How to NOT kill hostages?

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Whether it's a setpiece for the encounter's drama, or simply a game mechanic (as it was to open Encounters 2 seasons ago), taking hostages always ends badly.

Killing a hostage is, the few times I've seen it written into an encounter design, usually a free or triggered action, depending on what the writer wants to accomplish, or what the players do in response to a hostage taking.

It's supposed to be good drama and create, even for a little while, some kind of dramatic tension. Or a plot hook to go questing ("...or she dies!") for a bad guy. I can't recall, however, any time on either side of the screen, where players really paid that mind. Big damn heroes have to be big damn heroes and won't stand for hostage taking.

Any villain worth their salt, or with an int score over 9, knows there's nothing to lose once the players decide to engage him after a hostage is taken. There's no reason NOT to pull the trigger/collapse the bubble/fire the laser/slit their throat. And, since the design of such encounters is what it is (at least in anecdotal experience), the PCs have zero chance to thwart the murder of what is probably their plot goal.

I can't think of a good way to take a hostage, as a DM. It inevitably ends up in innocent blood. At which point, I could have saved the time and trouble on encounter design and just done it in a "cut scene" anyway...
58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?
Whether it's a setpiece for the encounter's drama, or simply a game mechanic (as it was to open Encounters 2 seasons ago), taking hostages always ends badly.

Killing a hostage is, the few times I've seen it written into an encounter design, usually a free or triggered action, depending on what the writer wants to accomplish, or what the players do in response to a hostage taking.

It's supposed to be good drama and create, even for a little while, some kind of dramatic tension. Or a plot hook to go questing ("...or she dies!") for a bad guy. I can't recall, however, any time on either side of the screen, where players really paid that mind. Big damn heroes have to be big damn heroes and won't stand for hostage taking.

Any villain worth their salt, or with an int score over 9, knows there's nothing to lose once the players decide to engage him after a hostage is taken. There's no reason NOT to pull the trigger/collapse the bubble/fire the laser/slit their throat. And, since the design of such encounters is what it is (at least in anecdotal experience), the PCs have zero chance to thwart the murder of what is probably their plot goal.

I can't think of a good way to take a hostage, as a DM. It inevitably ends up in innocent blood. At which point, I could have saved the time and trouble on encounter design and just done it in a "cut scene" anyway...



Seriously? That is odd.

That sounds more like the attitude your players are possessed of more than anything else. I haven't run into this problem. Well, let me rephrase that as a question...are your players playing Good characters?
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A good villain has a table with the hostage on it and a laser beam that is slowly burning toward him.
..."window.parent.tinyMCE.get('post_content').onLoad.dispatch();" contenteditable="true" />Seriously? That is odd.

That sounds more like the attitude your players are possessed of more than anything else. I haven't run into this problem. Well, let me rephrase that as a question...are your players playing Good characters?



Generally, yes. I try to enforce the "heroic" part of "heroic fantasy," and like to make sure my players are, at the VERY least, not evil.

But this is more a general thought experiment based on personal experience. I don't THINK I'll be taking hostages anytime soon in my home game... But it is a scenario I'm fond of.
58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?
What if the hostage is someone close to the PCs, or at least someone they need to accomplish X.  Would that change anything for them?
It's supposed to be good drama and create, even for a little while, some kind of dramatic tension. Or a plot hook to go questing ("...or she dies!") for a bad guy. I can't recall, however, any time on either side of the screen, where players really paid that mind. Big damn heroes have to be big damn heroes and won't stand for hostage taking.

"Supposed to." But according to whom?

Any villain worth their salt, or with an int score over 9, knows there's nothing to lose once the players decide to engage him after a hostage is taken. There's no reason NOT to pull the trigger/collapse the bubble/fire the laser/slit their throat. And, since the design of such encounters is what it is (at least in anecdotal experience), the PCs have zero chance to thwart the murder of what is probably their plot goal.

The bottom line is "don't threaten anything you're not willing to destroy." If the DM is going to have a creature or NPC threaten to take an action, it behooves that DM to be willing to accept whatever outcome arises. Never try to bluff the players because, regardless of their characters' alignment, players love calling the DM's bluff. Video games generally don't even give them the choice, because the game scripts generally can't handle significant branching, but in a pen-and-paper game they can do whatever they want and often will.

I can't think of a good way to take a hostage, as a DM. It inevitably ends up in innocent blood. At which point, I could have saved the time and trouble on encounter design and just done it in a "cut scene" anyway...

I don't see the issue with the villain spilling innocent blood, except if he was stupid enough to think that would prevent his blood from being lost.

Don't rely on the sentiment of the characters to make the hostage situation interesting. Give yourself something in-game that gives the death some consequence, regardless of the PC feelings. Maybe don't just kill the hostage but turn them into a villain, or make them part of a sacrifice that has world-shaking implications. That way, even if the players pick the relatively boring option of not caring about the hostage, they don't necessarily "win" even if they kill the bad guy.

But really, just avoid hostage situations. They're boring. They're blocks. What are the PCs supposed to do, just let the bad guy escape? Even if the PCs care deeply about the NPC, if the bad guy's plan is allowed to proceed even more people might die, including the original hostage. That's bad math, especially in a universe with a verifiable "heaven."

Edit: Such scenes ARE classic, so if you don't care to dispense with them entirely, then I do recommend handling them narratively and with player collaboration. Find out from them first if they would even find such a scene interesting, and the bad guy convincing who uses such a tactic, and then find out who or what is a hostage that they won't shoot through and that the villain could plausibly threaten.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Hostage situations can be good for when the players are trying to save someone, and you want them to see the villain but nonetheless have the villain escape. Of course, if there is a hostage who is really important to the game, who you don't want to kill, the players will know that and call your bluff, while if they're just a random townsperson most players just won't care, so you have to strike a balance. And yes, it can lead to bordom or slowed down gameplay, but on the other hand, they can also provide a challenge- if killing the hostage is a minor action, how can the players stop the villain getting that minor? It provides a lot more challenge than difficulty through sheer brute force. As long as your players are ok with that.
if killing the hostage is a minor action, how can the players stop the villain getting that minor? It provides a lot more challenge than difficulty through sheer brute force. As long as your players are ok with that.

A good point. Taking a load of actions before the enemy has a chance probably wouldn't be that hard for an Epic or even Paragon level group to accomplish. For a 3.5 group it would probably be even easier.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

A good point. Taking a load of actions before the enemy has a chance probably wouldn't be that hard for an Epic or even Paragon level group to accomplish. For a 3.5 group it would probably be even easier.



Hostages, like so many things, aren't really an issue past heroic tier, but that just means springing a hostage where the players don't really have the tools to deal with it can also be good, as it forces them to adapt and reevaluate. The time limiting aspect of hostages may be good, as it forces players to pull out all of the stops, but hostages can be used in so many other ways as well, so i don't really think hostages should never be used, but rather should only be used to limit your players, in the heroic tier, where they have to avoid area powers and indiscriminate blasting and instead creatively use powers to get the hostage free, or, as in your example, in later tiers, to make the players use their action points and resources to perform well during the one turn.
Hostages, like so many things, aren't really an issue past heroic tier, but that just means springing a hostage where the players don't really have the tools to deal with it can also be good, as it forces them to adapt and reevaluate. The time limiting aspect of hostages may be good, as it forces players to pull out all of the stops, but hostages can be used in so many other ways as well, so i don't really think hostages should never be used, but rather should only be used to limit your players, in the heroic tier, where they have to avoid area powers and indiscriminate blasting and instead creatively use powers to get the hostage free, or, as in your example, in later tiers, to make the players use their action points and resources to perform well during the one turn.

The point is, though, that hostages don't limit the players. Nor should they, necessarily.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

I have to diagree there. If hostages don't limit the players, they become pointless, and there should thus be a reason for the hostages to limit the players. This provides an in game reason for limitations, which the players can then solve with ingame means, which leads to far more of a sense of victory than if the limitations: A) didn't make sense or B) didn't exist
That would be a skill challenge: talk the villain out of killing the hostage. Time for bluff, diplomacy, intimidation.
And for once, if the party fails the skill challenge, there would actually be a penalty.

Almost every skill challenge I've run into is either pathetically easy, badly written, or failure isn't actually a punishment.
"What, we failed? and now we have to take an extended rest and get all our daily powers back? And the mod is written with the assumption that we fail, so the bad guys aren't going to escape or anything? wow."
or my personal favorite: 12 successes needed. max of 3 from arcana, 3 from thievery, and 1 from something else. Period. um, that adds up to 7. So there is absolutely no way for a party to succeed at the skill challenge as written.

So, if the players fail, everyone will know. "Why didn't you talk him down?" "Why didn't you save ____?" "I thought you were supposed to be heros?" Really throw the guilt at them. Totally change the way people react to the party members for a couple sessions--or even a full adventure. Have the next boss snear at them and make fun of them.
I have to diagree there. If hostages don't limit the players, they become pointless, and there should thus be a reason for the hostages to limit the players. This provides an in game reason for limitations, which the players can then solve with ingame means, which leads to far more of a sense of victory than if the limitations: A) didn't make sense or B) didn't exist

I'm saying the entire point of this thread is that there's no guaranteed way to make a hostage situation challenge the players. They are pointless because the players do some moral calculus (at most) and do what the villain was trying to keep them from doing, leading to the hostage's death. There are myriad ways for players to rationalize this, regardless of their alignment.

That would be a skill challenge: talk the villain out of killing the hostage. Time for bluff, diplomacy, intimidation.
And for once, if the party fails the skill challenge, there would actually be a penalty.

Almost every skill challenge I've run into is either pathetically easy, badly written, or failure isn't actually a punishment.

Failure in a skill challenge doesn't need to be a punishment, but it does need to be interesting. That's right there in the DMG.

This situation would not make a good skill challenge, and anyway a skill challenge doesn't address the key problem of the PCs not caring about the hostage.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

It would be a frickin' great skill challenge.

If the players don't care, then ROLE-PLAY the results.
If the players don't care, show how their failure results in them being ostracize by the normal people. Heck, if they are callous enough, maybe the locals will hire REAL heroes to go after them and take them down. Other people get contracted by the merchants to guard their caravans. Have an employer or two show up, talk the them, go through all the work of making the job offer, and have him blanch and walk away when he finds out their names. "I'm not that drunk or desperate."
Have the shop owners refuse to deal with them, or do so with bad grace.
Especially shop owners who deal with magic items. If your players suddenly aren't able to buy their dream item because the shop owners won't deal with them, maybe that will have an effect.
Likewise, when they try to sell treasure, they get poor prices, and no one wants to buy anything they have. Suddenly they have to lug their loot around.
And their reputation precedes them to the next town, and the next. By the end of the week, the entire kingdom knows.
The best they will ever get from NPCs is tolerance.

Make the players care.
Make the players care.

By making the game horribly boring unless they do? Good luck with that.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Consequences and Role-playing make the game boring?
huh.
Why play and RPG if you aren't going to Role-Play?
Consequences and Role-playing make the game boring?
huh.

Boring consequences make the game boring. Roleplaying or not is not the issue.

Players don't always have to win, but there's no reason to make the game actually unpleasant for them to play. That's not a good way to go about trying to achieve a desired result (but having a "desired result" is questionable by itself).

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Whether it's a setpiece for the encounter's drama, or simply a game mechanic (as it was to open Encounters 2 seasons ago), taking hostages always ends badly.



And this is why you shouldn't do it.
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3 versions of the situation.

Hostage killed, players play their characters expressing remorse (whether the actual players care or not). Civilians divided on the situation, but generally favorable because the characters tried and are upset. Angsty moment.

Hostages rescued by quality role-playing (possibly structured by a skill challenge, but that would not be mandatory). Very positive reaction from civilians. Characters are seen as and treated as heroes.

Hostage killed, players play their characters as totally callous and uncaring, maybe even laughing gleefully. Civilians are definitely going to have a negative reactions. These characters are not heroes. At best, they are mercenaries. Magnitude of the reaction dependent on how the characters behave. The more extreme the characters, the more extreme the reactions.

Now, if the plot requires the hostage to die, so be it.
Hostage killed, players play their characters as totally callous and uncaring, maybe even laughing gleefully. Civilians are definitely going to have a negative reactions. These characters are not heroes. At best, they are mercenaries. Magnitude of the reaction dependent on how the characters behave. The more extreme the characters, the more extreme the reactions.

Those NPC reactions wouldn't have anything to do with your own personal feelings toward that sort of player character behavior, would they?

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Uh, no.
I am trying to answer the OP, but giving possible ideas and trying to provide helpful suggestions. And for some reason, people are attacking my ideas.
Uh, no.

Then at least some NPCs could act neutrally or without knowledge of the PCs mercenary behavior, for any number of plausible reasons. There's no need to shut down their access to jobs or magic items. Sure, change some NPC attitudes, but a DM is helping no one's enjoyment, even their own, by turning the game into a slog as a result of player behavior.

I am trying to answer the OP, but giving possible ideas and trying to provide helpful suggestions. And for some reason, people are attacking my ideas.

Sorry, I'll try to choose words that are less able to be interpreted as attacks, it's just that I've seen (and, sadly, used) the approach of making the game boring when people did things I didn't like all that much, and it's a sorry way to play a game with one's friends. It's best not to put oneself in a position where one feels it's appropriate to play that way, such as relying on the players' understanding of and desire to play classic heroes who are stymied by a hostage situation.

Edit: I could see players, including myself, playing a game in which the characters were widely disliked and inconvenienced, but it's not likely to be well received if it's just foisted on the players, nor if it's used as a threat prior to them taking the undesired action.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

And that hostage situation would be a way for them to explore the dilema of being the hero faced with one of the classic dilemma situations.

If their reaction is to be "who cares," then I question whether they are In Character, or taking the game seriously.

"Every law firm needs one Alan Shore. A firm full of Alan Shores would be a disaster." Likewise, one character being the "who cares" might work, but if the entire party is "who cares", then I think there is a problem.

But if the characters deliberately choose poorly, there are ways to show the reaction of civilians without attacking them.
And the players can try to redeem the characters by working harder to make up for their previous failure(s).
Let's work on how making both outcomes to this situation be fun.

One thing I'd start with is expanding the hostage idea.  Instead of threatening one person, maybe the villain's got something rigged so that if he dies (or just flips a lever/casts a spell, etc) it triggers a self-destruct sequence in his castle (with the PCs deep inside).  Or similarly it could trigger some mechanism that would end in the destruction of a village or something.

The difference here is that the horrible thing triggered is still something the PCs can deal with.  Disable the destructive device!  Escape the crumbling castle!  I'd run these as a pseudo skill challenge with possibly some combat as well, and plenty of room for rituals or improvised tactics.

When you've got an alternative situation like that, you'll almost want the PCs to provoke the villain.  It's basically the laser slowly cutting towards the hostage on the table on a bigger scale.
And that hostage situation would be a way for them to explore the dilema of being the hero faced with one of the classic dilemma situations.

Just because it's a classic doesn't mean that it's always (or ever) going to work the classic way in practice. There are tons of situations from classic stories in which it is verging on criminally reckless for the so-called "heroes" not to sacrifice one hostage for the greater good.

Such heroes can still show remorse, but the remorseless hero is also an archetype players like to play, due in no small part to the belief that this means the DM can't lead them around with cheap morality tricks.

If their reaction is to be "who cares," then I question whether they are In Character, or taking the game seriously.

"Every law firm needs one Alan Shore. A firm full of Alan Shores would be a disaster." Likewise, one character being the "who cares" might work, but if the entire party is "who cares", then I think there is a problem.

Right, and that's why I question whether your NPCs are being played in character or if they're just channels for your feelings about the players not taking the game seriously.

If players don't have the desired reaction toward a hostage situation or anything else, maybe they're just being goofs, but maybe they feel manipulated or uncomfortable. In any case, a harsh NPC reaction, while plausibly realistic, is probably not going to change matters. Deal with it directly, out-of-game, and talk about what you're expecting as a DM and what they're expecting as players.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Put a timer on the hostages:
have them dying instead of dead (-10hp and no surges)
strap a weight to them and kick them into water
kick them into a pit with an otherwise avoidable monster
surround them with fire
activate a slow trap targeted on them (crushing walls trap for example)

This gives the PCs an option to save the hostages that uses up their actions, so the hostage-taker has an advantage in fighting or running.


Finally "ransom".  Ransom was an important thing in medieval times, where noblemen and officers where captured then traded back to their allies for money or prisoner exchanges.  This was done by all factions, including 'good' or 'lawful' ones, and the deal was honoured a lot of the time.
Put a timer on the hostages:
have them dying instead of dead (-10hp and no surges)
strap a weight to them and kick them into water
kick them into a pit with an otherwise avoidable monster
surround them with fire
activate a slow trap targeted on them (crushing walls trap for example)

This gives the PCs an option to save the hostages that uses up their actions, so the hostage-taker has an advantage in fighting or running.

I like all of that, but it still hinges on the PCs caring about the hostage more than about keeping the hostage-taker from "winning."

Finally "ransom".  Ransom was an important thing in medieval times, where noblemen and officers where captured then traded back to their allies for money or prisoner exchanges.  This was done by all factions, including 'good' or 'lawful' ones, and the deal was honoured a lot of the time.

This has potential, because instead of the hostage being someone the PCs care about, it's someone their employer cares about. Losing the NPC, regardless of how they feel about it, would be a failure with interesting ramifications down the road.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

yeah, the problem with hostages is that if the PC's just don't care about them or have no reason to believe someone else would that could affect them... well they have no incentive to keep them safe or sacrifice / put themselves at risk for them.  Of course in my experience this is not the rule as there are players out there who would just throw themselves under a bus to help poor timmy. 

When dealing with this kind of situation it's always important to create a way to make the party give a damn.  Either by employer interests, by PC interest or just giving them a possible complication if the NPC is lost.  This requires some work on the DM side of things.  Unless you play LIM in which case you would ask the players to tell you why they should care.
"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"

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I think the main thing to keep in mind when roleplaying the reactions of NPCs in this situation would be realism, or at least plausibility. I doubt one failed hostage situation would lead to the heroes being ostracised by everyone. On the other hand, it would have consequences- maybe they get less money, maybe the person who hired them replaces them, maybe (if their employer is evil/ morally grey, and the entire point of the mission was to save the hostage) the employer sends a group of heroes against the PCs to make an example of them. If the consequences are plausible, then people will spend less time complaining and more time trying to solve the problems caused (in my experience, anyway) and so there won't be as much boredom.

Also, you could take the oppurtunity to change the campaign. If their employer turns against them, the heroes could side with the very person they were hired to kill. They could be hired for a position which requires sacrifices, in the form of friendly NPCs that the players have gotten attached to getting killed to help the greater good. When the players start doing arithmatic with NPCs lives, it opens up a whole new moral slant, which can lead to an interesting experience
What usually annoys me when I encounter an enemy who is holding a character hostage.  Does the hostage have hit points or are they a minion?  Does the enemy have the ability to try to kill the hostage as a free action?  Opportunity?  Immediate?  Minor?  Can I attack the enemy or try to grapple them to save the hostage, or is any physical action I make doomed to have the hostage auto-die?

In action movies, the hero usually does something cool to save the hostage and the villain tends to be so stunned by the action they can't carry through on their threat (or at least effectively).  But in D&D, I'm left with nothing but uncertainty.

Yes, you can try to talk the guy down with social skills, but not every D&D hero is good at negotiation, so what can an action hero do?  It all comes down to what the DM has decided, and, as a result, you may find nothing short of hard control powers will let you do anything.

Decision paralysis, in it's purest form.      
"You can always judge a man by the quality of his enemies." -The Doctor, Remembrance of the Daleks
What usually annoys me when I encounter an enemy who is holding a character hostage.  Does the hostage have hit points or are they a minion?  Does the enemy have the ability to try to kill the hostage as a free action?  Opportunity?  Immediate?  Minor?  Can I attack the enemy or try to grapple them to save the hostage, or is any physical action I make doomed to have the hostage auto-die?

In action movies, the hero usually does something cool to save the hostage and the villain tends to be so stunned by the action they can't carry through on their threat (or at least effectively).  But in D&D, I'm left with nothing but uncertainty.

Yes, you can try to talk the guy down with social skills, but not every D&D hero is good at negotiation, so what can an action hero do?  It all comes down to what the DM has decided, and, as a result, you may find nothing short of hard control powers will let you do anything.

Decision paralysis, in it's purest form.

The DM really needs to break some immersion at that point and just tell the players what their options are and how things will go (edit: including how off-the-wall ideas will be handled). The rules really don't give anything to go on, because this is not the kind of scene they were designed to model.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Also, someone just brought up a respectable point: rezzing the hostage.

What stops the PCs from using the Keanu Option, letting the hostage die, killing the villain and then just rezzing the hostage to complete the job? A hostage encounter would become trivial at that point.


. . .


But that creeps into another realm of decision making about the campaign world, that a friend once posed to me. Kings are kings, and hardly adventurers of any significant level. So, why do kings have to die, when they have their kingdom's fortune to essentially grant them immortality? What kind of world does that create?
58286228 wrote:
As a DM, I find it easier to just punish the players no matter what they pick, as I assume they will pick stuff that is broken. I mean, fight after fight they kill all the monsters without getting killed themselves! What sort of a game is this, anyway?
Also, someone just brought up a respectable point: rezzing the hostage.

What stops the PCs from using the Keanu Option, letting the hostage die, killing the villain and then just rezzing the hostage to complete the job? A hostage encounter would become trivial at that point.

There are reasons Raise Dead might not work on a target, and the DM can certainly specify that the method used by the villain would prevent normal resurrection from working, or working properly.

But that creeps into another realm of decision making about the campaign world, that a friend once posed to me. Kings are kings, and hardly adventurers of any significant level. So, why do kings have to die, when they have their kingdom's fortune to essentially grant them immortality? What kind of world does that create?

Dark Sun.

Raise Dead itself does not work on a creature that has died of old age, but one can imagine other rituals existing, and horrible prices paid to complete them. But if you want to have a relatively normal sort of monarchy or something, you could have rulers under magical compulsion not to return willingly from the dead. Or, rivals could make sure the kings didn't live beyond their usefulness.

[N]o difference is less easily overcome than the difference of opinion about semi-abstract questions. - L. Tolstoy

Also, someone just brought up a respectable point: rezzing the hostage.

What stops the PCs from using the Keanu Option, letting the hostage die, killing the villain and then just rezzing the hostage to complete the job? A hostage encounter would become trivial at that point.


. . .


But that creeps into another realm of decision making about the campaign world, that a friend once posed to me. Kings are kings, and hardly adventurers of any significant level. So, why do kings have to die, when they have their kingdom's fortune to essentially grant them immortality? What kind of world does that create?



This is why I jettisoned all forms of Raise Dead, Resurrection, Reincarnation, etc etc from my games.  Dead is dead.
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Also, someone just brought up a respectable point: rezzing the hostage.

What stops the PCs from using the Keanu Option, letting the hostage die, killing the villain and then just rezzing the hostage to complete the job? A hostage encounter would become trivial at that point.


. . .


But that creeps into another realm of decision making about the campaign world, that a friend once posed to me. Kings are kings, and hardly adventurers of any significant level. So, why do kings have to die, when they have their kingdom's fortune to essentially grant them immortality? What kind of world does that create?



This is why I jettisoned all forms of Raise Dead, Resurrection, Reincarnation, etc etc from my games.  Dead is dead.



The way I like it is if you want to bring someone back from the dead, then someone that knew them in life has to take their place in the realms of the dead.

For example; John, Jake, Jane, and Jerry are a group of adventurers. John dies. To get John back, the other three need to find someone who knew him when he was alive. In this case, an NPC named Jade. They perform the ritual, or rite or whatever, and name Jade as the sacrifice. Jade dies and her life energy is used to bring John back from the dead. However, doing so leaves a mark on John somewhere, and people(NPCs) will(maybe) find out about what these "Heroes" did. (Hint: it's an act of Evil.)

Of course, that's just me.
Also, someone just brought up a respectable point: rezzing the hostage.

What stops the PCs from using the Keanu Option, letting the hostage die, killing the villain and then just rezzing the hostage to complete the job? A hostage encounter would become trivial at that point.


. . .


But that creeps into another realm of decision making about the campaign world, that a friend once posed to me. Kings are kings, and hardly adventurers of any significant level. So, why do kings have to die, when they have their kingdom's fortune to essentially grant them immortality? What kind of world does that create?

Or you culd go the girl genius route- once someone dies, they lose anything which gets passed onto their children- titles, land, most of their fortune- indeed, it'd leave death as being forcibly retired from Kingship.
Anyways, the ultimate problem, I think, with hostage situations in an RPG is that it's an expression of DM vs Players.  It's the DM saying 'I'm bound and determined to win this scenario'.  It's a screwjob; the PCs have no good options, and either have to let the bad guys go (DM wins) or the PCs have to sacrifice someone (PCs lose).

As you say, it never works out well ... which is why you should simply never do it.  Problem solved.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
Doesn't the target of a ressurection need to be willing for it to work? In my campaigns few people have the will and stubborness to return from the dead and most of those are PCs ;) Mind you, my players know this rule, and hence never assume a Raise Dead ritual is going to work on a NPC.
Anyways, the ultimate problem, I think, with hostage situations in an RPG is that it's an expression of DM vs Players.  It's the DM saying 'I'm bound and determined to win this scenario'.  It's a screwjob; the PCs have no good options, and either have to let the bad guys go (DM wins) or the PCs have to sacrifice someone (PCs lose).

As you say, it never works out well ... which is why you should simply never do it.  Problem solved.



I agree with your premise Salla, but noy your conclusion.  Sometimes there are no good choices.  sometimes you have to choose between the between two bad choices.

I think the best solution is to make sure that the hostage is an inportant part, and make sure each outcome has great meaningful choices.  let the bad guy get away?  easiest choice.  attack the bad guy and split up, let one or two people attempt to stop the mechanisim about to kill the hostage while the others take care of the bad guy.  doable but harder.  Ignore the hostage situation and take on the bad guy?  also easy but has repurcussions.

 

Play whatever the **** you want. Never Point a loaded party at a plot you are not willing to shoot. Arcane Rhetoric. My Blog.