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Zerohour2

Killing Pc's, a problem of ethics

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I am running a dark heresy campaign and am having a slight problem.  My players like challenges and have no problem with PC's dieing in fact they complain I am being to nice to them (In my defense they are creative and so can find ways around problemsI never think of but I am starting to understand their various strategies).  My issue is not that I am opposed to killing PC's is that I am afraid of creating a no win situation.  If a pc screws up and dies; what ever thats what happens if you screw up next time don;t charge three traitor troppers armed with autoguns and manstopper rounds.  But I fear that I may create an adventure that they have no chance in winning.  Does anyone else have this concern and if yes how do you deal with it?

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Hi Zerohour,

I had the same state of mind...to begin with. :)  Actually, I found out that WHATEVER I throw at them, they get along. Especially if your players are fine with pc getting killed.. well, relax about it.

In fact, I encourge you to brew up something you think that is a) realistic in the context of the adventure and b) will kill ONE of them. Aim for it! You will see that somehow they will get their behinds out of the frying pen. It will be close, it will be mean, but they will get out of it. And they will LIKE it (afterwards). And even if they don´t...it is "burned fate points".

Trust me, the players will regard the achievements of their pc much more more if you gave them HELL for it.

I under-sized a daemonhost recently (players are armed with bolters) and now I will have to brew up something MEAN for the next prominently staged combat, otherwise they will laugh at anything. See, sometimes you HAVE to hurt them pretty bad. They sorta WANT it ;).

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Another point might be, if you are still afraid of accidentally causing a TPK, to create safety nets for the PCs if an encounter turns out to actually be too much for them. This can be as simple as giving them an easily accessible escape route to having other NPCs intervene. The latter case is a tough balancing act, you can easily break their suspension of disbelief (the GM just saved our butts out of nowhere), so you have to be careful with it.

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I find that "the big battle" provides an ample solution for tailoring your fights. If your clearing out a cult with a company of the arbites in support, its perfectly reasonable to create a few key encounters and a few mook encounters, then string the players through them as the fight progresses. If it looks like seven cultists are a near death sentence, perhaps the next mook encounter only has four. And, of course, the supporting redshirts can perfrom various heroic bailouts etc if you think "oh, man, I totally GM'd them to death".

Similiarly, if their blowing through too easily, throw in a little something special. A few cultists mutate before your eyes into horrible things (which are roughly the equivalent of PCs) resulting in a challenging duel. And if you kill one too early, feel free to bring them in as opfor. I had a PC suck start his autopistol at the height of a daemonic ritual. He became a chaos spawn as Slaanesh devoured his soul, and got to attack the party from behind later. That way the PC isn't just staring out the window for the next three hours.  

Ideally, what you aiming for is that by the time the party reaches the climatic encounter(s), they are already bloody, spent, and staggering. You'll find it encourages creativity, and lends itself nicely to an air of desperation. And, since they're working on thin margins, if they aren't at the top of their game, PC death is very possible. 

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 Allow 'escapes', but prominently invoke certain skills and characteristics in making the escape. There are skills in the game exactly for this sort of thing. Getting out of combat directly, there's things like 'Acrobatics' and 'Sprint' with 'Hard Target'. Making an actual dash, the GM can intervene with a *partial* distraction to the foes to allow enough of an opening for the players to *begin* to escape and start coming up with new plans.

A straight-out "I'm here to rescue you!" entrance of Lord Flashheart would be a bit of a kick to the players, but giving them an opportunity to Conceal themselves? An opportunity to go-to-ground and invert the use of their Tracking/Shadowing skills? GTAing a car and getting some of those pilot/drive skills on the go?

The trick is that the 'escape' from a no-win situation can be narrow and difficult too. 

Having a 'backup' in this forms means you can pretty-much throw almost everything at the players. The only exceptions would be places where mouting an escape is simply unfeasible, in which case: don't do that! (Unless they knowingly walk into it without thinking of their own escape...)

Anyway, some of the best threats are the 'steady killers', the sort of threat which can kill a player in 1-3 rounds, but which can't essentially kill *all* of them in one round. Another trick is to remember your NPC's Intelligence/Per characteristics. If they're high, they can spot the tank and attack the weaker ones...

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In response to TPKs I had a paty nearly wipe itself chasing Eldar into th webway. I solved that little dilemms by ending the session right there and having them make up new characters while I tried to figure out how/if they would survive.  We picked up the game the next week and a year later in game time when the backup they requested finally arrived.  They had a great time trying to piece together what happened to the first party and I bought myslf enough time to work out what really happened to them. After all I had a year of game time to come up with something plausable. 

Just an example of what should have been a total wipe being turned as a safety net (incidentally Ithen had to mesh the two parties by messily killing off characters from both acolyte teams) they players loved that one because they were able to choose who would be scripted to die after the parties merged, but I got to surprise them as to how. 

All in all the safety net is a good idea to avoid TPK; but when a lone character goes off to fight the baddies alone he should probably die a gribbly death .  This isn't burrows and bunnies its 40K and remember that no character is irreplaceable. 

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Just general advice concerning challanges - four things I in the past have often used to try and ramp up difficulty but usually avoid a TPK.

One way to really ramp up the difficulty I found is introduce elements of resource husbanding and use weaker encounters but many of them gradually wearing the party down. Dont let them rest and you can stop it when they get pretty low, or have help arrive to continue, or just allow a small respite. Given how psykers seem to work this may be especially effective due to the way the class works.

A second thought and I have likewise used many times, is not to directly attack the PC's so much as their equipment. Without functioning fancy swords of dhoom and what have you player abilities tend to decrease significantly. Find ways to take the most utilized pieces of equipment out of the game or reduced in effectiveness.

My most favoured tactic is simply to make the enemies use tactics. Surely some of them would take notice as to what was ineffective and try something different, trying to encircle the pc's or mostly to act outside what the PC's expect normally, or something to invalidate favored player tactics - my players have an apalling tendancy to try forward charges for instance, so I try to have enemies encircle them. I also need to admit this is part of why we're doing a more millitarized campaign, hopefully they will learn the importance of covering fire and caution.

One last technique I use is enviromental hazards, for instance in a dark enviroment the PC's cannot see all the enemies so to an extent they stumble blindly into enemies - who tend to be prepared for that enviroment. Heavy fog, posion gas, acid rain...anything that helps shape the battlefield to the advantage of the enemy ensuring they have a 'tactical' advantage is favored.

If players/PC's continue to be quite out there, combine the four in some way. Have them fight off hordes of lesser enemies in small encounters who shift tactics as their equipment begins to break down while the enemies clearly see the players who cannot easily see them, or something akin to that.

 

 

 

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Two aspects of Dark Heresy are hardwired as ways to tell the GM's to be nasty.

1) Fate Points.  Since burning fate points largely ensures survival, and PC's have as many as three, the GM should not stay his hand in making life lethal for PC's.

 

2) A Dark heresy character can be made in five minutes or less (30 seconds or less with a character generator).  Characters are uniquely disposable.

 

They're asking for it, give it to them...

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