what is wrong with killing players? to be clear, i don't mean somehow treating them unfairly but instead mean simply having players die in an encounter?
what is wrong with wiping out a party?
when you soft ball an adventure, when you artificially weaken a module, you cheat the players of a sense of accomplishment. what if another party had to use guile, strategy, or just plain well built characters to overcome the same module.
do we really have such a low opinion of our players that we think they can't handle challenge?
i am the crazy person who makes posts about using coup de grace on downed players because it is obviously the best strategy for a monster to use. i am the person who rolls in relatively plain view of my players so that they know when i missed a critical attack, it was because i missed and not because i have no respect the maturity of my players. so far they don't bother too look.
apparently i am also the bad guy.
i long for game balance, i want intimidate to surrender clarified (and removed). i want saving throw penalties removed completely.
i wish more of you were the bad guys too.
when you keep lowering the bar, people dont bother to rise above it. they lower themselves to it.
Of the two approaches to hobby games today, one is best defined as the realism-simulation school and the other as the game school. AD&D is assuredly an adherent of the latter school. It does not stress any realism (in the author's opinon an absurd effort at best considering the topic!).
It does little to attempt to simulate anything either. (AD&D) is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek the use of imagination and creativity....
In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which an fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be taken too seriously.
For fun, excitement and captivating fantasy, AD&D is unsurpassed.As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make-believe or even as a reflection of midieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can be deemed only a dismal failure. Readers who seek the later must search elsewhere. - Gary Gygax. 1e DMG.
I think you are seriously underestimating the amount of "bad guys" (by your definition) that are here for starters. Secondly I don't quite see where you get your need to tell "most people" (again your definition) that they are doing it wrong, but I am happy that you have found the one true way and are willing to evangelize. As soon as I recover from the revelations I will consider converting, if the D&D inquisition does not have me on the rack before then.
On a less sarcastic note; What I see most people on these board advocate is not soft-balling or lack of respect for player maturity. What is being touted as a Good Thing(tm) is being able to adapt, adjust and generally create a fun experience. This can mean being less than 100% cutthroat effective with your monsters, or it can mean trying to be 110% deadly. It can be choosing not to recharge that burst 3 stun power, it can mean making a paralyze attack into a minor rather than a standard. It can be a lot of things. It depends on reading the players, the situation, the adventure, etc. etc. In my experience it is fairly complicated and almost impossible to define. Still it is generally held by your "most people" to be something to strive for. Personally I see no problems with coup de grace or wiping out a party if that is how it plays out, but its not a goal. The intimidate thing, i think it is fine as is, the rules give a solid RAW basis for a DM ruling as they see fit. I like it that way and have no difficulty with the word NO. Longing for game balance is a good thing, but from your words it seems to me you are looking for game balance to come from the rules and their application. Almost as if the interaction between DM, players and adventure is a hindrance to that balance. To me that interaction IS D&D, if I want a game balanced on rules alone, I can play checkers...
This seems to be an issue that crops up now and then and as such has been debated in excruciating detail before. One of the more active threads was: Dale 1-5. You may have already read it, if not, have a gander. No solution is reached in that thread and I am sure we won't find consensus here either, but if its time to re-debate this, then I guess we shall
To DME, or not to DME: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous powergaming, Or to take arms against a sea of Munchkins, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;No more;
WotC established three principles or premises which I believe are germaine to your concern.
One, there is no single, right way to play D&D. In the DMG, pages 7-10, the different perspectives of players are highlighted. A group of powergamers who have optimized their characters and coordinated their team will desire a vastly different adventure game experience than a group made of actors and storytellers. No one, not the Global Admins, not me, not you, has the power and authority to say one way is the correct method and all others are incorrect. Once you accept that principle or premise (and it is possible you may not), then it should be easy to accept that we (authors and Writing Directors) cannot tailor every adventure to every style of play. But our not-so-secret weapon is the DM--that human agent who is present at each game table, who hopefully has the knowledge and skill to make those final adjustments and adjudications needed to tailor to the specific players.
In this regard, we tell the DM in the adventure boilerplate:
"You are empowered to make adjustments to the adventure and make decisions about how the group interacts with the world of this adventure. This is especially important and applicable outside of combat encounters, but feel free to use the "scaling the encounter" advice (usually for adjusting to different-sized groups) to adjust combat encounters for groups that are having too easy or too hard of a time in an adventure. Don't make the adventure too easy or too difficult for a group. Never being challenged makes for a boring game, and being overwhelmed makes for a frustrating game. Gauge the experience of the players (not the characters) with the game, try to feel out (or ask) what they like in a game, and attempt to give each of them the experience they’re after when they play D&D. Give everyone a “chance to shine.” "
Two, the objective of the game is to have fun. To that end, we tell the DM in the adventure boilerplate:
"As the DM of the session, you have the most important role in facilitating the enjoyment of the game for the players. You take the words on these pages and make them come alive. The outcome of a fun game session often creates stories that live well beyond the play at the table. Always follow this golden rule when you DM for a group:
Make decisions and adjudications that enhance the fun of the adventure when possible."
and at the end of that section of boilerplate:
"In short, being the DM for a Living Forgotten Realms adventure isn’t about following the adventure’s text word-for-word; it’s about creating a fun, challenging game environment for the players. Chapters 1 and 2 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide are filled with good information about being a DM for a D&D game."
Third, WotC decided that with LFR, they did not want the perception of a competition between players--these are not tournaments where there will be winners and losers. That freed us to move away from saying every DM must present the adventure as written to strive for consistency of the presented challenge. Instead we strive for maximizing fun with tailored challenge.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why Keith (and Claire) have been so prolific in the RPGA and so sought-after as writers and administrators over the course of several campaigns. This post should be placed somewhere that everyone who plays (and especially DMs) in the Living Forgotten Realms campaign can see it. Heck, everyone who plays D&D at all should read it.
No, you just play a different game than I play, despite both of us playing LFR. And that's a strength of LFR, not a weakness that needs to be corrected. As long as both of us get to do our thing it's fine for all. And when once in a time we end up on the same table, we just have to meet in the middle and both accept that it won't be 100% our preferred way.
I ran the brutal Dark Sun Arena at PAX nine times in two days. The encounters were in general very difficult and the terrain often favored the monsters significantly. Players were often fairly new to 4E and sometimes to D&D and most were using pregens that were released back in January. This was a competitive event where you could win a prize. Thus, I ran it with very little DME, if at all. Keep in mind I am a fairly tactical and experienced DM and I prepped the adventures and monsters very carefully.
The result was a series of bloodbaths. I only had one run that was not incredibly hard run for the table. I had one TPK, one failure due to time (which would have been a TPK), 2-3 additional outright PC deaths, and six tables that were desperate come-from-behind victories. In all honesty, at three of my tables I pulled punches slightly, though nowhere near what I would consider a reasonable challenge level. In every case there remained a huge possibility of failure.
What did I learn from this? I saw a lot of players really surprised and even offended by the difficulty. A lot of players felt frustrated. Some spent several turns taking no action but death saves. Some felt cheated by the difficulty. Some felt their choices in builds mattered little, because the monsters would kill anything they brought to the table.
In all cases I had to work incredibly hard to keep things positive. I did things like ask the person that went down to RP what memory went through their PC's mind as they saw their life flash before them, then used it once they came back up. Often I assured them I am a kind DM in other situations. I underscored the difficulty of this game and the achievement they were after. I suggested things they could do. I celebrated every monster they killed and had the arena respond to every act of courage. It was a lot of work to keep them going in the face of such adversity and run the game. (I will say the need varied from table-to-table). I tried to run different arenas to keep myself from getting too good at running the same encounter.
I came away more convinced than ever that players really have an awesome time when they have a reasonable but difficult challenge. They love a hard-fought victory. But, they do not want to ever feel the game is unfair. They do not want to run out of options or sit out several turns. They want to be heroes and feel like they do cool things. Tables would sometimes go from near giving up in the second round to cheering wildly when they finally won. But, it was overall too much. The Dark Sun Arenas were fantastic but should not be the norm. The regular delve should be easier and more reasonable. LFR should continue to offer DME and to provide tips for DMs to achieve reasonable play levels. DME allows the challenge to really meet the needs of the players. The game is more fun and will attract more players to the game that way.
@Mirtek, if you're not looking for a challenge in gaming, may I suggest pop-cap games or farmville?
I've had bad character deaths at the hand of cheating DMs or imcompetent party members who were the opposite of heroic (cowardly or mean spirited). I've never had a bad character death at the hands of monsters and I don't believe it's possible for that to happen. Sometimes you sit down at a table with 3 dragonborn bravura warlords and a paladin that thinks he's god. Sometimes despite the best planning, the fickle dice gods turn against you.
Point is, Sometimes the good guys fail, that's the nature of storytelling, and that's what D&D (and pretty much every RPG) has always been, creating a story with your characters. There's no rule in any book that says the PCs should win, challenging but fun should result in as many TPKs as utter victories, and very few of both. Modules have failure xp, gold, conclusions, and Story Awards for a reason, it's expected to happen from time to time.
I will never advocate, as a DM, going out of the way to kill PCs (pretty much impossible in LFR, DALE 1-6 and SPEC 1-3-4 excluded), at the same time, I'll never let the players get too cockey, and sometimes a player needs to spend 3 rounds on the ground to realize he shouldn't charge his Barbarian past 3 soldiers to get the Artillery. Hell, that can make for some good, intense and dramatic, moments, and lets a good leader be the hero once in a while (after all, if no one is at risk of dying, he'll never get to shine, which means (s)he probably isn't having fun).
If the PCs (barring Convention PUGs) are a motley crew of poorly made substandard characters, I consider it unjust to allow them to win just because the game isn't supposed to be "too hard", if you aren't going to try to win, you don't deserve to. With the exception of Ms Spellfire, D&D Heroes have a history of "momentary setbacks" as long as their triumphant victories. I for one think LFR needs a little less "here's 5 lurkers in a well lit 8x8 room" and a little more Mr Smith, because anyone can beat the lurkers that couldn't, but beating Mr Smith? That takes a Neo, I mean Hero.
"Invokers are probably better round after round but Wizard dailies are devastating. Actually, devastating is too light a word. Wizard daily powers are soul crushing, encounter ending, havoc causing pieces of awesome." -AirPower25 Sear the Flesh, Purify the Soul; Harden the Heart, and Improve the Mind; Born of Blood, but Forged by Fire; The MECH warrior reaches perfection.
If the PCs (barring Convention PUGs) are a motley crew of poorly made substandard characters, I consider it unjust to allow them to win just because the game isn't supposed to be "too hard", if you aren't going to try to win, you don't deserve to.
And here I can't disagree more. The 16 Int wizard with linguist feat deserves to win as much as the 20 Dex dagger rogue with weapon expertise.
I think some players put a little too much effort into their builds, so in a way, I agree with Mirtek. All characters welcome. Not only is the 16 Intelligence Wizard welcome, the 12 intelligence wizard is welcome. It shouldn't just be about the build.
However, I'm also completely on board with "let the dice fall where they may". Roll them in the open, and if characters die..they die." I mean, that's fair too.
Over-optimization can be it's own trap, by the way. You'd think it would make a battle get over with sooner, but then somehow, it ends up doing the opposite while the player pores over his strategic options. And then the DM thinks he has to "beef this up" to "provide a challenge". And then you end up with Paragon level adventures that never quite get done during the convention slot.
That is a real problem, at least to me.
I'm all for changing encounters around, especially to make them more interesting, but I am hoping the optimizers play Glory Tier and I never have to run it Because pacing is far more important to me than strategy and optimizination. As a DM I want to make every run of an adventure unique (even if it's the same adventure you've played 10x already) and when it's at a convention, I want the PCs to reach the ending by the time the slot is over with. Oh and if an encounter is running long? Surrenders and retreats are entirely possible. As a DM, I'd prefer if players spent less than 30 seconds deciding what to do, because I'm going to go as fast as possible myself. I don't "take back" moves in order to avoid opportunity attacks or penalties or situations like "my paladin has you marked, you take damage.." whenever possible. I don't think players should either. Sometimes we blunder. That's ok.
I don't sweat it too much when I've gotten my characters killed (3 times over the courseof the campaign..so far). I've been responsible for a few character deaths. Nobody seems to have taken it too hard.