sorry for that, but the reason I object to their actions in game is the fact that I can only see the general attitude of the players regarding the actions of the characters leading to more TPK's, which will continue frequently for as long as the players have this attitude. One TPK is okay, maybe disappointing for some or all involved, but it's not a game breaker, and a few laughs can even be shared over it. A game where the party gets TPK'd at least every other session, however, becomes really boring, really frustrating, really fast.


This is rail-roady, ASSUMING they can cover up well. But if they don't, just drop the bomb on them (its not rail-roading if it makes sense). Don't make it unrealistic though. Sometimes, Players get a kick out of slaughtering small groups of soldiers, followed by police officers, followed by companies, followed by units, until well.. basically everyone is dead or they're taken out.

Assuming you're playing 4E, and they get attacked in an "obvious" place, a quick way to bring the party to a TPK is to let reinforcements (equivalent to a new Encounter) arrive every 4+d6 rounds. Not very realistic, but reasonably if they manage to clear the previous Law Enforcers before reinforcements arrive, they might be able to get away. Morale-break is also very good ; alternatively, if they're getting worn down but soldiers / law enforcers are dying in the droves, an officer might negotiate to put them on a ship and exile / sail them to some distant place and never come back.

Regardless, D&D is at its heart, an escapist power trip. Whether you get a power trip by helping save innocents or slaughtering tons of normal people just trying to do their job, that's just what it is. If the Players enjoy one TPK or near-TPK, its good enough (its only tricky if you have someone actually wanting to be good. Which it seems that thankfully, that is NOT one of your problems). End it, and enjoy it, and there's a good chance the next one won't come up. Alternatively if they win, give them a ghost town.

So is it going to lead to large scale conflict? Yes, that's fine. Is it going to lead to a TPK or be rail-roaded? Not necessarily.

==============

I do get extremely uncomfortable when being involved in evil acts, even if they're purely fictional, but due to a complex case of self-loathing and altruism, I don't care about my own emotions. As I explained above, that's not the reason I want the players to act with decency.


Erm, with all due respect, it looks like its not a "complex case of self-loathing and altruism". Even through a medium like the forum message board, you appear genuinely uncomfortable with Amorality, for whatever reasons you want to believe.

If this campaign ends in a TPK or otherwise ends (you can end it after they exile or slaughter everyone, even if they don't TPK. or even "fake-end" it so that the setting changes completely, though the surviving characters remain the same), so please for goodness' sakes just talk to your Players. As I wrote earlier "Let them understand you're not trying to railroad them, but you get uncomfortable..."

They can discuss if that fits what they want, or if another one of you can step up to be DM.

I am Blue/White


This is rail-roady, ASSUMING they can cover up well. But if they don't, just drop the bomb on them (its not rail-roading if it makes sense). Don't make it unrealistic though.



Alright, it's clear you haven't read through the entire thread. I don't blame you, though; I can't assume you have the free time or the interest to do so, and I, too, have posted in threads I didn't entirely read.

The one TPK that has happened so far (3 sessions in) was exactly what you described, assuming I'm getting what you're saying. The players that made it out of the cave with the cultists got killed, basically, when the tank found himself alone and surrounded by a huge force of better-trained soldiers, and the mage and the archer (the latter of which apparently forgot he was an archer) got killed by a member of an elite mercenary group. All of which already existed in the game world, and would reasonably have done exactly what they did.


Assuming you're playing 4E...



I'm making my own system.


Erm, with all due respect, it looks like its not a "complex case of self-loathing and altruism". Even through a medium like the forum message board, you appear genuinely uncomfortable with Amorality, for whatever reasons you want to believe.



I never said I wasn't uncomfortable. What I tried to imply was that I try not to let my personal, subjective feelings influence my decisions that effect others; I try my best to treat people fairly and such. My point was that, even though I was uncomfortable, the reason the TPK happened was because of the actions of the PC's in the context of the game world, not because I was uncomfortable. Tangent aside...


...so please for goodness' sakes just talk to your Players. As I wrote earlier "Let them understand you're not trying to railroad them, but you get uncomfortable..."



I plan to talk to them next time I see them.


...or if another one of you can step up to be DM.



The only reason I'm the DM so far is because, as the creator of a game still being tested, is because I have the most understanding of the game. The plan was to allow one of the players to co-DM once he had enough of a grasp of how the game works. I'm not good at DM'ing, and I'll be the first to admit it, but the circumstances kinda made it impossible for me not to DM.
I think I'm going to back up Jadebrain a bit on this.

1) A TPK does seem inevitable, as you have party members willing to place other party members in harms way/kill them for fun (tossing the striker in the ominous pool of water) and party members willing to go off on their own to do something really, really dangerous and of questionable judgement (taking the hostage to the bank to get his money). I don't care how good at tapdancing the DM is, that party is going to get slaughtered sooner or later unless you turn the world into the Idiocracy Campaign Setting.

2) A lot of people do not like evil campaigns, and it's bad form to try to turn a campaign evil unless the group's been consulted and agreed to it. Honestly, if I was in Jadebrain's position, I might have told the players that I couldn't do an evil campaign and stopped the session. No gaming is better than bad gaming.

3) Still, he did at least humor them. I don't have a problem with how Jadebrain informed the players of the possible consequences of their actions. That's information the characters would likely know, and telling players that their characters exist in a realm where the local authorities are competent is not railroading. That this was enough to get them back to the plot hook tells me they didn't have much of a plan for getting away with the murders, nor interest in finding a way to commit them.

Now, as for problems:
-The DMPC snitched on the players. That's railroading, and a good example of why DMPCs Are Evil.
-The characters had set background established by the DM. This robs the players of their characters. Even if they're pregen, you don't know how the players will develop their characters. Maybe someone wanted to be an ascetic. By saying they have massive debts, you've closed off their options.
-Instant execution. The tank should have been given some chance to escape or something. Instead, he was just slain. But, this goes back to point 1: from the behavior of the other players, I doubt they would have gone out of their way for a rescue.

So, I'll rap the OP for a few things, but I do think the players made a mess out of it regardless.
He did , say at the beginning that they were pre-gen characters because he's playtesting.  I honestly think that was the biggest source of the...we'll call it a misunderstanding to assume the best of all involved.  Playing a pre-gen character can be really difficult.  It's hard to love a charcter you didn't make.  For a long term campaign that is.  It's a lot easier to embrace for a one shot.  

Anyway, I think when he walks his players though character creation and has a chat with them that will solve most of the problems.  

I would warn against assuming that, just because you wouldn't do something that way, it's the wrong or stupid thing to do.  Clearly there were some mistakes made by the players, but you have to remind yourself that they don't know everything you know about the world and characters.  Even when you drop what you think are obvious clues.  Especially when you are creating your own system.  

It's a natural tendancy.  The trick is to pretend that your players ARE idiots and won't catch on to your clues, or will misunderstand them, or do the stupidest possible thing in any given situation, and figure out how to create an adventure that won't kill them when they do everything wrong.  That way, when they only have a couple of strategic errors, like jumping into melee because it looked like fun, it won't be the end of everything. 

 
I'm actually not railroading, or at least, I'm not trying to. The thing is, as has been explained, everything in the game world the party has encountered so far is reasonable given the design of the world which existed long before the playtesting began. I believe I already explained this.

It's reasonable, but so are other outcomes. Find the ones that work, don't just blindly follow the most obvious ones.

In fact, I've forgotten to say this several times now, and I'm sorry for that, but the reason I object to their actions in game is the fact that I can only see the general attitude of the players regarding the actions of the characters leading to more TPK's, which will continue frequently for as long as the players have this attitude.

You are entirely in control of whether their actions lead to TPK situations. Take responsibility for this.

I'll admit, I'm not fond of evil - not in the least. As an amateur moral philosopher, I see no, well, good coming out of evil in any way, as it's not only extremely destructive to others, but self-destructive and unsustainable as well. Not to mention the intense aversion to evil I have for many reasons I care not to explain. I do get extremely uncomfortable when being involved in evil acts, even if they're purely fictional, but due to a complex case of self-loathing and altruism, I don't care about my own emotions. As I explained above, that's not the reason I want the players to act with decency.

I figured it was something like this, so I'm sure you'll be glad to hear I'm done trying to help. These are personal issues you need to work out, and I'm going to go ahead and suggest that working it out via roleplaying games or roleplaying game forums is not going to be productive.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

It's reasonable, but so are other outcomes. Find the ones that work, don't just blindly follow the most obvious ones.



I already said that, given the fact that I'm not good at on-the-spot thinking, and that I have to make my decisions in a timely manner, I usually can't help but take the first reasonable idea I get.

You are entirely in control of whether their actions lead to TPK situations. Take responsibility for this.



So which is it? Should I railroad the players into a desirable outcome? Should I let things happen according to the players' actions in the context of what's reasonable (accepting the first idea given what I'm good at and what I'm not good at)? Or should I spend upwards of several minutes calculating every possible outcome in order to pick the best outcome after each and every time any player makes any decision?

I figured it was something like this, so I'm sure you'll be glad to hear I'm done trying to help.



Why would I be glad? Your ideas and points are valid and legitimate, and should be heard, even if I may have shot down most of them for various reasons.

These are personal issues you need to work out, and I'm going to go ahead and suggest that working it out via roleplaying games or roleplaying game forums is not going to be productive.



Did you not read the last part of that paragraph which basically says that despite the fact that I feel this way, I'm not letting my own personal feelings interfere with things? Or the clarification post I made afterwards, reiterating that same thing? Or the post saying that my feelings on the issue of player amorality are, in this case, not the reason for which the problem needs fixing, but that the actual reason the problem needs to be fixed is that the game will eventually stagnate and be neither fun nor productive for anyone?
It's reasonable, but so are other outcomes. Find the ones that work, don't just blindly follow the most obvious ones.

I already said that, given the fact that I'm not good at on-the-spot thinking, and that I have to make my decisions in a timely manner, I usually can't help but take the first reasonable idea I get.

Practice at it. Like iserith said, take a break for a few minutes to think about it.

You are entirely in control of whether their actions lead to TPK situations. Take responsibility for this.

So which is it? Should I railroad the players into a desirable outcome?

No. You don't control their actions, but you control how the world responds to those actions. You're also responsible for the set up. And I'm not talking about a "desireable" outcome, I'm talking about a non-TPK outcome, which is I believe what you're after.

Should I let things happen according to the players' actions in the context of what's reasonable (accepting the first idea given what I'm good at and what I'm not good at)?

No. You should let things happen according to the players' actions in the context of keeping the game interesting and fun for all involved.

Or should I spend upwards of several minutes calculating every possible outcome in order to pick the best outcome after each and every time any player makes any decision?

Spend a few minutes, yes, but it's not necessary to calculate anything, nor do it after every player decision. You only have to think about a way to avoid a TPK. There are myriad ways to do this, especially if you haven't painted yourself into a corner ahead of time.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Posting this is probably a waste of my time, but what the heck.

Or should I spend upwards of several minutes calculating every possible outcome in order to pick the best outcome after each and every time any player makes any decision?


Boring. Pick the most likely thing to happen, maybe the next most likely thing to happen, and choose. Even if it involves the party dying.

Did you not read the last part of that paragraph which basically says that despite the fact that I feel this way, I'm not letting my own personal feelings interfere with things? Or the clarification post I made afterwards, reiterating that same thing? Or the post saying that my feelings on the issue of player amorality are, in this case, not the reason for which the problem needs fixing, but that the actual reason the problem needs to be fixed is that the game will eventually stagnate and be neither fun nor productive for anyone?


Don't kid yourself. Your attitude is a big problem.
Amorality is not a problem in the game - the DM being objective or subjective towards it. An Amoral game can still be fun, especially if the Players know how to cover up, and not only then. The DM can always introduce a new faction. Hint : Enemy of my Enemy is my friend.

Anyway, from the way you've been reacting to most posts here, I doubt you're really intending to change anything of what you are doing or even really trying to accept anyone's view here. You're just justifying to yourself and to the others why you're staying the same.

This is not uncommon to those who consider themselves Philosophers, in that their view is important and everything is in place for a reason. Even if they can't immediately figure out a reason why its that way, they'll think of some reason why it is that way. And in the end nothing changes. 

If the above statement is true (and that's a benefit of doubt I'm giving you), you might find some of the following statements are true.
- Players switching off mentally during your game as you mention the ramifications of what they're doing
- Players rolling eyes as you tell them what they can / cannot do
- Losing Players rapidly
- Players intentionally trying to disrupt your plot and see your reaction
- You're here to find solutions, tactics, ways to deal with your Players rather than ways to improve your DMing game.

- Some consider you stubborn but refer to you as an intellectual or a thinker
- Most people around you are not as smart as you are, or have beliefs and assumptions that you can easily find flaws in
- You find loopholes and problems with most people you talk to real life and eventually few people try to convince or persuade you about anything
- Even if they convince and persuade you, you agree with them in principle but rarely ever adopt or put into serious consideration what they say.
- For the things that you do know and are very much interested in, there are none/few people around you who can tell you more about those matters that really impress you
- Even if they can tell you things that you do not know about those topics, you are unlikely to find out more about those. It is just information (to be forgotten), because you did not think of it first yourself
- You secretly dislike yourself for knowing much and doing little. Or knowing and not acting on it, but rather justifying how things can remain exactly the way they are. And then more reason to dislike yourself when you kick yourself for not acting on it later.

If the above is generally true, and I assume you want your game to continue to have a chance to exist, explain to someone interested the mechanics of a Game System you create and let him run a separate game of his own devising. That should be simple provided you can somehow swallow separating the mechanical aspect of your system (if any) from the fluff / background setting that you use for your system.

You probably have no business behind the DM screen except for combat purposes, and arguably for Wild-World setting interaction. This is especially so as you indicated that you wouldn't want to DM except that it is your system and you want to test it. In other words, you're a DM who, so to speak, doesn't want to be DM. There is a good possibility that if you don't let up or change, your gaming group will fracture and die a natural death, or join other games elsewhere.

I am Blue/White


Anyway, from the way you've been reacting to most posts here, I doubt you're really intending to change anything of what you are doing or even really trying to accept anyone's view here. You're just justifying to yourself and to the others why you're staying the same.



I have been considering the views of others, and I consider input, so long as it's an honest attempt at providing help, to be valid. The problem is that the input that I've recieved so far from this thread has either been given without full consideration to the details of the situation (such as the suggestion that I should always find a solution that would accomodate the players' actions which would not result in a TPK, which is unreasonable given both the ridiculously bad planning behind the players' evil actions and the fact that I am not good at quick thinking; in addition, a game in which losing is impossible is not a game at all), or has been the general suggestion that I should just screw what's reasonable and let the players off easy no matter what.

Acceptance of an idea as the best idea and giving consideration to the idea are two separate things.


This is not uncommon to those who consider themselves Philosophers, in that their view is important and everything is in place for a reason. Even if they can't immediately figure out a reason why its that way, they'll think of some reason why it is that way. And in the end nothing changes. 



Anyone who considers himself a philosopher and comes up with a conclusion before a reason to reach the conclusion is a pretty bad philosopher.


If the above statement is true (and that's a benefit of doubt I'm giving you), you might find some of the following statements are true.
- Players switching off mentally during your game as you mention the ramifications of what they're doing
- Players rolling eyes as you tell them what they can / cannot do
- Losing Players rapidly
- Players intentionally trying to disrupt your plot and see your reaction
- You're here to find solutions, tactics, ways to deal with your Players rather than ways to improve your DMing game.



The first three things have definitely not happened so far in this game. The fourth is debatable, and the fifth, I will admit, is true to a degree - self improvement is nice and good, and thus improving my style of DMing would potentially help, but the players themselves are playing in a way which will generally result in a TPK or otherwise an inability to continue playing, given the game itself. As I said, there is another part of the game world in which it would actually be reasonable to play an evil or chaotic game, but I haven't made the mechanical rules for that part of the game world. If I do run such a game, it won't be for a while.


- Some consider you stubborn but refer to you as an intellectual or a thinker



Actually, most people I talk to regarding matters of philosophy or other intellectual things consider me a foolish, blaspheming hedonist pushing an anti-everything-that-is-decent agenda, and threaten violence against me, because obviously the best way to convert someone from being an immoral, hedonistic, evil Atheist to a good, pious, peaceful Christian is to beat them until they love Jesus. And I'm not even in the Bible Belt, either.


- Most people around you are not as smart as you are, or have beliefs and assumptions that you can easily find flaws in
- You find loopholes and problems with most people you talk to real life and eventually few people try to convince or persuade you about anything



See above.


- Even if they convince and persuade you, you agree with them in principle but rarely ever adopt or put into serious consideration what they say.



No one "convinces" me of anything, but that's because their idea of a "compelling fact" is a fist in the face and the threat of eternal punishment in Hell. Again, see above.


- For the things that you do know and are very much interested in, there are none/few people around you who can tell you more about those matters that really impress you
- Even if they can tell you things that you do not know about those topics, you are unlikely to find out more about those. It is just information (to be forgotten), because you did not think of it first yourself



I spent the first 15 years of my life being quite literally insane in a medical sense, for various reasons. Long story short, my brain has little in the way of "simple" logic development - if an idea falls into the category of "common" sense, I generally don't voice it, given the fact that I, myself, automatically think that if I thought of it first, it's probably wrong.


- You secretly dislike yourself for knowing much and doing little. Or knowing and not acting on it, but rather justifying how things can remain exactly the way they are. And then more reason to dislike yourself when you kick yourself for not acting on it later.



This is, unfortunately, debatable, and in such a way that the debate will get nowhere, as Freudian logic often applies non-falsifiable logic.


If the above is generally true, and I assume you want your game to continue to have a chance to exist, explain to someone interested the mechanics of a Game System you create and let him run a separate game of his own devising. That should be simple provided you can somehow swallow separating the mechanical aspect of your system (if any) from the fluff / background setting that you use for your system.



The general idea was exactly that. I would run the game for a short while, giving the players an idea of how the game works, and then I'd hand it over to someone else to DM.
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