To kill, or not to kill

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I've set my PCs up to have to work with a number of other NPCs. They are all basically slaves to the BBEG right now. He makes them run errands and treats them like trash. One of the NPCs wants to be a hero (Hero NPC let's say) and is going to confront the BBEG about a job that was very unheroic. The punishment for insubordination will be locking Hero NPC in an arena with several beasties and making all the other slaves watch as he fights until he dies.

Here's the question, which of these scenarios sounds better:
1) The PCs have to watch helplessly as Hero NPC, who they like, is slowly killed, and he will basically get one or two final heroic sentences before he is killed, setting a tone for how bad BBEG is and maybe a lesson about being good vs. being evil.

2) Another NPC (Businessman NPC) makes a deal with the BBEG to spare Hero NPC because Hero NPC helps all the other slaves, but the cost of which is to betray another slave. Later in the game, Businessman NPC will betray the PCs and tell one of them the deal he made. "It's only business." Then he will leave them to die.

I like 2 because it is a more subtle way of showing the evils of the BBEG (look at how he makes them betray each other), but I like 1 visually and emotionally. I'm also thinking of giving the PCs the oppurtunity to help Hero NPC with spells or encouragement through the gates they are watching from, possibly saving his life. I know some PCs hate feeling powerless, so this is an option I'm considering.

Any thoughts? Criticisms?

What if the Players attempted a sudden rescue? or simply refused to stand and watch while someone they liked die? I know my players wouldn't do nothing while something like that happened.

May want to plan or atleast expect something like that IMO. I personally never plan out such defined results, because that would be rail roading.
Agreed, that seems far too structured. I'd be surprised if some sort of rescue wasn't attempted, I know all the groups I play with would. I wouldn't plan for it (I plan for very little in my games, but that's personal preference) but I would expect it, so keep ideas at the back of your mind on interesting things that could happen if they try. Don't block any ideas they say to try and rescue him just because you want this scene to play out the way you imagine it-say "Yes, and..." (in before Centauri) to their ideas.

"Encouraging your players to be cautious and risk-averse prevents unexpected epic events and-well-progress at a decent pace in general."-Detoxifier

"Trying to make a logical argument about dragons is about as useful as making a logical argument for man-eating eggs."-CliveDauthi

"I've removed death from my ice cream."-Centauri

They will basically be sent to the holding areas which overlook the battlefield, which lets them see through gates onto what is happening. Escape isn't really an option as they are rather low lvls and the BBEG is crushingly more powerful than them. He wants them to watch this man die, but if they can see him and he gets in range, they might be able to help with spells or the like.

The PCs won't know beforehand, so trying to plan a daring rescue won't be very likely as the Hero NPC will be killed in a few rounds if he receives no assistance.
Agreed, that seems far too structured. I'd be surprised if some sort of rescue wasn't attempted, I know all the groups I play with would. I wouldn't plan for it (I plan for very little in my games, but that's personal preference) but I would expect it, so keep ideas at the back of your mind on interesting things that could happen if they try. Don't block any ideas they say to try and rescue him just because you want this scene to play out the way you imagine it-say "Yes, and..." (in before Centauri) to their ideas.



Agreed. Although I know some players may enjoy that much structure, it's possible to give them way more choice and still keep the illusion of structure. as Kugnar pointed out 'Yes, and...' and Centauri will point out later. The popular tool used in Improv. A good Improv team can make you believe you're watching a scripted act. Not everyone has such experience. I myself  was lucky enough to be on an improv team years ago which has benefitted my DMing considerably, however you don't need Improv experience to be good at it. All it takes is 'Yes, and...' and practice from there.

When I set up a session I set up the NPC's that will be involved (still even this isn't set in stone, you may have make one up or toss in another depending on what your players do) and the hooks involved. The motivations of said NPC's and the actions of your players will drive the session. The session plays it's self as you and your NPC's play off and react to each player action.

it may sound overwhelming at first but it's easier than it sounds. it helps if you create NPC's with 'motive' another helpful tool that I won't get into here. However if your players are fully content in being a heavily scripted campaign, who am I to argue.

Edit:
They will basically be sent to the holding areas which overlook the battlefield, which lets them see through gates onto what is happening. Escape isn't really an option as they are rather low lvls and the BBEG is crushingly more powerful than them. He wants them to watch this man die, but if they can see him and he gets in range, they might be able to help with spells or the like.

The PCs won't know beforehand, so trying to plan a daring rescue won't be very likely as the Hero NPC will be killed in a few rounds if he receives no assistance.




Still sounds an awful like blocking to me.  My players would still find tons of ways around that if they wanted to.
If you're going to have the NPCs doing all of that, consider bringing in the players to help craft the actions and reactions of the NPCs. They will help create what is interesting to them, and there's less of a chance of them feeling blocked or railroaded.

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

I appreciate all the input about railroading, but that isn't really the issue here. As I guess the thread is probably derailed from my original point anyway though...

I already explained to all of the Players before the game started that the beginning would basically be an introduction, and that the way I've been DMing before had far too much freedom. Most Players will always want more, and sometimes they need to be happy with less. The group I run with has problems working together and getting along. Therefore, the beginning works as a reason for them to work together and get along to unite against someone, hence the railroading.

Limiting a Players actions makes them be more creative and strategic. If they could always just blindly bash through any problem then I wouldn't have a very interesting game with a very interesting story. Sometimes you're trapped watching something, and sometimes that's why it sucks. At lvl 20 when they can turn ethereal, wish, teleport, break iron walls, and everything else, then yes, this scenario wouldn't work. That's why it's happening now.
I appreciate all the input about railroading, but that isn't really the issue here. As I guess the thread is probably derailed from my original point anyway though...

I already explained to all of the Players before the game started that the beginning would basically be an introduction, and that the way I've been DMing before had far too much freedom. Most Players will always want more, and sometimes they need to be happy with less. The group I run with has problems working together and getting along. Therefore, the beginning works as a reason for them to work together and get along to unite against someone, hence the railroading.

Limiting a Players actions makes them be more creative and strategic. If they could always just blindly bash through any problem then I wouldn't have a very interesting game with a very interesting story. Sometimes you're trapped watching something, and sometimes that's why it sucks. At lvl 20 when they can turn ethereal, wish, teleport, break iron walls, and everything else, then yes, this scenario wouldn't work. That's why it's happening now.



In that case decide for yourself. you seem to have it under control.

and fyi, 'limiting players make them creative and strategic' this is true. you present them with a problem/confinement and they find out a way to solve/beat it. That doesn't work however if you have already made the decision for them.

Like I said my players would have come up with 5 ways to alter that scenario in their favor.

You seem to have it all figured out though, so props.

edit: most of my players are completely new to dnd too.
I appreciate it Thee. I always assume my Players will surprise me, but there isn't much point in debating what they will do or might do. I just know what I will try to do, and I was trying to figure out what experience would be more impactful to a group of PCs, seeing someone they like die (possibly) or being betrayed.
If they could always just blindly bash through any problem then I wouldn't have a very interesting game with a very interesting story.

Agreed.

 Sometimes you're trapped watching something, and sometimes that's why it sucks.

Interesting choice of words. I agree. Do you find that blocking players in order to make certain events come about increases their enjoyment? You say it makes them creative and strategic: their If they find a creative way to do the same thing, do you let them do it?

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

3.  Provide an option for the PC's to intervene with BBEG in behalf of their beloved heroic NPC...  I truly hope its a woman with striking high Charisma. lol.  I so would promise anything to the BBEG to spare her...or die fighting by her side.

Hate choosing my own option so cheesy but...I choose option 3. Wink

Pooie.. It's a he.  Never mind.  I go with option 1.