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Wounds = 0, Not Dead? Overcoming GM Guilt

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#1 NorrecV



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 05:56 AM

If I remember correctly, hitting wounds 0 doesn't mean a character has died, correct? He merely passes out and takes a critical wound? 


I had to double check mostly because I've been having a hard time overcoming what I call 'GM Guilt'. The feeling of guilt associated with "killing" a PC because the balance was off for the encounter. My players seemed to be breezing through every scene by resorting to combat and winning it with hardly a scratch (nothing a stim or repair patch couldn't handle). I up'd the difficulty and ended up nearly one-shotting one of them, then I nerfed my Boss NPC to compensate, but this made him too weak and he was the one that got one shot... 


Now my PCs are getting a bit reckless (or perhaps desperate?) and are about to attack an encampment with at least 8 guards up in guard towers, a dozen or so on patrol, and 2 barracks of reinforcements. This was described to them as they survey'd the area with binoculars, so they're fully aware of the risks. They're armed with a few strips of armored clothing, a couple blaster pistols, and a sword. I've steeled myself against nerfing the NPCs, and will be going forward with the stats I had planned. I suspect this will spell the downfall of the PCs. 


But! As long as Wounds = 0 isn't dead, the story can go on. 



How do other GMs balance the desire to provide consequences for reckless decisions against the guilt of ruining a players fun by killing/unconcious'ing his character? Something which could mean him sitting out for 1 to 2 hours of game time?


(Edit - I count wounds down, because I play on Roll20 and like the visual of the red bar getting smaller vs. the bar getting more full)

Edited by NorrecV, 04 August 2014 - 08:16 AM.

#2 Lagomorphia



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 06:00 AM

Assuming this is an Imperial camp, you could always play the Imperial medical expertise card if you want them to survive but be captured.

#3 kaosoe


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Posted 04 August 2014 - 06:55 AM

As a small note, the game assumes that you count up when you suffered wounds rather than counting down like Hit Points in D&D or Pathfinder. So wounds of 0 would technically be fully healed. But essentially they could get captured if they get in over their heads.


Because the only character death described in the core rules occurs on a critical injury roll of 141+, does not grant the character immunity to death or plot. If you wanted to be a bit more punitive to them. They could certainly wake up only to find out that some psychotic imperial doctor has performed dark experiments on them all. They could be missing limbs, have had transplants (organic or cybernetic), or perhaps they were dumped in a crazy experimental facility. Their ship - by extension all of their possessions - are gone and most likely they will not ever get them back.


I don't recommend "punishing" players for acting brash and foolish, but if you did want to make a statement, there are possibilities.

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#4 CaptainRaspberry



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 07:00 AM

Survive to be captured is a good one, or depending on the situation you could also get away with a cavalry rescue.


Just the other day I was in a group playing L5R when we were pretty much TPK'd. The GM felt bad about it, but he did warn us ahead of time that this was going to get lethal. I think he just wasn't expecting half the party to get laid low in the first round of mass combat, but sometimes that's just the way the dice roll.


I've said before that I like EotE because it's exceedingly difficult to actually kill PCs, and though I was referring to PC-on-PC violence it's true for the GM as well. Just let them know that you'll take the dice the way they fall and that even with proper strategies in mind there's still a chance the Random Number God will demand their characters' sacrifice.


That's why we use dice, after all; it makes the players feel better gives everything a sense of chance, and that adds tension to the experience. So long as you make them aware of the possibility and consequences of character death (and so long as they're mature enough) they'll understand when it happens.

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#5 fatedtodie



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 07:17 AM

There is one thing to keep in mind about using the "health is zero = not dead" thing. You need to keep this as a possibility and not have every time them have a chance to stay alive. RPGs have a healthy sense of danger. You need to have the possibility of death at every turn.


This is when you forgot a MAJOR thing written in both CRBs. If you ever feel the situation is getting out of hand, you can end the fight at any time. If after 1 round, there is a big issue... Have the big bad knock the group senseless. Then have the big bad walk away laughing or whatever. Have the group heal up, and let them go chase after the big bad again, this time maybe with a different design of the fight (like you said you did, but not as drastic of a change maybe?).


The thing your PCs have to learn is true death is still there. If you need to calm them down guns blazing into an imperial camp, then do it. Kill a PC. They spend a lot of time on that character? hrmm maybe they should treat it like they care about that time and the time you spend building an encounter with danger. There is absolutely nothing that says you have to let them live ever. They will have more fun with a healthy dose of fear then they will having their hand help every time.


TL:DR, You can prevent death all you want, every single time, but it will be more fun in the long run if you kill them once or twice to break their stupid ways.

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#6 2P51



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 08:41 AM

It's a tough question to answer but you may be the cause of your own problem.  If you are in the habit of not providing consequences to reckless actions, it's likely players will only continue to act reckless, or become more so.  Setting the encounter with a retreat contingency available might be an option.  Then post session when they ask where they went wrong you lay it out for them and perhaps they learn from their mistakes.


We don't deal with it at the table I GM or play at.  Death is a very real possibility so decisions need to be made accordingly.  Success does not equal body count, so there is a mission that goes beyond combat every time it hits the fan when we play.

Edited by 2P51, 04 August 2014 - 08:41 AM.

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#7 Hedgehobbit



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 08:59 AM

I have no guilt in killing PCs that knowingly attack things that are beyond their capacity. But, I'm old school. 


However, my DM changed the rule to be more like WFRP 1e. You don't automatically go unconscious at 0 wounds. Rather you take a crit and make a Resilience roll equal to the crit's difficulty to stay conscious. You can still act and every other time you get hit you get another crit (as per the normal rules) and make another Resilience roll. This works out for us because there are only three players, me and my GM's two kids. So it lets us run away rather than have to be carried away. 


He uses the same rule for Nemesis, which makes it just about impossible to one-hit kill them. 

Edited by Hedgehobbit, 04 August 2014 - 09:00 AM.

#8 NorrecV



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 10:23 AM

I think you guys are right, I need to take the kid gloves off. In this particular instance, the group is attacking a slaver encampment out in the desert. Their ship was stolen and this is the culmination of 5 games of tracking down who it was sold to - cantina brawls were started, shopkeepers murdered, dockhands interrogated. Street shootouts involving Speeder-biker gangs, Stromtroopers, and TSF (Tatooine Security Forces) were kicked off. A ship was even crashed into the city! 


Through all that the group was never directly facing, as in a threat that was in the foreground rather than the background, more than a single rival and a single minion group. 


I've done my due diligence. I vividly outlined the threats the encampment had to offer. Up to and including the caged Rancor on it's way to Jabba's palace. As long as I stick to those threats, and don't start pulling new ones out of thin air, I've got nothing to feel guilty about.

Edited by NorrecV, 04 August 2014 - 10:24 AM.

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#9 2P51



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 10:29 AM

I used the squad rules kicking off my AoR campaign this past Friday and it is a great way to buffer threat to players, as well as, insert an absurd level of violence into combat sequences.  HBRs all around, Lightsabers, Stun grenades, bodies flying off the roof of the grav train..........it was spectacular.

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#10 NorrecV



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 11:10 AM

I can't justify buying another book right now, I need to get at least a campaign out of this one. Are the squad rules section a significant addition, or just a sidebar/page? 

#11 2P51



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 11:14 AM

2 pages in the AoR GM kit.  It's pretty cheap relatively speaking. Which is included with the screen and has an adventure with it.

Edited by 2P51, 04 August 2014 - 11:14 AM.

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#12 Desslok



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 05:50 PM

I guess I'm of the school of thought of "Are they having fun? Let them do all kinds of batshit crazy stuff then." Let them swing across chasms with a princess in their arms while badguys are shooting at them. Being super heroic is the bread and butter of Star Wars after all.


However, the GM is perfectly wihin their rights to go "Guys, look - this is going to be a tough nut to crack. Play it smart and plan it out or you will be in trouble" - and then let the chips fall where they may. Perhaps they'll be super clever and come up with a good plan that will even the odds. Perhaps they'll think of a back door you didn't cover.


And like the others have said - captured is not the end of the story. The Jailbreak trope is a long time honored tradition.

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#13 themensch



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Posted 04 August 2014 - 07:11 PM

Why kill them when you can just stun them?  Surely the bounty is worth the trouble, and there are carbonite facilities in many established ports even in the Outer Rim.  I wrote a small set of rules around carbonite freezing a while back, I'd be happy to share if your story turns down that road.  


My group of murderhobos has also become quite reckless and violent, and I too have had a hard time scaling up my encounters to be challenging, except for that time or two where I overdo it.  When the rules start to get in the way, I chuck 'em and just fly casual.  

#14 Tarkadhal



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Posted 05 August 2014 - 03:38 AM

I only feel guilty if I kill PC's by over egging the encounter, with this system is extremely hard to do, but I’m all for letting them splat themselves as much as they want, the higher the risk the more fun it is


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#15 Maelora



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Posted 05 August 2014 - 04:37 AM

Well, as Desslok said, this is 'Star Wars', it's supposed to be high adventure, it's not grim and gritty like 40K.


Players want to be Big Damn Heroes in a game like this, that's part of the fun, and a certain amount of pulp recklessness comes with the genre. We see it all the time in the movies.


But even Han Solo knows when to run, and you can't fight your way out of everything.

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#16 MrDodger



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Posted 05 August 2014 - 06:39 AM

I have some players who seem to believe that they can take on a Marauder Corvette with a Lambda class shuttle, board it and steal it. It's the same kind of "PC immunity mindset" you talk about above.


The way I deal with it is to tell them (via computer scans) roughly what the opposing ship is armed with, never mind crew etc.


Then I say "By all means you can try. But I won't be fudging ANY rolls. I'm telling you up front (and your characters would definitely know this) that attacking a Corvette with a shuttle is likely to be suicide. If you want to try, then let the dice fall as they may."


We're also testing house rules for crits, where death can come from a large number of crits and a despair roll. The reason for this is because they were getting completely blasé about combat, charging into fights they didn't need to. One or two crits (after wounds are 0) isn't likely to get them to 151+ on the crit table unless they're really unlucky. So it was a case of "Unconscious in a pool of blood with two crits? Ah, never mind, we'll get to you later mate and hit you up with some stims." 


I know it's "space fantasy" but I think there still needs to be some kind of consequence for not just turning every session into a farce where the PC's can do what they want and never worry about the consequences.

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#17 BadMotivator



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Posted 08 August 2014 - 08:14 PM

If everyone's health reaches 0, then you've got several options.


They get captured by their opponents and are now prisoners/slaves = prison break session


They pass out from injuries and get rescued by some kindly passer-bys, but most of their gear has been stripped by someone while they were unconscious(possibly their attackers) = Mission to recover their stolen gear/continue on and take the loss on the chin


Or maybe some NPC friends stepped in and saved the day



Your players might be a little over-confident in combat because there really isn't a danger of all of them passing out.


1 PC going down isn't a big deal, but once half the party is down now you are in trouble.



Death being difficult to achieve with the rules as written is a good thing IMO, nothing sucks worse then having the character you poured your heart and soul into going down like a punk. But i'm down with making Crits matter a little more. More loss of limbs or debilitating injuries. Make the weaker crits still stick around and annoy you. But don't make it easier to die.


Just use non-death penalties more liberally. More of the PCs getting captured, sold into slavery, robbed while unconscious, beaten down and suffering some permanent stat loss, etc...




If they willingly take on an impossible task, make them pay. Just not with their lives if you can help it, but do keep in mind that if you fail to make it to an Escape Pod and your freighter gets vaporized by an ISD not much will save you.

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#18 glewis2317



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Posted 09 August 2014 - 12:42 AM

Never underestimate the power of destiny points, to liven things up when the players are breezing through enemies.

If you happen to take a player out, meh, **** happens. It's a dangerous galaxy.

#19 Shinagani



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Posted 09 August 2014 - 03:36 PM

The great thing about PCs is that they have all these fun limbs, and they can come off. While this isn't a grim universe, it is one filled with amputees. Having to spend a session or two without an arm or leg could really make a PC consider their choices next time. Also adds some texture to the character - think Luke wearing a glove to cover his exposed hand circuits.


So I'd be willing to err on the side of too dangerous, and rely on the system's safety net.

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#20 TXRyanLee



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Posted 09 August 2014 - 10:53 PM

This is a great topic. :)
I'm playing with a new group and our Droid Mechanic was hit with 21 damage and went well into the negatives. I was kind of worried that he'd been killed, but we judged he'd been; as we called it "C3-PO'd". He was blasted so hard that his parts scattered all over the room.

This was kind of screwy for the adventure, because we needed him to access a computer for the information we had been sent to retreive. :unsure:


He was fine after we repaired him.

Edited by TXRyanLee, 09 August 2014 - 10:54 PM.

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