DDN too far biased towards character survival?

How many character deaths are you guys seeing during play? I don't have the opportunity to play right now, but I was going through the rules and it seemed that the characters have a very high survivability rate; 95% + over the course of a session. This, of course, is just entirely too high for the encounters to create any sense of dread and apprehension. I think 80% would be a lot more exciting; so that with 5 players its pretty unlikely that all of their characters will make it through the session. 

Where do you think the default fatality level is currently set in DDN? Is this where you would like to see it kept?  

Elves, Gates, Book-binding and Doom On the Rocks: Breaking rules and lichen maps Is character development killing exploration in our games?
What is wrong with 95%+ survivability rate?

who wants to go to session with 3 spare characters prerolled?

PC's die if they are stupid and attack a target well over their level, or have a very bad luck spree.

If someone needs to die in sessions those are usually "redshirts" that tag along with PCs
What is wrong with 95%+ survivability rate?

who wants to go to session with 3 spare characters prerolled?

PC's die if they are stupid and attack a target well over their level, or have a very bad luck spree.

If someone needs to die in sessions those are usually "redshirts" that tag along with PCs



Agreed. If a character has a 20% death rate, they become dispsable and are less "character in a story" and more game piece on a board.

It moght be fun for some (not me) to watch (or DM) something like Game of Thrones or Walking Dead, where almost everyone is disposable. I don't think it would be much fun to play.
I've downed PCs in earlier D&DN playtests (actually, 2 in the first one where they had more hp). I've almost downed several since then.
My style is to reward clever tactics/ideas. Otoh, anyone can die/go down.
I prefer for PCs to have more survivability. It makes for more sweet/epic combats.
"What's stupid is when people decide that X is true - even when it is demonstrable untrue or 100% against what we've said - and run around complaining about that. That's just a breakdown of basic human reasoning." -Mike Mearls
How would you design a test that could prove that the specific game element or rule changes you made resulted in a 15% increase in character deaths?

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

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"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

How would you design a test that could prove that the specific game element or rule changes you made resulted in a 15% increase in character deaths?


I was just running a few paper combats and that was my best guess. I'm not sure how you would do that mechanically, I bet James could figure it out though.
What is wrong with 95%+ survivability rate?

who wants to go to session with 3 spare characters prerolled?

PC's die if they are stupid and attack a target well over their level, or have a very bad luck spree.

If someone needs to die in sessions those are usually "redshirts" that tag along with PCs



Agreed. If a character has a 20% death rate, they become dispsable and are less "character in a story" and more game piece on a board.

It moght be fun for some (not me) to watch (or DM) something like Game of Thrones or Walking Dead, where almost everyone is disposable. I don't think it would be much fun to play.



3 spares? That’s a bit overstated. I was thinking that 80% survive would get people through 2 or 4 sessions which is a pretty good run. So really one is plenty.

Re character vs game piece: do you play 4rth? That seems so war-gamey to me I just kind of think "game piece" anyway. 

The other point is resurrection; that can be as common as the table wants it to be. In Hackmaster for instance minor rez is a 4rth level spell and pretty common, you get a limp, gimp or mental disorder out of the deal, but those are kind of fun anyway. So you can have a high mortality rate and still develop the same char if you want to.


 That has been my favorite middle ground over the years. It allows for continuity of char development and still supports an atmosphere of real danger and challenge.

I am fine with a high survival rate in most RPGs (aside from Call of Cthulhu, or some post-apocalyptic settings).  Although I haven't yet actually played the test packet, it has long been my experience that when a party of adventurers suffer a casualty there is often a domino effect where other casualties soon follow.  Each member of the group has his/her role which they typically fulfill in combat, and when that character is removed it creates a vacuum in the tactical operation of the team (not to mention that it can devastate sub-plots and character development for everyone).  Even if the player has a substitute character available, and it is rushed into play quickly, they aren't likely to have as much experience using their new abilities... and their teammates haven't had time to test out how their own characters best play off the newbie.  A group who runs at a 95% survival rate can go through weeks of play without losing anyone, but then suffer a grievous defeat in which half the party (or more) die in a single session (or single encounter).
Character surviability is an area that will need to be adjusted to taste. We see an example of this already in the healing variant rules. Besides healing rate, there are other ways to affect how long a typical character lasts. The real point is finding the baseline that will be presented in the core rules. To find this baseline, we should look at the assumptions of the game. If the game assumes that most players will play a single adventure that lasts a few sessions, than higher mortality is fine. On the other hand, if the game assumes that most players are playing campaigns that span 10 or more levels and last months or years in real-world time, than the mortality rate should be much lower than 20%; probably something closer to 2 to 5%.

Of the three groups I am in, 1 is at 50%, 1 is at 75%, and one is at 100% survival.

"The Apollo moon landing is off topic for this thread and this forum. Let's get back on topic." Crazy Monkey


How many character deaths are you guys seeing during play? I don't have the opportunity to play right now, but I was going through the rules and it seemed that the characters have a very high survivability rate; 95% + over the course of a session. This, of course, is just entirely too high for the encounters to create any sense of dread and apprehension. I think 80% would be a lot more exciting; so that with 5 players its pretty unlikely that all of their characters will make it through the session. 

Where do you think the default fatality level is currently set in DDN? Is this where you would like to see it kept?  


Well, in the first few playtests, we say a LOT of 'deaths. We just didn't let them stay dead since we were testing all of the game and not just the character creation. Wizard survival was about 30% per fight fighter was about 100%. Now the wizard looks like it can have a chance to live through an adventure or two. IMO, it's gong in the right dirrection.
Character surviability is an area that will need to be adjusted to taste. We see an example of this already in the healing variant rules. Besides healing rate, there are other ways to affect how long a typical character lasts. The real point is finding the baseline that will be presented in the core rules. To find this baseline, we should look at the assumptions of the game. If the game assumes that most players will play a single adventure that lasts a few sessions, than higher mortality is fine. On the other hand, if the game assumes that most players are playing campaigns that span 10 or more levels and last months or years in real-world time, than the mortality rate should be much lower than 20%; probably something closer to 2 to 5%.


In my experience campaigns last 4 to 16 sessions over the course of 1 to 4 months. I did a "what was your longest campaign" thread a couple of weeks ago. There were inded some long games, but shorter stints were also well represented. Maybe we should do an average campaign length thread and see what people are doing.
In my playtest experience, people who played smart didn't die. Usually.

OP: I imagine that player survivability will be the default for DDNext. 4ed lead the way on that, and for all the things Pathfinder and DDNext haven't taken from 4ed, higher HP and insurances for low-level PC survival seems to be a trend in new D&D games. I'm not sure why the "1st level PCs are disposable" sacred cow was slain so effectively, but I'll take my wins where I get them.  

"Ah, the age-old conundrum. Defenders of a game are too blind to see it's broken, and critics are too idiotic to see that it isn't." - Brian McCormick

There I just put it up.

How many character deaths are you guys seeing during play? I don't have the opportunity to play right now, but I was going through the rules and it seemed that the characters have a very high survivability rate; 95% + over the course of a session. This, of course, is just entirely too high for the encounters to create any sense of dread and apprehension. I think 80% would be a lot more exciting; so that with 5 players its pretty unlikely that all of their characters will make it through the session. 

Where do you think the default fatality level is currently set in DDN? Is this where you would like to see it kept?  



    You fight 2-3 fights per adventure, and need 2-3 adventures to gain a level.  You have a generous DM if your 20th level PC has less than 100 victories to his cedit.  He might have 200.  Unless you make "dead" to mean "knocked out", a PC death rate per battle  of even 1% is high.  When you are talking about 20% per fight, you have a serious chance of going into the climatic fight with only half the party.  That is close to unplayable.
     Even a 5% rate is far too high for the long term health of the game.

In the first packet, I actually ran probably my first TPK. But these were players more familiar/used to the more recent editions' ways of doing things, and weren't prepared for the deadlier sandbox style of the older editions, and ran right in.

Obviously, that was less than wise.

Since then, out of two or three games, I don't think anyone's died yet. I'm going to be running a short higher-level game this afternoon though, so we'll see how that goes. :-) 

For those confused on how DDN's modular rules might work, this may provide some insight: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/11/the-world-of-darkness-shines-when-it-abandons-canon

@mikemearls: Uhhh... do you really not see all the 3e/4e that's basically the entire core system?

 

It is entirely unnecessary to denigrate someone else's approach to gaming in order to validate your own.

Consider two scales. One scale is how frequently people die. The other scale is how dangerous the game feels. I think the holy grail is a system that feels as dangerous as possible but isn't actually that lethal.

It's important that the system feels dangerous to some degree so it feels like decisions matter. I hope that that's not too controversial. Even if it is, every system has a built-in method for making it feel like things aren't very dangerous, if someone does want that: simply using easier and easier encounters until the desired level of not-dangerous-feeling is achieved.

I personally prefer less lethal systems. This one I know is not a universal opinion. I believe that less lethal systems make death higher-impact, since it's not a baseline expectation that people are just going to die left and right, and they make for better campaigns because relationships have time to form between characters and personalities have time to develop. But some people like campaigns that are just truly lethal. I would consider a 20% death rate/session - which is about one death/session with a party of five - just absurdly high, but the OP likes that. Why should my preference be the default over his? Again, basically every RPG system ever has a built-in way to make the game more lethal: just use harder and harder encounters until the PCs are getting ground up at your desired rate.

Of course, "Feels dangerous, not actually crazy lethal" is easier said than done, and is certainly as much of a DM expectations and feel management thing as it is a system design thing, but there are things a system can do to help. The easist thing (still a hard thing compared to just making a meat grinder of a system or a padded room) is to engineer things so that PCs are brought to the brink a lot of the time. Monsters that feel like they're "cheating" are a good element, because unfairness reads as danger even when the odds of winning are still really high. Things like that are a good way to introduce "virtual danger" without stifling character development by constantly murdering them.
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How many character deaths are you guys seeing during play? I don't have the opportunity to play right now, but I was going through the rules and it seemed that the characters have a very high survivability rate; 95% + over the course of a session. This, of course, is just entirely too high for the encounters to create any sense of dread and apprehension. I think 80% would be a lot more exciting; so that with 5 players its pretty unlikely that all of their characters will make it through the session. 


Where do you think the default fatality level is currently set in DDN? Is this where you would like to see it kept?


80% for whom?

For a group of 30+ year D&D veterans, that 20% death rate approaches 0%.  For a group of totally green first-time players that 20% death rate veers dangerously off in the other direction -- possibly even moreso for a first-time DM.  The more likely you make it for new players to get killed, the less likely you are to attract and keep new players.
As a baseline, PCs should die if they make a grave error, not because probability catches up with them.  By the same token, a beginning DM -- or really any DM -- should be able to follow the baseline recommendations for encounter difficulty without having to worry about causing a TPK.  If a DM or group wants to diverge from that baseline that's totally cool, and there are tools already available in the playtest (healing variants).  Beyond those tools you can always throw more threatening opponents at players, beef up enemies, reduce the PCs' base resources such as HP and spells per day, etc.  Granted, I'd really like to see loads of guidelines for DMs to build the playstyle they want, but I have reasonable hopes that we'll see those in the final product.

The other point is resurrection; that can be as common as the table wants it to be. In Hackmaster for instance minor rez is a 4rth level spell and pretty common, you get a limp, gimp or mental disorder out of the deal, but those are kind of fun anyway. So you can have a high mortality rate and still develop the same char if you want to.

Wait, how does the threat of dying induce a "sense of dread and apprehension" if death is an easily reversible condition??

Character surviability is an area that will need to be adjusted to taste. We see an example of this already in the healing variant rules. Besides healing rate, there are other ways to affect how long a typical character lasts. The real point is finding the baseline that will be presented in the core rules. To find this baseline, we should look at the assumptions of the game. If the game assumes that most players will play a single adventure that lasts a few sessions, than higher mortality is fine. On the other hand, if the game assumes that most players are playing campaigns that span 10 or more levels and last months or years in real-world time, than the mortality rate should be much lower than 20%; probably something closer to 2 to 5%.

+1

"I want 'punch magic in the face' to be a maneuver." -- wrecan

We're averaging one or two characters reduced to unconscious every other session (each session approx 3 hrs, three to five combat encounters), and one character death every fourth session.

That seems reasonable to me, but as DM I'm always mentally adjusting difficulty up and down, so this may just be self-fulfilling prophecy.
We're averaging one or two characters reduced to unconscious every other session (each session approx 3 hrs, three to five combat encounters), and one character death every fourth session. That seems reasonable to me, but as DM I'm always mentally adjusting difficulty up and down, so this may just be self-fulfilling prophecy.




Do you house rule KO's to be a bit more problematic? For a while I was running games with low mortality but KO's totally gimped a char for at least 24 hours. Ultimately that turned into a logistics problem for the party and didn't lend to the feeling of apprehension so I ditched it for straight up higher mortality at level 1 and a much lower chance every level after that.

I've never been a big fan or resurrection myself, even before I was a DM.  It always felt like a cop out that forgave reckless behaviour and blunted the sense of peril for everyone.  I like a campaign with little resurection (or better yet, none) but a lower mortality rate.  PC deaths should be uncommon, but permanant when they occur.  It will do a lot to create that feeling of apprehension without wholesale slaughter, and that helps make players invested in their characters.  When resurrection does happen (if ever) it should be a campaign changing event.
 Wait, how does the threat of dying induce a "sense of dread and apprehension" if death is an easily reversible condition??






Dying is a pain in the arse in the middle of an adventure so that is reason enough to avoid it. Low level rez in Hackmaster was scary because you never knew what you were going to get for a disability out of the deal, some of them would make the char very difficult to play.

I would speak to the part that you wrote initially but I don't understand what you were trying to say. It sounded like you think that with the alternate heal rules a DM will have enough room to set her own mortality rate. I guess thats true. My question is where should the baseline be and why should it be there. 

High mortality games are more enjoyable for those tables with a "gamist" mindset, that is players who see the dungeon as a challenge and the other people at the table are allies but also competition.

High mortality is not at all appropriate for "simulationist" gamers who want to see and react to the game world through their characters eyes. 

I am not familiar with D&D 3.0 on. But I have seen the "crack character builds" out on the interweb. I was just wondering where people who use these internet builds sit on the "gamist - simulationist" spectrum. And what people on these boards thought.





What is wrong with 95%+ survivability rate?

who wants to go to session with 3 spare characters prerolled?

PC's die if they are stupid and attack a target well over their level, or have a very bad luck spree.

If someone needs to die in sessions those are usually "redshirts" that tag along with PCs



This.

High death rates are bad for roleplaying.  Nobody's going to put effort into their character's background and personality if they don't think they'll live long enough for it to matter.  What needs to happen is for D&D to finally arrange it so that death isn't the only result of losing a fight.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
What is wrong with 95%+ survivability rate?

who wants to go to session with 3 spare characters prerolled?

PC's die if they are stupid and attack a target well over their level, or have a very bad luck spree.

If someone needs to die in sessions those are usually "redshirts" that tag along with PCs



This.

High death rates are bad for roleplaying.  Nobody's going to put effort into their character's background and personality if they don't think they'll live long enough for it to matter.  What needs to happen is for D&D to finally arrange it so that death isn't the only result of losing a fight.



D&D isn't just a role playing game though. Even in my experience that is a pretty small part of the game actually. there is much more effort devoted to tactics and fire power.

There's nothing wrong with a 95% survive rate. For a simulationist game that should be even higher. But DM's have plenty of wiggle room as far as that number goes, with different healing and rez options. 

The game that we have seen so far is biased towards a high survival rate with the potential for the DM to lower it. I think it would be neat to spend some time looking at a DDN that is biased towards a low survival rate with options for the DM to raise it. 

The game will certainly have a different feel to it, but what kind of feel? 
For long campaigns even a 1% lethality rate can be too high. At 1% per character per session and 100 sessions (2 year campaign) each pc has about 1/3 chance of living through to the end which is what happens but is more often a case of voluntary retirement of the character than outright death.

If it is a 1% of any character per session 0.2% pre character per session each character has a ~80% chance of surviving to the end of the story. If the campaign goes 3 years (150 sessions) then the chance of survival is ~75% and at 4 years ~67% survival rate. Over long campaigns even a really low death rate results in a lot of deaths.

Anyway the number of deaths per session is the wrong metric, it should be the number of deaths you expect per campaign that is measured.
For long campaigns even a 1% lethality rate can be too high. At 1% per character per session and 100 sessions (2 year campaign) each pc has about 1/3 chance of living through to the end which is what happens but is more often a case of voluntary retirement of the character than outright death.

If it is a 1% of any character per session 0.2% pre character per session each character has a ~80% chance of surviving to the end of the story. If the campaign goes 3 years (150 sessions) then the chance of survival is ~75% and at 4 years ~67% survival rate. Over long campaigns even a really low death rate results in a lot of deaths.

Anyway the number of deaths per session is the wrong metric, it should be the number of deaths you expect per campaign that is measured.



So you guys run big narrative based games? Thanks for doing the math there, good numbers to know. 

Deaths per session is a fine metric for a game that is solely tactical with only a little thought to the RP aspect. 

So you guys run big narrative based games? Thanks for doing the math there, good numbers to know. 

Deaths per session is a fine metric for a game that is solely tactical with only a little thought to the RP aspect. 



There are still those who prefer tactical set-piece battles and dungeon crawls, but I'm fairly confident in stating that big narrative-based games have been considered "the standard" for more than a few years now.
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
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So you guys run big narrative based games? Thanks for doing the math there, good numbers to know. 

Deaths per session is a fine metric for a game that is solely tactical with only a little thought to the RP aspect. 



There are still those who prefer tactical set-piece battles and dungeon crawls, but I'm fairly confident in stating that big narrative-based games have been considered "the standard" for more than a few years now.



That would be my guess as well. I would love to see the other playstyle get the lime light for a while though, see how people react to that.
That would be my guess as well. I would love to see the other playstyle get the lime light for a while though, see how people react to that.


With an extended campaign of hate and misinformation that further divides the community and makes honest discourse difficult if not sometimes just impossible.

I mean, I'm just guessing. 
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.

There are still those who prefer tactical set-piece battles and dungeon crawls, but I'm fairly confident in stating that big narrative-based games have been considered "the standard" for more than a few years now.



I agree with this, but I just want to point out that not everyone agrees that character death ruins this style of game.

Different people like different levels of lethality, and there's nothing wrong with that.  What's wrong when people try to make sweeping statements like "Characters can't die in any game with a plot or it ruins everything" or "If characters don't ever die no one can possibly have any fun".


(Not accusing you, I just wanted to throw that into the thread and your post was the most recent vaguely on-point one to quote.)
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
That would be my guess as well. I would love to see the other playstyle get the lime light for a while though, see how people react to that.


With an extended campaign of hate and misinformation that further divides the community and makes honest discourse difficult if not sometimes just impossible.

I mean, I'm just guessing. 



Really Pash? I know I'm not talking about mainstream interests here, but this a play test forum. I really enjoy pondering the possibilities. 

My only long-term goals are to encourage people to speak civilly and respect the ideas of fellow players. We are such a small community I have always felt that its important for us to tolerate each other in spite of differences.


This is Role playing rule #2 for me as described in my vid “top 5 DM pitfalls” –Anyone can sit down at my game table.

Really Pash? I know I'm not talking about mainstream interests here, but this a play test forum. I really enjoy pondering the possibilities. 


My only long-term goals are to encourage people to speak civilly and respect the ideas of fellow players. We are such a small community I have always felt that its important for us to tolerate each other in spite of differences.


This is Role playing rule #2 for me as described in my vid “top 5 DM pitfalls” –Anyone can sit down at my game table.



Hey, I'm not saying I'd lead the pitchfork and torch brigade, that's just what I think would happen. 
Seriously, though, you should check out the PbP Haven. You might also like Real Adventures, IF you're cool.
Knights of W.T.F.- Silver Spur Winner
4enclave, a place where 4e fans can talk 4e in peace.

Hey, I'm not saying I'd lead the pitchfork and torch brigade, that's just what I think would happen. 





Well that’s the nice thing about the internet, no one is ever in charge of anything. Sometimes people band up behind a cause, or little PM cliques form up, but there's nothing strong enough really rally the troops so to speak. And even if there was, there's really nothing anyone can do to another person here. So while I'm comforted that you will not be in the forefront of whatever mob gets formed up to come and...do something about this horrible bluespruce character and his heretical ranting, I'm not too concerned. Thanks for your input, its at least interesting to read.

I've never run a year-long campaign, but if I did, 20% death rate would be entirely too high.  You'd have total party turnover many, many times.  Unless you are running a generational epic, that just wouldn't work for telling a story.  Really, death should not be a consistent average anyway.  It's the idea that there is some ideal rate that is off.  A story's climax and beginning should have higher death rates than the middle, and only then if it is the right sort of story.  Basically, death rate needs to be a dial that the DM (or better yet, the players) can turn up or down, independent of the types of monsters being encountered.
i'm not interested in playing a game if death is a mathematical inevitablity. 

personally, i'd rather have a game where death is a final consequence of bad decisions. 
I've never run a year-long campaign, but if I did, 20% death rate would be entirely too high.  You'd have total party turnover many, many times.  Unless you are running a generational epic, that just wouldn't work for telling a story.  Really, death should not be a consistent average anyway.  It's the idea that there is some ideal rate that is off.  A story's climax and beginning should have higher death rates than the middle, and only then if it is the right sort of story.  Basically, death rate needs to be a dial that the DM (or better yet, the players) can turn up or down, independent of the types of monsters being encountered.



Yeah I think so to, char death doesn't help long term campaigns (over 2 months 8 or 10 sessions) and it doesn't help story based immersion oriented games.
It does lend an air of challenge and danger that can be great fun in very short campaigns 3-5 sessions, Its a great matter of accomplishment to be the one guy that made it through one of those with the same char. And it really helps to make the game much more suspenseful.
So there is certainly a time and place for both styles, so far though low lethality seems to be the norm, which I wonder about. The game as a whole would have a much darker, more edgy feel if it was designed to be deadly, but also included tools to mitigate that.


 

i'm not interested in playing a game if death is a mathematical inevitablity. 

personally, i'd rather have a game where death is a final consequence of bad decisions. 



If its possible then we can quantify it with probability. That result is not inevitable by any stretch of the imagination, just probable.
i'm not interested in playing a game if death is a mathematical inevitablity. 

personally, i'd rather have a game where death is a final consequence of bad decisions. 



If its possible then we can quantify it with probability. That result is not inevitable by any stretch of the imagination, just probable.


Ha, it just occurs to me that death is a mathematical inevitability in the game of life! lol
i'm not interested in playing a game if death is a mathematical inevitablity. 

personally, i'd rather have a game where death is a final consequence of bad decisions. 



If its possible then we can quantify it with probability. That result is not inevitable by any stretch of the imagination, just probable.




a 20% chance of death stretched over any appreciable time frame (say 1-2 years for an average campaign) becomes statistically 100% per character. this makes it inevitable.
i'm not interested in playing a game if death is a mathematical inevitablity. 

personally, i'd rather have a game where death is a final consequence of bad decisions. 



Any fatality rate at all becomes a mathematical inevitability given a long enough time frame.  
i'm not interested in playing a game if death is a mathematical inevitablity. 

personally, i'd rather have a game where death is a final consequence of bad decisions. 



If its possible then we can quantify it with probability. That result is not inevitable by any stretch of the imagination, just probable.




a 20% chance of death stretched over any appreciable time frame (say 1-2 years for an average campaign) becomes statistically 100% per character. this makes it inevitable.


Oh yes, very true. High lethality wont work for long term games. Just episodes and short runs. But it adds a whole different element to those games. And if short games are considered the default then DDN will have a very different feel. Much darker and faster. 

Theres plenty of ways to mitigate that setting for players who want to run a long game, easy rez and lots of healing for example.