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Inquisitor Balthazar J. Skult

What is the best way to Ensure my PC's don't keep dying?

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Fate Points are the PCs safty-net. If you want to insure the PCs stay alive, make sure they always have aty least one. Perhaps let them start with maximum Fate Points just to be sure they have at least 2-3 to burn.  When they do burn one to stay alive, make sure it keeps them alive for the remiander of the encounter and not just the first bullit from the Full Auto burst.

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 Assuming you're supplying them with cover, then your players just need to use it. If you're not, start doing it. Cover mechanics are big in Dark Heresy.

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I'd say that you should probably got a bit easy on them at the start to get a hang of things, maybe throw in some Throne Agent that can help them and potentially point out things that they don't seem to get like. "Many people like to dive into cover when fired upon. You should try it out. Its pretty cool."

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Inquisitor Balthazar J. Skult said:

 

 My PC's keep dying...a lot. I know the game is suppose to be hard but lets just say that one encounter usually kills about 1-2 of them. That and they are getting tired of constant death, any tips?

sorpresa.gif  I am very eager to hear how this actually happend.

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Yeah, a good bit of this is dependant upon what the GM is actually throwing at the party.

Past that, there are 3 sources of "party mortality"

-GM Issues
1. The GM could be throwing enemies that are "too difficult." Rank 1 acolytes should not encounter Chaos Space marines in encounters the GM imagines the party can win (unless there are some major, major caveats going on here, like the marine is without armour, somehow at a loss of his Unnatural Toughness, and the marine is unarmed. Even then thats a hard fight for rank 1 acolytes, as unarmed master still hurts). To avoid this, think through on average how much damage the enemy can deal/take, and compare that to what the party can deal/take.
2. The GM could be failing to provide appropriate cover.
3. The GM is throwing too many enemies out there
4. The GM is stingy on loot, so the party may be underequipped for their level.
5. The GM is forgetting rules that do work in the favour of players (reminding them to dodge, applying the proper negative penalties on enemies)
6. The GM may accidently be giving Righteous Fury to enemies (or too many enemies with Touched By The Fates).
7. The GM may be running "too technically" with mook level NPCs. Nobody really cares that faceless traitor guardsman #8,592 has suffered a critical wound to his pinky. Just hand wave that the lasgun shot melted his hand and he screams in agony like a little girl and is out of the fight. "Viscera" is a fun noun to use in Dark Heresy. Forcing mooks to only die when they hit the proper levels of critical wounds means that the mooks are standing for longer, and therefore a threat.
8. Psykers are rare
9. All out assault/kick the door down is never a good idea in Dark Heresy, don't create scenarios where this is really the only option the party has.
10. The GM may be applying a bit too much out of game knowledge, allowing NPCs to know what the party is doing.

-Player issues
1. The players could just be bad at combat (making very poor decisions, needlessly splitting fire, accidently throwing grenades near allies, running out in the open like an idiot). The primary issue here may be a lack of using cover, especially early game.
2. The party could lack a serious combat backbone (an all adept acolyte cell isn't really well suited for going on an all-out assault on the heretic compound, at least at rank 1).
3. The players may be unfamiliar with the rules, and failing to account for particular bonuses in their favour (proper use of TB/AP for damage reduction, dodging, situational bonuses in genera). This could also result in a failure to kill enemies fast enough (do realize that short range is the most common range you engage at indoors, so you're pretty much always at a +10 in ranged combat).
4. Players are failing to use Fate points when needed (reroll/boost failed dodge checks, regain wounds)
5. Players are pressing on when they should back off.
6. Players are misjudging the difficulty of enemies ("oh, we should be able to handle a daemonhost" - famous last words from a game of mine)
7. The party could feel like this is D&D and straight up violence solves everything. It doesn't quite work as well in DH, there is always something more frightening skittering on the edge of reality.

-Game issues (these are a bit rarer, and generally have been included above)
1. Some modules are not particularly suited for low level characters (The module in the GM kit is terrible, 5-6 Slaugth infiltrators is not something a rank 1 acolyte should accidently walk into with absolutely no prior warning)
2. The game is naturally brutal. 2 character deaths per encounter is pretty bad, but if played "seriously" and brutally, 1 character death a session is not unheard of.
3. A botched fear check can be bad news.

 

This is hardly an exhaustive list (and I'm probably wrong on a few fronts), but these points should be worth examining.

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If you're not sure on the threat v's acolyte ability then do some homework by rolling yourself before the game begins. Just strait out rolls. Easy. If there is a psyker in the party then my tip is to make 'Seal Wounds' a priority.

cool.gif

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Combat in all roleplaying games is a lot like cooking. You can always add more pepper but you can't take it out. If they've been getting roflstomped lately try really easy fights. Like one or two guys with a las rifles. Easy fights at least for a little while will help with morale. Remember too easy can be resolved a lot more simply than too hard. Once you start with some thing more just add in a little more after each fight until you find the right challenge for you.

This is the best you can do. Different groups play the game with more or less crunch. Tactically minded groups might find encounters to be a breeze that would be difficult for groups that have barely read the combat section.

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 Now I had the exact opposite with my roleplayers and they were mincing through my cannon fodder like it was a soft cheese on a warm day. Now when I figured out what was happening, I went through all of my characters, totalling how much damage they could do and started making notes on how much damage they were doing regularly. After that all I did was search for enemies that can take the amount of damage being dealt out and still be a challenge without killing of my whole team in one session. Either that or scaling up the stats of the same enemies. 

To be honest it sounds like you may be sending too many elite enemies in and not enough cannon fodder, so try using small hordes of cultists or corrupt guardsmen for your PCs to munch through before they get to the big bads. It'll give them a morale boost, some more exp and it will be an easier way of gradually introducing larger and stronger groups of enemies. 

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Garner said:

Combat in all roleplaying games is a lot like cooking. You can always add more pepper but you can't take it out.

Love this! So... the best way to keep Dark Heresy PCs from dying? I'd say let them retire to some dank catacomb to spend the rest of their days analyzing data for their Inquisitor. Pretty boring game, though!

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I also like what Garner said, but technically you can remove the "pepper" by having people retreat and run away.
What I have recommended to friends who are having similar problems is a wave approach to the first few combats, this will let you see what your players can actually handle.  Say start with two traitor guardsmen, fighting breaks out they call for reinforcements, if these go down really easy than have 4 more come in near the end, maybe give them some heavier weapons or grenades, but don't over do it.  If they take down the first two so quick that they dont even get to call for help, well then the next encounter may be 4 or 6 where one has a grenade launcher.  And say that they are having a really hard time with that group, make the next one not have the grenade launcher, or less men.  It requires that you actually see where their strengths and weaknesses are and mold the combat around those things, keeping it balanced is what makes it fun and challenging without making it imposable.
Example of imposable would be 10 untouchables with autoguns verses 3 psychers with a las pistol.
Balanced would be 1 untouchable with a sword and a traitor guard with a las carbine verses a psycher and a guardsman as the player group.  That way they have to pick targets and work together to take down the thing that counters the other player.

Another small thing I did in a beginner game was to give the players an unfair advantage that had one time that was required to use and planty of time where there was no way to use.  In this case I designed the mission on an agi world, LOTS of space and lent them a Land Speeder Storm with an Autocannon and gave only one of them free training in Drive hover.  They decided which among them would best use the skill forcing them to work together and giving them an advantage, to a certain extent.  None of the players had Heavy Weapon training so they were at a pretty big negative and only the tech-priest could use the other advanced systems on speeder, and only sometimes becuase he had to make a -10 tech use every time.  But it gave them something fancy and fun that they had to work together to use and let them mow down a column of traitor guard shooting out of a train (trains are fast, skimmers faster, evened the match) but since it is a resonably sized vehical they could not use it in the cave system or buildings where most of the fighting was.

So, point being becuase I think I digressed a bit, start easy and build it up from there, wave fights are a great way to build up a fight and to be able to stop it before it actually gets too far.  Also big shiny thing is great for party moral and cohesion, and may help them through a few preplanned big fights.

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How can a GM know if players are underequipped? They get their starting gear and some starting cash and spend that. There's no guidance on what they should have without experience, and learning the hard way isn't always fun for people that want to play and not die all the time.

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Under equipped is usually a case of more challenges that they don't have the tools for than when they do. A player need not buy or earn everything they have to use, but sometimes their enemies or resources might be nearby if they are just given the chance to procure them for personal use later on. This allows proactive and thoughtfully prepaired players to do something about their needs and gives a great sense of personal accomplishemnt and accolades to the thinking person. Especially if you act on their collections and give them opportunities to find satisfaction in progressing past a barrier due to that preparation, because a wall to climb over when they have a rope, is no worse than a door they have a key to, yet it's far more satisfying in the end.

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Dark Heresy isn't a combat game, so stop throwing gun bunnies and hordes 'o death at your PCs.

Try running a few sessions without ANY combat in them at all.  Then the PCs probably won't die.

Of course a lack of combat doesn't mean there's a lack of conflict.

Take a bit of time to concentrate on the things the acolytes should be doing; investigation, surveillance, information gathering, networking, interrogation, etc.

 

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Luddite said:

Dark Heresy isn't a combat game, so stop throwing gun bunnies and hordes 'o death at your PCs.

Try running a few sessions without ANY combat in them at all.  Then the PCs probably won't die.

Of course a lack of combat doesn't mean there's a lack of conflict.

Take a bit of time to concentrate on the things the acolytes should be doing; investigation, surveillance, information gathering, networking, interrogation, etc.

 

 

I agree with your suggestion with regards to running the occasional session without combat ... but surely you meant this as a suggestion as opposed to the absolutes you presented... Dark Heresy can involve limitless scenarios, combat being one of them... and what the Acolytes should be doing is pretty much up to them... only the Sith deal in absolutes, and that's an entirely different gaming system :)

 

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My players aren't happy unless they get to shoot something every now and then, and I aim to please :)

But I agree in principle: Pure force should not be enough to solve all your problems. Shooting first, and shooting everyone should be detrimental to success.

Inquire, Interrogate, Exterminate. That is the order of things.

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Bird-dogging and ambushes are always exciting too - it lets the PC's create situations where they're on the offensive, but with all the benefits of being on the defensive too. Assuming they're not going into a chain of rooms filled with badguys, they should be able to pick off sentries at range, draw out targets into the open while engaging them from cover, set booby traps (a frag grenade and some fishing line is usually all it takes), and then, when they've whittled down the opposition a little, they can conduct their assault. Surveillance (how many targets? how are they armed? how are they armoured? do they have a chaos marine with them?) is key to knowing what they're going up against. If that's not possible, they can use stummers, servo-skulls to scout ahead, auspex, and so on. Then, when it's go-time, make sure they bring weapons appropriate to the fight. If your assassin loves to snipe, great, but he needs to do a little heavy lifting when it's up close and personal too. Acolytes could attempt to draw the cultists out into a position where the targets will be exposed and vulnerable to massed firepower fired from prepared positions.

Real-world SWAT/ERT cops don't just walk through a door - They stack up, chuck in a stun grenade, charge through digging for corners & cover, and push through with speed and aggression. They use every dirty trick they can think of to keep their targets off balance, on the defensive, and reacting to their intentions, retaining the initiative. They have other SWAT guys standing by to hold the other sides of the building to make sure the badguys don't just run out the back door - classic hammer and anvil tactics. Of course the SWAT metaphor isn't accurate because they (usually) try to take their targets alive, and do so by convincing the badguys that they have no chance at surviving. Acolytes on the other hand, may well chuck frag grenades at the same time as their stun grenades, and they charge in shooting with no questions asked. I actually feel (as a former infantry soldier) that frag and stun grenades aren't nearly effective enough in these settings - if you're in a room when a stun grenade goes off, it feels like you just got punched in the ears with a power-fist, and if you see the flash of the flashbang, it's like staring into the sun after a long winter of cloudy grey skies.

Oh, and not everyone will fight to the death. In the real world, hardly anyone ever does. Obviously this is 40K and life is a lot cheaper, but even badguys who will be facing the death penalty (which is most of them) may not have the guts to fight it out. Some people feel they may believe "If they've got nothing to lose, they'll fight" but I don't believe this is always the case - it takes a lot of courage to fight it out at the time, regardless of the consequences afterwards. I see a lot of cultists in 40K being weak-willed peons and minions, who were easily brainwashed/tricked/swayed into following the badguys. The very fact that they are weak-willed peons and minions who could be brainwashed suggests they're less likely to fight to the death, unless failing to do so would be worse in a very immediate way. Picture the opening scene of Enemy at the Gates, where the Russian conscripts had to be pushed forward by machinegun crews who promised to shoot anyone running away...

So - tactics, dirty tricks, surveillance and ambushes. Allowing the badguys to fight it out on their terms will always go badly.

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 I've got a DH group that I've been working on converting from D&D. They're all fairly involved with role playing aspects but I know I'd have some droopy eyelids if a 5 hours game session didn't involve -some- bloodshed.

I think other people have covered it pretty well but encourage PCs to use cover, semi-auto fire, aiming, dodging. Maybe throw in a friendly guardsman NPC who can also impart some of these tactics to your PCs (like a tutorial in a video game) and then later be used to advance or alter the plot. 

 

The first fight we had in the game was very long (PCs and NPCs went to hard cover right away). Everything was going very well for the PCs when the psyker got shot in the head with a las pistol and subsequently was blinded and knocked out from crit damage. Luckily the battle resolved SHORTLY after that and the psyker was able to heal himself pretty decently. The reaction from the other PCs was pretty epic as the psyker hadn't done anything with his psy abilities up to that point and they had the perfect blend of being impressed and VERY unnerved.  

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