How to challenge the powergamers IN combat?

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Ok, So I have a group of six players all of who are good friends and 2 who are first time players. The group has just incredible synergy. I've been DMing for about 3 years and I've never seen a party that works as well together as this one. The strikers just chew enemies up. the defenders lock down everything within the first turn (if not the first couple of rounds). The leader drops heals and buffs with pinpoint precision and the controller does an excellent job of helping the defenders stay sticky and the strikers mainting combat advantage. All characters are heavily combat optimized, which is something i'm accustomed to. The thing is they also tend to do just fine on skill challenges. None of these are bad things of course. I love to see team PC suceed and look awesome. Its probably the best part about DMing for me.
I've started adding alternate goals to combat, making failure a condition that rarely hinges on smoking team monster. LIM is probably one of the single most useful tools for mixing things up that I've found. So, the core of my issue i suppose is that I can't seem to challenge the players in combat anymore. They tear through encounters like butter. We play about a 3-4 hour session every week usually accomplishing 1-2 encounters an hour. Thing is, I've moved to having most of the encounters as PC level +3 and they STILL manage to drop everything I throw at them in record time. Its getting to the point where I have players calling me out. (Friendly of course) I've even been asked to TRY to kill their characters. However, I can't even get close.
So my real question if I had to boil it down would be- How do I make the threat of death a real issue in combat for these guys?

As it might be helpful, party composition is here:
Level 6 group (4th edition)
Strikers:
Elf Archer Ranger (eyes set on battlefield archer)
Elf Druid (not technically a striker i know, but his beast form powers and items/feats he enhances them with put him on par with our ranger, if not more)

Defenders:
Hybrid Paladin/Battlemind
Warforged Brawler Fighter

Controller:
Deva Invoker (focuses on daze and stuns)

Leader:
Artificer

Of course I know that I could just stun lock or ongoing damage them into oblivion, but that isn't fun. Not for me and especially not for them. I'm looking for a way to bring the threat back onto the field without having to DM fiat in order to challenge them. Lastly, I know it isn't the DMs job to kill PCs, but that's what I've been asked for, and I'm a big fan of giving my players the kind of game they want.
Wow thats a long post. O.o

Edit: I don't actually have any desire to kill player characters. I just want them to think they're gonna die. I want them shaking in their acrobat boots.
My monday night wouldn't be half as cool if DnD didn't exist.
First it's good to see you're already using alt goals. As an admitted optimizer combat is often trivial but the alt goals can keep it fresh.

As to your concern, add non-enemy threats that require players to use non-combat actions in combat.

Examples could include:
Bomb set to go off on a four round timer that requires 3-5 Thievery checks to disarm.
An icey floor that requires Acro checks to move 2+ squares or you fall prone.
A magical incantation that effectively causes them to not function as allies.
Fight in low light or sheer darkness.
Combat on a vertical face.
Combat while flying/falling, leaping from surface to surface against a much more mobile enemy.
Collapsing bridge/surface, rising tide/fire/lava.
Expanding zones that cause nasty effects.

Hope some of those help spice things up! 
Man, I really want to throw together an encounter but I'm loaded up with stuff to do. Give me some fiction to work with? What's going on in the campaign? What are the players (or their characters) really into? Who is Team Bad Guy right now?

I'll try to find some time to come up with something. 

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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Thanks for the replies already. I really love Bohrdumb' s idea of forcing them to fight in some kind of collapsing building or structure, being forced to leap across debris with the key being a more mobile enemy.
As for Iserith. The players have currently just arrived at an allied city under siege. One of the characters (the hybrid) is a member of the Cerulean Adepts and has been called home by her mentor to help defend the city from an encroaching far realm rift that opened inside of the city walls. The PCs currently have a few different goals. A younger soldier who hasn't seen much combat got separated from the rest of his unit somewhere in the city and they've been asked to find him (or his body, or his mutated messed up far realm version, haven't decided yet). Another goal is the rescue of the PC's mentor whom she has assured the rest of the group is alive and inside the city, probably trying to rescue members of the government from a large building in the center of the city (which is where i had the rift open). Also, a group of looters and thugs has managed to seize and secure a Cerulean Adept stockhouse full of a variety of dangerous magical artifacts and weapons and has been hampering the civilian rescue efforts and taking prisoners.
Team Bad Guy is an Aboleth which originally held the PC in question as a mind slave. She thinks its been slain. Of course they don't know that the Aboleth is behind it yet.
Hope that helps and wasn't too much of an information overload. Thanks for any help you can offer.
My monday night wouldn't be half as cool if DnD didn't exist.
Well collapsing structures and falling debris would be great here. Each round drop a 3x3 hunk of stone on the ground. Maybe mark off your grid by numbering the x and y axis and roll die to determine where it falls. Think the siege of Osgiliath in Return of the King.

Put them in a building where the floors give way if too many creatures are too close together. Maybe give the city an underground river that is starting to flood some areas. Maybe the Aboleth has unleashed some massive beast that the pcs could never kill and it's rampaging after them (think about the scenes in a war movie when everyone is hiding from the tanks in a city battle).
O.o Bohrdumb, I think you just made my brain explode with some of those ideas. Gotta love the idea of them leaping and dodging debris as some huge creature chases them. I'd be worried that they would try to stand and fight, but I think they're smart enough to realize when the odds are against. Certainly going to give that a shot possibly as a skill challenge/combat encounter hybrid.
My monday night wouldn't be half as cool if DnD didn't exist.
Sounds like you need a mastermind villain.

Come up with a death trap. Give the mastermind an optimized character build should they manage to corner him. Remember, the mastermind always has a plan for every contingency. Optimize at least half of your smaller encounters. Give the monsters/enemy NPCs class levels and feats if you need to. Don't forget gear as well.

Even brush up on combat tactics so you can stay on top of your game on the fly.

To work off Bohrdumb's suggestion, perhaps the mastermind sets a trap up for them in an ancient ruins. Once they're deep inside, they are ambushed. During the battle, the villain callously sacrifices his own hirelings and causes the ruins to collapse in on itself. As they escape, they discover phase 2 of his plan which was to unleash some monstrosity on the nearby town. Survivors of the collapsing ruins emerge to watch as a giant beast lumbers forward towards the town. If they're still in relatively good condition they may attack it. If not, they'll have to find a way to regroup and let the town be destroyed.

Don't let the big bad monster fight alone. Give it helpers. Maybe it can summon the aid of smaller creatures via telepathy or it spawns smaller versions of itself.

While they fight the monster, the mastermind attains his big goal. And it makes him more powerful than before. To give some kind of reference/comparison for the PCs so they realize just how much stronger he became, you can have them encounter him early on in a smaller fight where he doesn't seem nearly as important so they might be willing to let him escape. When they see him later, they'll have this nice "oh crap" moment.

The final battle should have everything set up in favor for the mastermind. Give him home field advantage, give him an escape route, give him plenty of lackies, traps, magic items, and even maybe a few advantageous dice rolls. :D

Sometime during the course of all this, you should manage to kill at least one of them. 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
Also, lastly, this is really dirty...

But after a combat, have them bombarded by a second wave of enemies. All with a surprise attack or even just plain ol' high initiative bonuses. Don't let combat boil down to who moves first. Throw them off guard by scattering them just as they take a sigh of relief.

Edit: And separating the group and singling them out one at a time can also throw them way off. 
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
While they fight the monster, the mastermind attains his big goal. And it makes him more powerful than before. To give some kind of reference/comparison for the PCs so they realize just how much stronger he became, you can have them encounter him early on in a smaller fight where he doesn't seem nearly as important so they might be willing to let him escape. When they see him later, they'll have this nice "oh crap" moment.



This sounds great. I really like giving them a point of comparison for how much stronger he is. It shouldn't be too difficult to have the aboleth function in this roll. Perhaps with some sort of disguise early on though. Not sure they would be willing to let an aboleth get away from them under any circumstances.

On a side note, i figured out how to use quotes just now. Yes!


My monday night wouldn't be half as cool if DnD didn't exist.
So my real question if I had to boil it down would be- How do I make the threat of death a real issue in combat for these guys?

You can't, so don't bother. You especially can't do this:

Edit: I don't actually have any desire to kill player characters. I just want them to think they're gonna die. I want them shaking in their acrobat boots.

The level of challenge combat presents is very binary. It's generally very easy (if something of a grind at times) or it's very very hard. The middle ground is a difficult place to stand, and gets more difficult the more powerful the characters are. 4th Edition can give you a decently broad middleground for an encounter or two, since players can always break out their daily resources to get out of a pinch, but eventually the players will run out of resources.

The way to give players a definite challenge is to pull out the stops and aim for them failing. If the only way to make them fail is to kill them, then you have a problem, because it's not "fair" to just pile on the monsters and powers, and because you don't want to kill them, for whatever reason. They might appreciate and "unfair" encounter just for the challenge, you (and, I figure, they) won't like it if the challenge goes bad.

So, find ways to make them fail that don't require them to be killed. You've got part of it down, giving them goals that don't require them to kill everything, though I'm not clear as to your approach. But if the players can lose without dying, you can pull out the stops. There are no guidelines you're "required" to follow regarding how tricky to make an encounter, so go to town. My guess is that you can make your encounters extremely difficult to win and these players will find a way. If they don't, they were still challenged, but the characters are also still alive at the end, albeit at something of a disadvantage as a result of their loss.

(Some people recommend fudging dice in order to get the level of challenge "right." Players can tell you're doing this, and when they do the "challenge" disappears, so I don't recommend this.)

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

Right. "Challenge" is so inconsistent it's pretty much not worth "planning" for. You're like as not to get mixed results. Your best bet is to simply put your best foot forward in making the scene interesting and full of action. The "challenge" will show up or it won't. As long as it's cool, I've never seen anyone complain. Combat is its own reward.

DangerVanPelt, are you giving your monsters goals, too? It's a step in the right direction to give your PCs goals, certainly. But if the monsters are also aggressively pursuing their own goals, it can increase the challenge and lethality need not apply (in the sense you don't have to worry about combat by the numbers being too hard or too easy). If the monsters attain their goal, the encounter's over, the PCs "lose," and the adventure continues on a different footing.

I've got some thoughts rolling around in my head for an encounter just as an example and hope to post that in the next couple days.

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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My suggestions are as follows:

1) Extended Rests occur when they get an extended downtime.  48 hours, suitable facilities, the opportunity to reconnect with their power source (the artificer needs somewhere to setup a workshop, the invoker needs to set up a shrine and pray, etc.).    This removes any sort of extended rest cheesing, so you can wear them down.

2) Attack Healing Surges.  Remember energy drain?  Works fine as healing surge drain.  Add some stuff that attacks those surges.  This is a non-lethal way to threaten them.  

3) Give minions a property "durable."  If they are hit by a non-critical hit, they are not killed as long as they make a DC11 check (not a saving throw).  Feel free to make it go away if a specific type of damage is used (humaniods hate necrotic damage, ice things hate fire, undead hate radiant, etc.)

4) TRAPS!  Make them pay attention to where they are.  If two of the party members tumble into a 20 ft deep pit trap lined with spikes (taking 2d10+6 damage and 5 ongoing poison damage) and have to make a hard athletics check to climb out or take another 1d10+6 damage from falling back onto the spikes, they'll relearn about fear.  

5)  Check out Fourthcore - slamdancr.com/wp/2011/01/what-is-fourthc...  

Even if you don't use the exact approach, fourthcore includes a LOT of ways to challenge even the nastiest powergamer.  Fourthcore will return the fear into your characters.  

6) TRAPS!  Even where the PCs don't expect them.  Make them part of the terrain.  Change things up.  Challenge assumptions.  Challenge every assumption!  Make fights on whirling platforms suspended above an abyss where the PCs have to make an endurance check to avoid getting dizzy (dazed) each turn!  Let your Solos spend a minor action to dispel 1 condition on them, and let them be able to spend it to dispel dazes/stuns.  Give your elites auras, and let them spawn minions.  CHALLENGE EVERY ASSUMPTION.

4E parties are extremely durable, without powergaming.  This doesn't mean they should lack fear of death.  It means DMs should lack fear of killing them.  Throw it at them.   
2) Attack Healing Surges.  Remember energy drain?  Works fine as healing surge drain.  Add some stuff that attacks those surges.  This is a non-lethal way to threaten them.

So is attacking their hit points, as long as they have some. This is still an approach toward killing the PCs, which PCs are designed specifically to withstand.

3) Give minions a property "durable."  If they are hit by a non-critical hit, they are not killed as long as they make a DC11 check (not a saving throw).  Feel free to make it go away if a specific type of damage is used (humaniods hate necrotic damage, ice things hate fire, undead hate radiant, etc.)

Why do away with the one thing minions are good at: dying quickly? If you want durable monsters, just don't use minions. In the meantime, minions can be used to Aid Attack and Aid Defense, but I'd rather use minions as the group getting ready to light the fuses on a bunch of widely spaced sapper charges, unless the PCs can stop them this round.

4) TRAPS!  Make them pay attention to where they are.  If two of the party members tumble into a 20 ft deep pit trap lined with spikes (taking 2d10+6 damage and 5 ongoing poison damage) and have to make a hard athletics check to climb out or take another 1d10+6 damage from falling back onto the spikes, they'll relearn about fear.

What they'll learn about is "gotcha" DMing, and to become slow, plodding paranoiacs. How is that fun for anyone?

CHALLENGE EVERY ASSUMPTION.

The most important assumption to challenge is that the only way to challenge characters is with death.

4E parties are extremely durable, without powergaming.  This doesn't mean they should lack fear of death.  It means DMs should lack fear of killing them.  Throw it at them.  

I agree, but if one doesn't actually want to kill the characters, trying to kill them is a strange way to accomplish that.

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

Dominate.  Even with 1 round of a striker attacking the leader, things turn around quickly.


Otherwise, terrain.  Add darkness and creatures with darkvision.  Add water and creatures who swim.  Add 10' boulders and creatuers who jump.  Add an inn in flames and some resist fire creatures.  Trees and dryads who teleport with them.

Also, they look weak against a load of ranged minions.

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List of no-action attacks.
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Crits: what their really worth
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The Ghost with the Most (revenant handbook)
my builds
F-111 Interdictor Long (200+ squares) distance ally teleporter. With some warlord stuff. Broken in a plot way, not a power way.

Thought Switch Higher level build that grants upto 14 attacks on turn 1. If your allies play along, it's broken.

Elven Critters Crit op with crit generation. 5 of these will end anything. Broken.

King Fisher Optimized net user.  Moderate.

Boominator Fun catch-22 booming blade build with either strong or completely broken damage depending on your reading.

Very Distracting Warlock Lot's of dazing and major penalties to hit. Overpowered.

Pocket Protector Pixie Stealth Knight. Maximizing the defender's aura by being in an ally's/enemy's square.

Yakuza NinjIntimiAdin: Perma-stealth Striker that offers a little protection for ally's, and can intimidate bloodied enemies. Very Strong.

Chargeburgler with cheese Ranged attacks at the end of a charge along with perma-stealth. Solid, could be overpowered if tweaked.

Void Defender Defends giving a penalty to hit anyone but him, then removing himself from play. Can get somewhat broken in epic.

Scry and Die Attacking from around corners, while staying hidden. Moderate to broken, depending on the situation.

Skimisher Fly in, attack, and fly away. Also prevents enemies from coming close. Moderate to Broken depending on the enemy, but shouldn't make the game un-fun, as the rest of your team is at risk, and you have enough weaknesses.

Indestructible Simply won't die, even if you sleep though combat.  One of THE most abusive character in 4e.

Sir Robin (Bravely Charge Away) He automatically slows and pushes an enemy (5 squares), while charging away. Hard to rate it's power level, since it's terrain dependent.

Death's Gatekeeper A fun twist on a healic, making your party "unkillable". Overpowered to Broken, but shouldn't actually make the game un-fun, just TPK proof.

Death's Gatekeeper mk2, (Stealth Edition) Make your party "unkillable", and you hidden, while doing solid damage. Stronger then the above, but also easier for a DM to shut down. Broken, until your DM get's enough of it.

Domination and Death Dominate everything then kill them quickly. Only works @ 30, but is broken multiple ways.

Battlemind Mc Prone-Daze Protecting your allies by keeping enemies away. Quite powerful.

The Retaliator Getting hit deals more damage to the enemy then you receive yourself, and you can take plenty of hits. Heavy item dependency, Broken.

Dead Kobold Transit Teleports 98 squares a turn, and can bring someone along for the ride. Not fully built, so i can't judge the power.

Psilent Guardian Protect your allies, while being invisible. Overpowered, possibly broken.

Rune of Vengance Do lot's of damage while boosting your teams. Strong to slightly overpowered.

Charedent BarrageA charging ardent. Fine in a normal team, overpowered if there are 2 together, and easily broken in teams of 5.

Super Knight A tough, sticky, high damage knight. Strong.

Super Duper Knight Basically the same as super knight with items, making it far more broken.

Mora, the unkillable avenger Solid damage, while being neigh indestuctable. Overpowered, but not broken.

Swordburst Maximus At-Will Close Burst 3 that slide and prones. Protects allies with off actions. Strong, possibly over powered with the right party.

Yeah having a controller on team monster that can, for example, restrain save ends as an at-will, then having ranged minions with short bows can really put a hamper on team hero.  Especially if terrain also adds another obstacle to getting to melee range.  Mixing it up from encounter to encounter can be a lot of fun and keep things interesting in combat.
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

To challenge an effective party, I do the following:

Don't let them full rest very often at all.

Don't let them short rest after every combat. Do a back to back combat now and then.

Level+3 not a threat? Fine...double or triple the number of enemies. Ignore Challenge rating.
Elf Archer Ranger (eyes set on battlefield archer): Hi! I don't like it when you attack my Fortitude defense! I don't mind being immobilized, unless something is right next to me - then it sucks! I love to stay near the back of the party, so I absolutely hate it when lurkers come in from behind me.

Elf Druid (not technically a striker i know, but his beast form powers and items/feats he enhances them with put him on par with our ranger, if not more): Hi! I'm probably built to do silly amounts of damage when I charge! I really dislike being dazed, because that means I can't do wildshape tricks. I'm not fond of immobilize, but it hurts me less than some, since I'm good in both melee and range. I detest being blind, because if I can't see something, I can't have combat advantage against it. Also, my damage tricks are nice now, but my damage output will come back to earth compared to the ranger as we level up.

Hybrid Paladin/Battlemind: Hi! It's hard to say without looking at my full build, but I'll bet my Reflex defense is my weak point. Still, just try not to attack me.

Warforged Brawler Fighter: Hi! My Will defense probably sucks. My Fort defense is absurdly good, so try to never attack that. I'm really good at humiliating just one monster, so I hate it when there are lots of monsters and they spread out. Once I lock down a target, that target might be better off using Aid Another to let an ally hit me easier! I also don't like being slowed or immobilized when I'm not near a target! If you can't do that, it's best just to ignore me in favor of the others whenever possible. Remember, I only have one combat challenge attack a turn, so if I'm next to lots of monsters, once I've used my Immediate, you can shift-charge away from me with impunity!

Deva Invoker (focuses on daze and stuns) Hi! Like the ranger - I really hate lurkers! Anything that manages to sneak by the defenders and get to me, especially once the defenders are engaged, is probably a real problem. I don't like it when targets spread out too much. Since I'm a Deva, my Fort defense is probably my worst. I dislike artillery, because they often don't care about being dazed.

Artificer Hi! I'm either using a Con secondary (so my Will is my worst defense) or a Wis secondary (so my Fort is my worst defense. I'm going to try to stay near my friends whenever possible to buff them with Magic Weapon. As such, I hate it when enemies have Area Burst powers, as I'm always getting caught up in them.


EDIT: Oh, yeah, guys, let me save you the trouble. None of this matters since no monster should ever be attacking the PC's they should all have alternate goals like pull the switch or kidnap the NPC.
EDIT: Oh, yeah, guys, let me save you the trouble. None of this matters since no monster should ever be attacking the PC's they should all have alternate goals like pull the switch or kidnap the NPC.

Well, they can and should still attack the PCs, but not being able to kill the PCs shouldn't necessarily be a problem.

Or, if you prefer, spend hours learning the ins and out and tricks of a rule system that is no longer actively supported and will be largely replaced in a few years. I suppose I can see how that's a good use of your time.

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

EDIT: Oh, yeah, guys, let me save you the trouble. None of this matters since no monster should ever be attacking the PC's they should all have alternate goals like pull the switch or kidnap the NPC.

Well, they can and should still attack the PCs, but not being able to kill the PCs shouldn't necessarily be a problem.

Or, if you prefer, spend hours learning the ins and out and tricks of a rule system that is no longer actively supported and will be largely replaced in a few years. I suppose I can see how that's a good use of your time.




Not to mention, learning how every build works. 
But hey, some people have lots of time on their hands and an inability to  understand other viewpoints.

Whatever works/

      
"The real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development." -Albert Einstein Resident Left Hand of Stalin and Banana Stand Grandstander Half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo House of Trolls, looking for a partner Wondering what happened to the Star Wars forums?
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141722973 wrote:
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57036828 wrote:
Marketing and design are two different things. For instance the snuggy was designed for people in wheel chairs and marketed to people that are too incompetent to operate a blanket.
75239035 wrote:
I personally don't want him decapitated.
141722973 wrote:
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And the greatest post moderation of all time...
58115148 wrote:
I gave that (Content Removed) a to-scale Lego replica. (Content Removed) love to-scale Lego replicas. (ORC_Cerberus: Edited - Vulgarity is against the Code of Conduct)
Or, if you prefer, ask for advice about the ins and outs of said rule system on a forum....that's dominated by people who refuse to give it to you because they have their own agenda to push that isn't necessarily related to your question.

Oh, you're right...that's not really a good use of time iether.
EDIT: Oh, yeah, guys, let me save you the trouble. None of this matters since no monster should ever be attacking the PC's they should all have alternate goals like pull the switch or kidnap the NPC.

Well, they can and should still attack the PCs, but not being able to kill the PCs shouldn't necessarily be a problem.

Or, if you prefer, spend hours learning the ins and out and tricks of a rule system that is no longer actively supported and will be largely replaced in a few years. I suppose I can see how that's a good use of your time.




You sounded really bitter there lol
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

Or, if you prefer, ask for advice about the ins and outs of said rule system on a forum....that's dominated by people who refuse to give it to you because they have their own agenda to push that isn't necessarily related to your question.

It's precisely related to this question. How do you challenge a group without killing them? By challenging them in ways other than trying to kill them.

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

You sounded really bitter there lol

Well, yeah. I've put in my time trying to make these systems work, and it's simply not worth it. They're not designed to give the experience I and the original poster want, of providing a challenge but not wiping the party out. And by the time you learn how to walk the tightrope of doing that, the rules are changed anyway, and you can either ditch your knowledge, or denigrate the new rules until the designers revert back to the rules you spent so much time learning. I'm tired of that, sure, and bitter. Better to focus on skills you can use from edition to edition and game to game.

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

His question wasn't "how do I challenge them without killing them?" His question was "how do I challeng them?"

An assumption was then made that it was impossible to challenge them without killing them. I would challenge the validity of that assumption.
His question wasn't "how do I challenge them without killing them?" His question was "how do I challeng them?"

He doesn't want to kill them.

An assumption was then made that it was impossible to challenge them without killing them. I would challenge the validity of that assumption.

Challenge away.

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

*grabs some popcorn*
"Non nobis Domine Sed nomini tuo da gloriam" "I wish for death not because I want to die, but because I seek the war eternal"

IMAGE(http://www.nodiatis.com/pub/19.jpg)

*grabs some popcorn*



+1
"The real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development." -Albert Einstein Resident Left Hand of Stalin and Banana Stand Grandstander Half of the Ambiguously Gay Duo House of Trolls, looking for a partner Wondering what happened to the Star Wars forums?
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141722973 wrote:
And it wasn't ****. It was subjectively concensual sex.
57036828 wrote:
Marketing and design are two different things. For instance the snuggy was designed for people in wheel chairs and marketed to people that are too incompetent to operate a blanket.
75239035 wrote:
I personally don't want him decapitated.
141722973 wrote:
And do not call me a Yank. I am a Québecois, basically your better.
And the greatest post moderation of all time...
58115148 wrote:
I gave that (Content Removed) a to-scale Lego replica. (Content Removed) love to-scale Lego replicas. (ORC_Cerberus: Edited - Vulgarity is against the Code of Conduct)
His question wasn't "how do I challenge them without killing them?" His question was "how do I challeng them?"

An assumption was then made that it was impossible to challenge them without killing them. I would challenge the validity of that assumption.



It's not that it's "impossible." It's simply inconsistent and probably not worth worrying about in the grand scheme. My experience is I can do all of things (and, yes, I know how), but for the effort I put into it, it doesn't turn out to be a challenge all the time, so I eschew it in favor of other aspects of the design where I can get more bang for my buck.

EDIT: Also, maybe it's just me, but there's nothing that much more challenging about using the same powers as the last encounter (and the one before that and before that...), but using up 2 whole more surges to defeat it this time! Because that's usually all upping it by the numbers or gameplanning against PCs is going to really do, most of the time.

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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His question wasn't "how do I challenge them without killing them?" His question was "how do I challeng them?"

An assumption was then made that it was impossible to challenge them without killing them. I would challenge the validity of that assumption.

It's not that it's "impossible." It's simply inconsistent and probably not worth worrying about in the grand scheme. My experience is I can do all of things (and, yes, I know how), but for the effort I put into it, it doesn't turn out to be a challenge all the time, so I eschew it in favor of other aspects of the design where I can get more bang for my buck.

No, no, I said "You can't," so despite everything else I've ever written on this topic or any other, I'm an extremist who can be made to disappear in a puff of logic if I'm simply caught in a contradiction.

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

Well it all comes down to how you define "challenge". To me, a "challenged" party is engaged and worried about the negative consequences of the battle, be it failure of alternate goals, expenditure of healing surges and other resources, or even death.

Since I see this happen in the majority (maybe 60%) of encounters I play in or DM, it can't be as hard to accomplish as you think.

EDIT: Which isn't to say the players aren't having fun the other 40% of the time. In these encounters, they're wholesale-slaughtering the monsters and/or easily accomplishing their objectives, which I think is very functional for the group.
His question wasn't "how do I challenge them without killing them?" His question was "how do I challeng them?"

An assumption was then made that it was impossible to challenge them without killing them. I would challenge the validity of that assumption.

It's not that it's "impossible." It's simply inconsistent and probably not worth worrying about in the grand scheme. My experience is I can do all of things (and, yes, I know how), but for the effort I put into it, it doesn't turn out to be a challenge all the time, so I eschew it in favor of other aspects of the design where I can get more bang for my buck.

No, no, I said "You can't," so despite everything else I've ever written on this topic or any other, I'm an extremist who can be made to disappear in a puff of logic if I'm simply caught in a contradiction.



Speaking of contradictions, I'm pretty sure I saw you arguing against straw-man arguments somewhere else. Seems contradictory for you to set one up like that.

Well it all comes down to how you define "challenge". To me, a "challenged" party is engaged and worried about the negative consequences of the battle, be it failure of alternate goals, expenditure of healing surges and other resources, or even death.

Since I see this happen in the majority (maybe 60%) of encounters I play in or DM, it can't be as hard to accomplish as you think.

EDIT: Which isn't to say the players aren't having fun the other 40% of the time. In these encounters, they're wholesale-slaughtering the monsters and/or easily accomplishing their objectives, which I think is very functional for the group.



I struggle with the notion that simple resource management is a challenge. All the rest of what you say constitutes a challenge is okay in my book. Up it by the numbers or gameplan against specific PC defenses or tactics and you frequently get much the same result as if you didn't do anything at all, except that the fight probably takes longer and a given PC uses up one extra daily and a couple extra surges to solve the problem. I get that there might be some players out there for whom that would represent a challenge. I personally don't see it as such and I'm hard-pressed to see how they could.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Don't Prep the Plot | Structure First, Story Last | Prep Tips | Spoilers Don't Spoil Anything | No Myth Roleplaying
Players: 11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer | You Are Not Your Character     Hilarious D&D Actual Play Podcast: Crit Juice!

FREE CONTENT: Encounters With Alternate Goals | Full-Contact Futbol  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs | Re-Imagining Phandelver | Three Pillars of Immersion | Seahorse Run

Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Well it all comes down to how you define "challenge". To me, a "challenged" party is engaged and worried about the negative consequences of the battle, be it failure of alternate goals, expenditure of healing surges and other resources, or even death.

This poster doesn't see death as a desireable outcome. And I can't blame them.

Since I see this happen in the majority (maybe 60%) of encounters I play in or DM, it can't be as hard to accomplish as you think.

I'm reading about a party in the original post that blasts through anything this DM puts in front of them. I doubt it's really 0% challenge, but it doesn't sound like much.

They're literally off the charts, those charts being what makes a "challenging" encounter. To challenge them, he's going to have to go off the charts too. He can make the encounters much more dangerous, but they are still likely to be trivialized by some combo the group has, or quite lethal due to some synergy the monsters have with each other and their environment, and because of how overboard the poster is likely to have to get with these PCs.

If it's trivial, that's fine, just not what he was going for. If it's impossible, that's bad, AND it's not what he was going for, because the characters are now dead.

Alternate goal encounters aren't any easier to make challenging-but-still-winnable. They simply avoid the whole issue by not assuming the PCs have to succeed. Pull out all the stops, make it as hard as you want and it will be challenging, while at the same time not risking whatever one finds undesireable about death.

If your group is okay with death, fine. Challenge them however you like. If death is not desireable, then you can throw some raw combat at them, but if they can defeat encounters high above their level then you probably can't give them a decent challenge, and you almost certainly can't do it without a high risk of killing them.

Speaking of contradictions, I'm pretty sure I saw you arguing against straw-man arguments somewhere else. Seems contradictory for you to set one up like that.

Since here you are actually trying to catch me in a contradiction, it wasn't a total strawman.

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

My point is that a challenged party is engaged and worried about failure.

The beauty of alternate goals in combat is that it expands the the definition of failure. It's no longer just "I'm worried about my surge count, my hit points and my dailies." This is why I'm in favor of using them in many encounters. I think that using them in every encounter, however, isn't a good idea. It makes it less interesting when they come up. (For my groups, I think I should aim to shoot for a 50/50 ratio at least.)

However, that doesn't mean that surge count, hit points or dailies are still potential sources of failure - if the players regard them that way.

It sounds like, Iserith, that for you and Centauri and the rest of your group, they aren't particularly interesting forms of failure. As such, they are probably best ignored - by your group.

That being said, the OP's players specifically have challenged him to provide encounters that threaten their PC's lives. This is what his players want! They've said so. Just because the experience they are asking for isn't something you find interesting doesn't mean their DM shouldn't look for ways to provide it to them
Speaking of contradictions, I'm pretty sure I saw you arguing against straw-man arguments somewhere else. Seems contradictory for you to set one up like that.

Since here you are actually trying to catch me in a contradiction, it wasn't a total strawman.


The strawman is the idea that you will magically disappear in a poof of logic. Sounds absurd? That's because one's own straw man arguments tend to sound absurd.

I swear I read that somewhere....

Wow. This thread has really taken a turn for absolute suck.
Wow. This thread has really taken a turn for absolute suck.



Most of the posters here have this thing about coddling players.

OP, your players have clearly asked you and challenged you to kill them. Go all out. Ignore anyone who gives advice to the contrary.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
The beauty of alternate goals in combat is that it expands the the definition of failure. It's no longer just "I'm worried about my surge count, my hit points and my dailies." This is why I'm in favor of using them in many encounters. I think that using them in every encounter, however, isn't a good idea. It makes it less interesting when they come up. (For my groups, I think I should aim to shoot for a 50/50 ratio at least.)

Most challenges in fiction, while often dangerous, with the bullets flying and the walls crushing and they hey-hey-hey-hey-it-hurts-me are about more than life or death. A side can die and still achieve its goals. A side can live and fail utterly.

D&D is not a story, but it is inspired by them. Therefore, I don't see why most, if not all, challenges in fiction should have alternate goals. The point of them isn't just to give the players something new and different, though the concept is (despite it showing up almost everywhere else) new and different. The point of them is to do what so many people seem to want to do now: challenge without killing.

That being said, the OP's players specifically have challenged him to provide encounters that threaten their PC's lives. This is what his players want! They've said so. Just because the experience they are asking for isn't something you find interesting doesn't mean their DM shouldn't look for ways to provide it to them

I was focused on his statement that he has no desire to kill them. And I wouldn't be surprise if when it came right down to it some of those players also had no real desire to see their characters die. If they did, they could easily regulate their level of challenge simply by synergizing less.

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

 I was focused on his statement that he has no desire to kill them. And I wouldn't be surprise if when it came right down to it some of those players also had no real desire to see their characters die. If they did, they could easily regulate their level of challenge simply by synergizing less.



Asking the players to up the challenge they face themselves by changing their playstyle is something I'm surprised you would suggest. And it's also something I disagree with.
My username should actually read: Lunar Savage (damn you WotC!) *Tips top hat, adjusts monocle, and walks away with cane* and yes, that IS Mr. Peanut laying unconscious on the curb. http://asylumjournals.tumblr.com/
I was focused on his statement that he has no desire to kill them. And I wouldn't be surprise if when it came right down to it some of those players also had no real desire to see their characters die. If they did, they could easily regulate their level of challenge simply by synergizing less.



And we gave him loads of ways to do just that and then you came in and crapped all over the thread.
Is it particularly likely that the same players who would not enjoy watching their characters get killed by monsters will enjoy watching NPC civilians get ripped to shreds, watch rituals that doom the countryside for miles around get accomplished on their watch, or watch the impenetrable stone barriers seal their heroes into tombs for all eternity?

It's not PC death that players avoid - it's failure. The only difference between a straight, vanilla 4E fight and an alternate goal fight is what that failure looks like.

After all - what's the end result of PC death? At worst, you're likely going to have to make a new PC, and last I checked, D&D players frequently enjoy making PC's.

So it's not safe to simply hyper-ramp the difficulty of an alternate goal encounter and just assume that it will be fun because the PC's are safe from hitting negative bloodied. You still have to find the Goldilocks zone of "Challenging but Not Impossible".

EDIT: Disclaimer - if your players actually find the sort of thing I mentioned above enjoyable, than by all means go for it.