Unconscious and Combat Advantage

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This was something that came up at my table and we were a little at odds on how to interpret this.

The question is, does a creature that is unconscious and helpless, have the -5 to defenses in addition to granting combat advantage to any attack (such as a coup de grace), effectively meaning a player has +7 to attack a helpless creature

or

Is the -5 to defenses the only conditional applied to an unconscious creature?


I kinda get the feeling it's the combined one, although I feel that's a little excessive, I understand a helpless creature is, helpless, just a +7 seems like a huge bonus.

Anyways, help is appreciated, so thanks in advance.
As this is a DM advice forum, rather than a rules forum, the answer is whichever is more fun for the players. If the players think it's one way, why not give them that way? They'll probably change their tune when the situation is reversed. Go with that. This is not that important a rule to get right, and it's probably different in every other game and edition, so it's not worth your time to memorize.

Good luck.

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

They are at -5 to all defenses because they are Unconscious and because they are Unconscious they are also Helpless so they grant combat advantage to everyone too.

And because they are Helpless they can be the target of a Coup de Grace. 

So yeah, it's a huge bonus, and intentionally so.

As a DM, I typically won't perform Coup de Graces on Unconscious characters though.  Typically ... ;) 

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.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"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.”

They are at -5 to all defenses because they are Unconscious and because they are Unconscious they are also Helpless so they grant combat advantage to everyone too.

And because they are Helpless they can be the target of a Coup de Grace. 

So yeah, it's a huge bonus, and intentionally so.

As a DM, I typically won't perform Coup de Graces on Unconscious characters though.  Typically ... ;) 



I sure hate Coup de Graces because its like "You roll high enough or die" and I don't like telling the player "Your only option of survival is rolling above a natural 15. WOW! Your neck is thick indeed, sir bard!"

Within; Without.

I sure hate Coup de Graces because its like "You roll high enough or die" and I don't like telling the player "Your only option of survival is rolling above a natural 15. WOW! Your neck is thick indeed, sir bard!"

Yes, there are lots of problems with them. Might as well have the enemies not use them at all (for good in-game reason, which you supply) and let those of the players kill automatically.

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

I sure hate Coup de Graces because its like "You roll high enough or die" and I don't like telling the player "Your only option of survival is rolling above a natural 15. WOW! Your neck is thick indeed, sir bard!"

Yes, there are lots of problems with them. Might as well have the enemies not use them at all (for good in-game reason, which you supply) and let those of the players kill automatically.



Just my two cents

1 - Coup de Grace by monsters : as soon as they acknowledge the presence of a healer, intelligent and organized monsters use Coup de Grace : sorry boys, they too are here to win. Other monsters can (random chance) use coup de grace if they see an unconscious enemy going up.
As the tactical point is to make sure that an out-of-fight character stays out of fight I sometimes (OK usually) use a house rule that you can administer a non-lethal coup de grace. Effect : Character stays unconscious, but there is no means to revive him befeore the end of the encounter.

2 - Coup de grace by PJ > auto-kill ? Meaning any solo being insta-killed by, for example, a simple knockout / AP / basic attack routine? No thanks sir!

 

2 - Coup de grace by PJ > auto-kill ? Meaning any solo being insta-killed by, for example, a simple knockout / AP / basic attack routine? No thanks sir!



I would ask why? How many adventure movies/shows/books/games/whutev have there been in which the triumphant hero slays the downed badguy in one hit? Makes perfect sense to me. An enemy with real danger to it is likely not going to just roll over and die anyways. It's also impossible to do on some enemies because of how they react to dropping to 0 HP (such as Liches).

So, sure, let the PCs one hit knock off the goblin king. He was a jerk anyways, and if he didn't have any backup plans to escape when he was at his weakest, the goblin's probably aren't losing much of a king to begin with...
1 - Coup de Grace by monsters : as soon as they acknowledge the presence of a healer, intelligent and organized monsters use Coup de Grace : sorry boys, they too are here to win.

Of course. But "win" doesn't mean "kill everything" unless the DM sets it up to mean that.

As the tactical point is to make sure that an out-of-fight character stays out of fight I sometimes (OK usually) use a house rule that you can administer a non-lethal coup de grace. Effect : Character stays unconscious, but there is no means to revive him befeore the end of the encounter.

Wow, that was quick.

2 - Coup de grace by PJ > auto-kill ? Meaning any solo being insta-killed by, for example, a simple knockout / AP / basic attack routine? No thanks sir!

Why not? They still had to get into position to knock it out, and there's very little more unsatisfying to a player than believing they can just kill a creature and then being told that stabbing it in the eye or whatever didn't actually kill it. Just let them kill it. Make getting to the automatic kill the challenge.

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

I sure hate Coup de Graces because its like "You roll high enough or die" and I don't like telling the player "Your only option of survival is rolling above a natural 15. WOW! Your neck is thick indeed, sir bard!"

Thing is, in 4e a Coup de Grace is hardly a death penalty.  When you coup de grace, you simply inflict a critical hit, and if that single hit does the enemy's blooded value in damage, then they die outright, otherwise they just slip further toward negative bloodied and death.  As a matter of fact, in all my 4e games, I've never actually seen a Coup de Grace kill someone outright, though that might be an outlier.

Still, that having been said, I rarely use them on PCs because the monsters have more important things to do than murder the guy who isn't a threat.  Like murder the healer. 

The last time I used a coup de grace on a PC was basically to assure their capture, and I never actually used it.  The enemy just threatened to use it on a PC ... and demanded that the rest of the party surrender.  Turns out the enemy was really on their side which is why he didn't execute the PC, but that's another story.

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.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"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.”

I've only tried to coup de grace a PC once.  Fully intended to kill her and use that as a way to move the story in a new direction, which the player would have been thrilled with.  Also, it was the party's first encounter with Drow and I wanted to make a point of enphesizing their exceptional ruthlessness compared to previous foes.

The drow rolled a natural 1. 

Basically ended up describing it as divine intervention...it is a well-remembered moment in the campaign.
I've only tried to coup de grace a PC once.  Fully intended to kill her and use that as a way to move the story in a new direction, which the player would have been thrilled with.  Also, it was the party's first encounter with Drow and I wanted to make a point of enphesizing their exceptional ruthlessness compared to previous foes.

The drow rolled a natural 1. 

Basically ended up describing it as divine intervention...it is a well-remembered moment in the campaign.

Well handled. If the player would have been thrilled with it, is there a reason you (as a group) didn't just decide to make it automatic?

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

I've only tried to coup de grace a PC once.  Fully intended to kill her and use that as a way to move the story in a new direction, which the player would have been thrilled with.  Also, it was the party's first encounter with Drow and I wanted to make a point of enphesizing their exceptional ruthlessness compared to previous foes.

The drow rolled a natural 1. 

Basically ended up describing it as divine intervention...it is a well-remembered moment in the campaign.

Well handled. If the player would have been thrilled with it, is there a reason you (as a group) didn't just decide to make it automatic?




Probably because as much as my group enjoys a well crafted, carefully planned, skillfully executed, and eloquently described story twist...the one thing they love more is seeing a well crafted, carefully planned, skillfully executed, and eloquently described story twist be completely derailed (or at least delayed) by a critical miss.

Even though I use a DM screen, I have a habit of rolling in front of it whenever something important is riding on the result of a roll I'm making (only occationally, as most of the "really important" suspenseful rolls are usually player rolls). Making a big deal of the whole scene, rolling on the table in front of everybody, and then seeing the "1" come up...I just couldn't fail to respect that.
I sure hate Coup de Graces because its like "You roll high enough or die" and I don't like telling the player "Your only option of survival is rolling above a natural 15. WOW! Your neck is thick indeed, sir bard!"

Thing is, in 4e a Coup de Grace is hardly a death penalty.  When you coup de grace, you simply inflict a critical hit, and if that single hit does the enemy's blooded value in damage, then they die outright, otherwise they just slip further toward negative bloodied and death.  As a matter of fact, in all my 4e games, I've never actually seen a Coup de Grace kill someone outright, though that might be an outlier.

Still, that having been said, I rarely use them on PCs because the monsters have more important things to do than murder the guy who isn't a threat.  Like murder the healer. 

The last time I used a coup de grace on a PC was basically to assure their capture, and I never actually used it.  The enemy just threatened to use it on a PC ... and demanded that the rest of the party surrender.  Turns out the enemy was really on their side which is why he didn't execute the PC, but that's another story.



To help me understand, what is the term "Bloodied" refer to?

If my Drow KO a PC, they will try to "drag it off" and flee with it, resulting in a part-battle, part chase scene. More fun than "Your neck is made of steel, sir bard!"

Within; Without.

In 4e, when a creature is reduced to 1/2 HP, it is "bloodied." In and of itself there's no mechanical effect, but other powers can trigger off of being bloodied, becoming bloodied, or attacking a bloodied creature.
Ill be damned, I will have to use that.

I normally describe "deterioration" of enemy condition, but I never thought it out that much.

I like it!

Within; Without.

Ill be damned, I will have to use that.

I normally describe "deterioration" of enemy condition, but I never thought it out that much.

I like it!


Yeah, I like bloodied.  It lets the players know when an enemy is about half-way dead, and you can key some interesting effects off of it.  

As far as how coup de graces work, when you reach 0 HP you are Dying and Unconscious and therefore Helpless, but you're not Dead until you take enough additional damage to reach negative bloodied value (or fail three death saving throws, but that's another thing). 

If someone successfully coup de graces you they inflict an automatic critical hit, and if that inflicts your bloodied value in damage in that one hit, you automatically die, even if that doesn't take you to negative blooded.  This is difficult to do, but not impossible, especially for a Striker PC.

It's rare to be Helpless without being at 0 or fewer HP but some some effects can do it.  You could be Unconscious, and therefore Helpless due to something that doesn't involve being Dying, like a Sleep spell, for example.

I designed some kobold minions that attacked in huge numbers where the first one would attack and make you Grabbed, the second would attack and make you Restrained, and the third that attacked would make you Helpless.  This was a bad situation to be in so the PCs would of course try to shake them off as soon as possible because they knew that the fourth one would try to Coup de Grace them, an example of being Helpless without being Unconscious.

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.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"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.”

Thanks for the responses.  It cleared it up.

For clarity from my end though: the party members were the ones doing the coup de grace.  They were fighting a Rune Giant, which was a custom monster I made based on the Pathfinder Rune Giant template.  The dwarven battlemind used his daily power to render the giant unconscious at which point they started hacking away.

Rune Giant

This was a level 20 encounter for a level 17 party, and was meant to be something they burned a couple of dailies on.  The difference of a +2 from CA never affected a hit, but it did come up at the table. 

Good to know for future references.

And, as a DM I almost never have monsters coup de grace a party member.  Mostly because that's what the DM guide says, that monsters have more important things to do, like deal with the remaining conscious members of a party.  Unless the monster specifically says they coup de grace a downed player (some beasts like wolves do this iirc). 

This is also because on any given day, a monster is way more likely to hit that bloodied value of a player than a player will hit the bloodied value of an equivalent level monster.
This was a level 20 encounter for a level 17 party, and was meant to be something they burned a couple of dailies on.

Did the players know that? Were they bought in to that? Or did they want to end the combat with as little loss of resources as possible?

What we as DM might want from an encounter almost doesn't matter. Once players have their input (as players or through their characters), the plan will change. As DMs, we're in a position to make rulings and interpret rules in a way that directs events toward the outcome we want, but if that's noticed by the players it's likely to bring their ire. Even following the rules to the letter can come off as "cheap" to the players, who might feel that the DM can overlook the rules in their favor sometimes when doing so would be cooler.

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

This was a level 20 encounter for a level 17 party, and was meant to be something they burned a couple of dailies on.

Did the players know that? Were they bought in to that? Or did they want to end the combat with as little loss of resources as possible?

What we as DM might want from an encounter almost doesn't matter. Once players have their input (as players or through their characters), the plan will change. As DMs, we're in a position to make rulings and interpret rules in a way that directs events toward the outcome we want, but if that's noticed by the players it's likely to bring their ire. Even following the rules to the letter can come off as "cheap" to the players, who might feel that the DM can overlook the rules in their favor sometimes when doing so would be cooler.




Not to criticize you, but I've been DM'ing this group for 2 years and I know what they want and what they can handle.

I'm also very familiar with the pitfalls of the amateur DM, I've made mistakes and learned, but I've also been DM'ing for a very long time, and I'm pretty good at it.

I never give my players anything they can't handle or something I know they won't work their way out of.  If I give them an encounter meant to burn some dailies like I said, then it's something meant to be a big finish to an event.  I don't DM to kill my players, I DM to give them a story to experience.
If I give them an encounter meant to burn some dailies like I said, then it's something meant to be a big finish to an event.

Right, but it sounds like it didn't cause them to burn anything other than the daily they used to knock the guy out. It sounds like you have an issue with that.

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

I had it happen last night.

The player summoned energy from a crystal at a planar touchstone, summoning an aspect of that plane into a planar guardian. Player rolls a planar banishment against a creature designed to fight for 5 rounds then teleport everyone in the area into the elemental plane of air. Then, the banishment comes up at natural 20.

I looked at the dice, knowing a natural 19 would have been good enough, but a 20? I thought about Babe Ruth hitting that home run, and how the stadium reacts to that. "You hit the ball way out of the park, it is banished back into the plane of air. As it returns to its lair, it leaves a gate behind in its place. You may enter this gate at any time of your choosing." Instead of showing frustration, I accepted the use of that ability as the cost for advancement and used the natural 20 to change the environment in a desirable way to their goals, and took the success as a good thing.

It worked out quite well. In fact, I will do it that way every time.

Within; Without.

It worked out quite well. In fact, I will do it that way every time.

That's a good way to handle things when they don't go the way you expect.

If you know in advance what you want the battle to be like, you can bring that up with the players. I had encounter recently in which I wanted the characters to fail on their ostensible objective to steal an item. I raised this with them and they agreed on a different failure mode. I didn't have to pull any strings or rely on any rules technicalities to achieve what I wanted, it just happened. Buy-in is a powerful thing.

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

In this case, the player felt I had given "buy-in" to the "home run." and treated it as so. Instead of getting summoned into a planar ambush with summoning sickness the player can enter the plane after resupply and be prepared.

I actually like it when things like this happen because they keep the story a surprise for me. They keep the game a challenge for me. I keep the game challenging for my PC's and they keep it challenging for me. Becoming aware of some blogs by the Angry DM, and The Alexandrian (the one about "so you want to build a railroad") and several others (from following links in people's signatures) has been enlightening.

Within; Without.

If I give them an encounter meant to burn some dailies like I said, then it's something meant to be a big finish to an event.

Right, but it sounds like it didn't cause them to burn anything other than the daily they used to knock the guy out. It sounds like you have an issue with that.




Please stop making assumptions.  I didn't go into finer details of the fight because I didn't need to.  The fight challenged them as I intended. 
If I give them an encounter meant to burn some dailies like I said, then it's something meant to be a big finish to an event.

Right, but it sounds like it didn't cause them to burn anything other than the daily they used to knock the guy out. It sounds like you have an issue with that.

Please stop making assumptions.  I didn't go into finer details of the fight because I didn't need to.  The fight challenged them as I intended. 

Oh, good. I meant that as a question, but it did come out as an assumption. My apologies.

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


As the tactical point is to make sure that an out-of-fight character stays out of fight I sometimes (OK usually) use a house rule that you can administer a non-lethal coup de grace. Effect : Character stays unconscious, but there is no means to revive him befeore the end of the encounter.




This is a good houserule and similiar to what I do, in order to not trivialize character death and ressurrection spells.  The penalty for dying is still pretty steep, especially in 4e where it could mean sitting out a combat encounter that may last over an hour. 



This is a good houserule and similiar to what I do, in order to not trivialize character death and ressurrection spells.  The penalty for dying is still pretty steep, especially in 4e where it could mean sitting out a combat encounter that may last over an hour.

Would you really sideline a player for more than an hour?

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

This is a good houserule and similiar to what I do, in order to not trivialize character death and ressurrection spells.  The penalty for dying is still pretty steep, especially in 4e where it could mean sitting out a combat encounter that may last over an hour.

Would you really sideline a player for more than an hour?




Well, usually the combat might only last an hour, and if they die in the first round, I trust enough in my skills as a GM that they did something dumb.  So in that rare, never yet occurred situation, I would. 

Character death I feel sideines all the players for sometimes much longer than an hour, unless you just hand wave ressurrection or your PCs never die. Or your adventure becomes about their ressurrection and I've never had a player come to a game and say, "hey, I wanna spend the evening bringing back a dead character.   I've only rarely had an unplanned character death, but I feel like this situation suits our playing style more than -Con or -10 death.  My players are smart enough to know when they are really being challenged.  They don't want to characters to die, but they don't want character death to be meaningless either. 

This gives a pretty severe penalty, raising their blood pressure, but also doesn't slow down the game, other than the lost Role/DPS in 4e.  In PF/3e it would only matter if it was a spellcaster.  Then its probably a TPK.  (this last part is sarcasm)



This is a good houserule and similiar to what I do, in order to not trivialize character death and ressurrection spells.  The penalty for dying is still pretty steep, especially in 4e where it could mean sitting out a combat encounter that may last over an hour.

Would you really sideline a player for more than an hour?

Well, usually the combat might only last an hour, and if they die in the first round, I trust enough in my skills as a GM that they did something dumb.  So in that rare, never yet occurred situation, I would.

Why does there need to be an out-of-game penalty for doing something dumb in-game?

Character death I feel sideines all the players for sometimes much longer than an hour, unless you just hand wave ressurrection or your PCs never die.

The Raise Dead ritual takes 12 to 24 to cast, but that doesn't have to take any game time, so the players don't need to be sidelined, even if the characters are.

Or PCs can have a "trapdoor" character replace them immediately.

Or the game can be arranged so that the characters, though still challenged, are not ever killed.

Or your adventure becomes about their ressurrection and I've never had a player come to a game and say, "hey, I wanna spend the evening bringing back a dead character.

Nor have I. That's commonly suggested as an approach after a character dies, but it doesn't seem workable to me.

I've only rarely had an unplanned character death, but I feel like this situation suits our playing style more than -Con or -10 death.

4th Edition pushed death even further down the road, placing it at -1/2 total HP.

My players are smart enough to know when they are really being challenged.

I'm not sure what you mean by that.

They don't want to characters to die, but they don't want character death to be meaningless either.

Sure, but it can be made meaningful in ways that don't involve an out of game penalty.

This gives a pretty severe penalty,

Sheesh, I'll say. As always, if it's working for the table, I see no reason to change, but when the penalty is being essentially kicked out of the game for a time, I really have to wonder which alternatives have been considered. Thank you for explaining the reasons for your group's approach.

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

It worked out quite well. In fact, I will do it that way every time.

That's a good way to handle things when they don't go the way you expect.

If you know in advance what you want the battle to be like, you can bring that up with the players. I had encounter recently in which I wanted the characters to fail on their ostensible objective to steal an item. I raised this with them and they agreed on a different failure mode. I didn't have to pull any strings or rely on any rules technicalities to achieve what I wanted, it just happened. Buy-in is a powerful thing.



Do your players not like suspense?  Do they like knowing exactly what is going to happen to them each session and having a good idea what the outcome will be like each night?  That sounds really really boring to me.
Do your players not like suspense?  Do they like knowing exactly what is going to happen to them each session and having a good idea what the outcome will be like each night?  That sounds really really boring to me.



Based on this and other recent posts, it sounds more like you have an ax to grind with certain posters. If you don't like the content of their posts, you can block them. I'm doing it right after I finish this post in fact.

Nevertheless, you can have suspense and surprises while collaborating with the players. Instead of "The Big Reveal," the surprises happen often and organically.

For any decision or adjudication, ask yourself, "Is this going to be fun for everyone?" and "Is this going to lead to the creation of an exciting, memorable story?"

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Do your players not like suspense?  Do they like knowing exactly what is going to happen to them each session and having a good idea what the outcome will be like each night?  That sounds really really boring to me.



Based on this and other recent posts, it sounds more like you have an ax to grind with certain posters. If you don't like the content of their posts, you can block them. I'm doing it right after I finish this post in fact.

Nevertheless, you can have suspense and surprises while collaborating with the players. Instead of "The Big Reveal," the surprises happen often and organically.



Does that make you feel like a big tough guy to tell someone you are blocking them before doing it?  Grow up and just do it next time instead of telling people about it(it's the third time I have seen you do it).  You think people really care you block them?  Besides, I am not really trying to grind an axe, I just kinda want to know how a game can be fun for DMs or players when they all know exactly whats gonna happen already.  It just does not make sense to me to go to my players and ask them what they want to do, have them tell me, and then we do it, just like we said we were.  Why didn't we just say it and write it down.  How are things fun when you already know the outcome?  I really want to know, it seems boring to me and I cannot understand playing that way.
 If you know in advance what you want the battle to be like, you can bring that up with the players. I had encounter recently in which I wanted the characters to fail on their ostensible objective to steal an item. I raised this with them and they agreed on a different failure mode. I didn't have to pull any strings or rely on any rules technicalities to achieve what I wanted, it just happened. Buy-in is a powerful thing.

Do your players not like suspense?  Do they like knowing exactly what is going to happen to them each session and having a good idea what the outcome will be like each night?  That sounds really really boring to me.

Actually, in a group of X people (1 DM, X-1 players), each player will have more surprises if X people (herself, the DM, and all the other players) are teaming up to surprise the player with new ideas instead of just 1 person (the DM) and if that player gets to be part of everybody else's groups of X people surprising them in return.

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Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.
 If you know in advance what you want the battle to be like, you can bring that up with the players. I had encounter recently in which I wanted the characters to fail on their ostensible objective to steal an item. I raised this with them and they agreed on a different failure mode. I didn't have to pull any strings or rely on any rules technicalities to achieve what I wanted, it just happened. Buy-in is a powerful thing.

Do your players not like suspense?  Do they like knowing exactly what is going to happen to them each session and having a good idea what the outcome will be like each night?  That sounds really really boring to me.

Actually, in a group of X people (1 DM, X-1 players), each player will have more surprises if X people (herself, the DM, and all the other players) are teaming up to surprise the player with new ideas instead of just 1 person (the DM) and if that player gets to be part of everybody else's groups of X people surprising them in return.



essentially this. There are more likely to be cool turns in the story if everyone is involved. 

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I've used coup d'grace against players in one circumstance.  We took a break from our regular campaign when some friends were in from out of town and I ran a very old-school super-lethal dungeon.  The choice came down to 1. should the monster coup d'grace the two downed PCs by eating them, or 2. should the monster focus fire on the last two surviving PCs and potentially create a TPK.  Either option seemed logical from the monster's perspective, but I chose the coup d'grace option, as it gave the players one last shot to cross the room, and kill the big, brutish beast.  It added to the fun, and players were able to rez one PC between their major objectives, so nobody was out of the game for long.  

In my main campaign, there are only a few monsters who I think would coup d'grace as an MO.  1. Ghouls, Carrion Crawlers, and that sort of monster which will try to draw downed PCs away from combat in order to feed. 2. Intelligent monsters with a vendetta against the party or a particular member of the party, if combat is about killing the PCs -- assassins sent to dispatch them for instance.

My default assumption is that monsters are trying to accomplish something and defend themselves, and those goals will almost always trump killing the PCs, and it definitely gives them more pressing concerns than outright killing a downed PC.
It worked out quite well. In fact, I will do it that way every time.

That's a good way to handle things when they don't go the way you expect.

If you know in advance what you want the battle to be like, you can bring that up with the players. I had encounter recently in which I wanted the characters to fail on their ostensible objective to steal an item. I raised this with them and they agreed on a different failure mode. I didn't have to pull any strings or rely on any rules technicalities to achieve what I wanted, it just happened. Buy-in is a powerful thing.

Do your players not like suspense?

My players do like suspense, and we have plenty of it, because they don't feel the need to circumvent traps, fights or other suspenseful situations.

In the example I gave, there was still suspense, it just didn't have to do with whether the item would be stolen, but with whether the PCs would reveal the identity of the true puppetmasters, or just their patsies.

  Do they like knowing exactly what is going to happen to them each session and having a good idea what the outcome will be like each night?

They don't know. We still roll dice, and we're all creating as we go, so we're constantly surprised. But sometimes we agree that certain things have to happen certain ways, or the game isn't fun for us.

That sounds really really boring to me.

Wait, were those just rhetorical questions?

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

Besides, I am not really trying to grind an axe, I just kinda want to know how a game can be fun for DMs or players when they all know exactly whats gonna happen already.  It just does not make sense to me to go to my players and ask them what they want to do, have them tell me, and then we do it, just like we said we were.  Why didn't we just say it and write it down.  How are things fun when you already know the outcome?  I really want to know, it seems boring to me and I cannot understand playing that way.

I think the answer is that not everyone enjoys the same type of game. It's completely legitimate for you to reject such a collaborative style, just as it's legit for others to embrace it. However, rejecting it fully means you might miss out on an interesting idea that you could work into your style of DMing.

People are different, so games are going to be different. Do whatever works for your table, and realize that what's right for one table might not be right for another.
People are different, so games are going to be different. Do whatever works for your table, and realize that what's right for one table might not be right for another.

I agree. I believe anything can work, if everyone is bought into it. But there are some things that some people just won't buy into.

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

Do your players not like suspense?  Do they like knowing exactly what is going to happen to them each session and having a good idea what the outcome will be like each night?  That sounds really really boring to me.



Based on this and other recent posts, it sounds more like you have an ax to grind with certain posters. If you don't like the content of their posts, you can block them. I'm doing it right after I finish this post in fact.

Nevertheless, you can have suspense and surprises while collaborating with the players. Instead of "The Big Reveal," the surprises happen often and organically.



Does that make you feel like a big tough guy to tell someone you are blocking them before doing it?  Grow up and just do it next time instead of telling people about it(it's the third time I have seen you do it).  You think people really care you block them?  Besides, I am not really trying to grind an axe, I just kinda want to know how a game can be fun for DMs or players when they all know exactly whats gonna happen already.  It just does not make sense to me to go to my players and ask them what they want to do, have them tell me, and then we do it, just like we said we were.  Why didn't we just say it and write it down.  How are things fun when you already know the outcome?  I really want to know, it seems boring to me and I cannot understand playing that way.



Was there a point to replying directly to a person who has blocked you? Rebutting any arguments he made is logical, but why address him if he can't see your post? xD
Was there a point to replying directly to a person who has blocked you? Rebutting any arguments he made is logical, but why address him if he can't see your post? xD

He's replying to the information, not the person, so that other people reading the first person's perspective know that it isn't the only one.

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Odds are, if 4-6 people can't figure out an answer you thought was obvious, you screwed up, not them. - JeffGroves
Which is why a DM should present problems to solve, not solutions to find. -FlatFoot
A game is a fictional construct created for the sake of the players, not the other way around. If you have a question "How do I keep X from happening at my table," and you feel that the out-of-game answer "Talk the the other people at your table" won't help, then the in-game answers "Remove mechanics A, B, and/or C, add mechanics L, M, and/or N" will not help either.
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