D&D General "Hot Take": Fear is a bad motivator

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I can certainly see that, but that's up to the player. Some players prefer to leave the past in the past (dead character) some players prefer to pick right up where the dead character left off - character with near identical goals.
Meh. If I'm playing with someone that goes from Tom to Tom II to Tom III, one of us is leaving the game.
Commonplace for PCs is not the same as commonplace for the world at large. Even if resurrection is known, it's likely unavailable for a simple village or even a well populated town. Even if it's available, the villains know that too.
Raise dead is only a 5th level spell and money is plentiful. The PCs can just do it themselves or hire someone to do it
If the villain wants to send a message - he burns down an entire town and burns all 300 residents down to ash. No raise dead, no resurrection and good luck to a)find a 17th plus level cleric and b) having him spend the next year resurrecting the town.
I didn't say it would be fast. I just said it would be easy. Money is found in abundance in 5e. For enough of it, or for money plus a quest for the church, you could find the 17th level cleric you need.
Godly intervention - sure, sounds like an awesome adventure.
That, too.
Well, the except no death IS the point. Some people like the character focus that provides, some don't and some don't see a big difference (which it may not be, depending on DM style). It's all about the fun at the table.
I get that. My response was to, "Frankly, a "no death" campaign often has MORE opportunity for a DM to torture his players..." The opportunity is identical. You don't get more of it by not killing PCs.
 

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Arilyn

Hero
In a game with character death, I worry about failure and face consequences, death being a possible outcome. If my character dies, then I make a new one and plunge back into play. In a no character death game, I worry about failure, face consequences, but death will not be one of them. I continue to play. It's not that different really.

There are challenges, failure, and amazing victories in both. I have never witnessed players taking advantage of being in a no death game by acting like they're invulnerable. I have played both ways, and they are equally valid, immersive and engaging. It's a flavour if play, that's all. What it is not, however, is a coddling, easy breezy, I can do anything style that it is often denigrated for. Whether you want to play in this style is of course totally subjective.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I get that. My response was to, "Frankly, a "no death" campaign often has MORE opportunity for a DM to torture his players..." The opportunity is identical. You don't get more of it by not killing PCs.

I know several folks who, if they invest a lot of time and effort in a character, are not interested in continuing to play if that character passes. Not in a pouty way, but more in the way of how GMs are usually not nearly as good at weaving a new character into an established story as they think, so that the following play is sub-par by comparison.

The, "I just roll up a new one and jump back in" is not universal.

Edit to add: we see this a lot in live-action game play. The player commits to several years of campaign, and likely makes a significant investment in costuming and props to support that play. If the character dies, say, two-years into a three-year game, the re-investment may not seem to be a great deal, given how they're unlikely to be as hooked into the games main lines of story.

The monetary investment isn't the same in tabletop play, but the general issue is the same. They may not feel that the game will be as fun for the same level of effort, and that may be a fair assessment.
 
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Coroc

Hero
In a game almost entirely about combat, I would argue that fear is more important than 'good vibes'. If players want 'affection' as a prime motivator, they usually find themselves moving towards story games or newer style TTRPGs where combat isn't baked into the experience. There are even games where you don't fight at all.

So I would disagree. While the world of RPGs has exploded into a varied rainbow of experiences, DnD is still a game of play violence and looting (and sometimes talking too).

Out of the game/gameworld, I will agree that the camaraderie around the table (oh man do I miss actual in-person gaming) is what brings me back (even with clunky systems or weird campaigns).
The thing is, the games i have played or mastered which caused most frightening or paranoid situations at the table often were with very little or no combat at all.

Often maybe because fighting would have been certain dead and the players knew it (or very strongly - but wrongfully - guessed it would be).

I also generally disagree that the game is almost entirely about combat. It might be like that, but you can enjoy the games' other pillars as well depending what mixture the DM brings to the table.
 
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HJFudge

Explorer
I'd rather move away from the 'Fear of Death' conversation and focus on the 'Fear of Permanent Loss' one.

Many in here have mentioned they prefer no-death campaigns because other consequences can be just as meaningful or even more so.

So I wonder, do you let campaigns end in failure or loss? As in, "The bad guys win, the world/town falls into despair/darkness, the heroes names are a curse on the lips of the people for generations to come" type loss. One where the players switch to a new campaign or something. Is that one of the consequences on the table? If so, I do not think I have a real disagreement. If it is not, why not? Why no hard non-death fail state for the party as a whole?
 

a mix is best in my long game experience: rewards and punishment in tandem are best.

approach avoid scenarios are fun.

winning the kingdom is fun for this session but it will get dull if I don’t have to hold it.

gain loss, fear lust all work well as complimentary
 
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Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
I know several folks who, if they invest a lot of time and effort in a character, are not interested in continuing to play if that character passes. Not in a pouty way, but more in the way of how GMs are usually not nearly as good at weaving a new character into an established story as they think, so that the following play is sub-par by comparison.

The, "I just roll up a new one and jump back in" is not universal.

Edit to add: we see this a lot in live-action game play. The player commits to several years of campaign, and likely makes a significant investment in costuming and props to support that play. If the character dies, say, two-years into a three-year game, the re-investment may not seem to be a great deal, given how they're unlikely to be as hooked into the games main lines of story.

The monetary investment isn't the same in tabletop play, but the general issue is the same. They may not feel that the game will be as fun for the same level of effort, and that may be a fair assessment.
Okay. That's a case by case player decision, though. It doesn't alter the fact that the same ways to torture(word used by the other poster) the players exist in a game with PC death. I'm also not disputing that the flavor of the game changed when you get rid of PC death. All I'm saying is that the only difference in the ways the DM can "torture" the players in a game with death and without PC death is that the game without PC death doesn't have PC death.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
Would you disagree that, by page or word count, the rules are predominantly about combat?
No, but the page count is deceiving. Combat tends to be a LOT more complicated in many games, especially in D&D, so it needs a lot more pages of rules. That page count doesn't make it what the game is primarily about.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
So I wonder, do you let campaigns end in failure or loss?

There's two different versions of this question.

1) Your campaign is nearing its conclusion (like, all the PCs are level 20, their personal storylines have generally resolved, and they are coming up on the Big Bad who you expect to be the final antagonist before you do something else.)

2) Something goes awry, and the characters are in a situation such that the obvious natural conclusion is a complete campaign fail The moral equivalent of a TPK in games that have death).

My answers are (1) certainly, and (2) I will consider it, but it depends on how the players view that conclusion.

Stepping away from the question of motivation, just as allowing death for some adds a certain atmospheric spice to the game, not having death serves the purpose of not ending stories prematurely, or in an unsatisfying manner. If that unshceduled campaign failure is unsatisfying, then I probalby won't do it. If it is satisfying, then that's how it goes.
 

HJFudge

Explorer
There's two different versions of this question.

1) Your campaign is nearing its conclusion (like, all the PCs are level 20, their personal storylines have generally resolved, and they are coming up on the Big Bad who you expect to be the final antagonist before you do something else.)

2) Something goes awry, and the characters are in a situation such that the obvious natural conclusion is a complete campaign fail The moral equivalent of a TPK in games that have death).

My answers are (1) certainly, and (2) I will consider it, but it depends on how the players view that conclusion.

Stepping away from the question of motivation, just as allowing death for some adds a certain atmospheric spice to the game, not having death serves the purpose of not ending stories prematurely, or in an unsatisfying manner. If that unshceduled campaign failure is unsatisfying, then I probalby won't do it. If it is satisfying, then that's how it goes.


On number 2: Can you elaborate on this a bit? With the players you've had, what sorts of situations have they seen such a conclusion as acceptable? What situations have they not?

I guess I am just curious as to what other parties view as an Acceptable 'We screwed up, we lose' scenario. Does it entirely depend on if it creates a 'satisfying story'? Or can they accept the loss due to screw up/bad decisions even if it ends in an ignoble tragedy for the party?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
No, but the page count is deceiving. Combat tends to be a LOT more complicated in many games, especially in D&D, so it needs a lot more pages of rules.

With respect, that is a design choice. And we should interrogate that choice.

That page count doesn't make it what the game is primarily about.

What does? I mean, you can't go by statement of intent of the author, because their design may not meet the stated goals or intent. You can't go by what happens at tables, because they are only local, and GMs can and will go well outside the game as printed. You say the rules themselves can't be used as a determiner? So, what IS your determiner of what the game is about? Are declarations about what the game is, or isn't, about so subjective as to be meaningless in this context?
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
On number 2: Can you elaborate on this a bit? With the players you've had, what sorts of situations have they seen such a conclusion as acceptable? What situations have they not?

Broadly speaking, when the end is most closely tied with choices they thought were meaningful at the time, but they just chose poorly, I see players okay with ignoble ends. They'll also easily accept it if it is at least dramatic.

When the failure was, well, lame - a player misunderstood a rule, there was a bookkeeping error, bad luck on items they thought weren't terribly important, miscommunication between players, or the GM made a really poor adventure design choice (the case I have in mind, I was playing, not running the game), the players are less sanguine about it.
 

Maxperson

Morkus from Orkus
With respect, that is a design choice. And we should interrogate that choice.

What does? I mean, you can't go by statement of intent of the author, because their design may not meet the stated goals or intent. You can't go by what happens at tables, because they are only local, and GMs can and will go well outside the game as printed. You say the rules themselves can't be used as a determiner? So, what IS your determiner of what the game is about? Are declarations about what the game is, or isn't, about so subjective as to be meaningless in this context?
I think that broadly, adventure is the goal of the game. Combat is a part of those adventures, but it's not the main part. You have to explore to find dungeons and places where monsters wander. The game involves interaction with NPCs to get quests, learn information, etc. I don't see any part of those three as inherently greater than the others when we play the game. More specifically it's a table decision. If a table wants combat to be the focus of their adventures, then that's what the game is about. If a table wants social interaction to be the focus of their game, then that's what the game is about. Same with exploration as the focus or a mix of equal parts.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
What is the OP suggesting? Fear is not a good motivator for whom? The OP. Great. Follow your bliss! And find a DM who has a similar preference.

I however disagree on my part and on the part of my friends/gaming partners in D&D. For us.
[/QUOTE]

For the purposes of considering game design, style, or element, it becomes important to consider not one table, or another, but people in general. This is why I mentioned typical human behavior in the face of fear or anxiety. While any individual or group of individuals can defy that norm, that typical behavior is still, well, typical. Going against general human behavior is a design choice you can make, but that choice will limit the appeal of that element. One may be able to make up for it, but you're unlikely to do so if you don't recognize it happens.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The only way it can get degenerate if the player actively pushes the things to degeneracy.
Agreed. I used the degenerate examples to show the outer extremes of what's IMO almost certain to happen to a lower-grade or more subtle degree: players gently (ab)using the no-death rule to give their PCs unfair advantages or get-out-of-jail-free cards when sheer common sense would otherwise say they're dead.

To me that's every bit as degenerate.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Man who uses exploit to leave the map boundaries upset the designers didn't put anything for him to do or way back besides resetting...
You might be joking, but seriously I am one of those people: if the map has borders or the program has limits I want to go beyond them; and if the program doesn't allow for that I'm disappointed.

This is why I get - or got, when I played them back in the day - annoyed with a lot of geography-based computer games. Take a typical car race game. The programmers expect you to try to stay on the racetrack, where sooner or later I want to get off the track and explore the city in my racecar (and maybe find a shortcut, or maybe get completely lost...). :)

It's not the programmers' fault for not including those things - it's not like they're part of the basic mandate they were given - but I still find it unnecessarily limiting, once I get bored of going round and round the racetrack.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Like any other concept, this requires player buy in.
I'm buying in to playing my character to the reasonable best of its abilities, such as those may be. (I'm neither munchkin nor powergamer, hence "reasonable best")

If the game gives me the ability to not die, it's kinda dumb of me not to use it.
Refusal to buy in to one of the central concepts of a campaign means you are not a good fit for that particular campaign.
That's just it - I am buying in to a central concept of the campaign, that being that PCs can't die. At the same time, I'm trying to point out just how horribly bad that central concept is.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Agreed. I used the degenerate examples to show the outer extremes of what's IMO almost certain to happen to a lower-grade or more subtle degree: players gently (ab)using the no-death rule to give their PCs unfair advantages or get-out-of-jail-free cards when sheer common sense would otherwise say they're dead.

To me that's every bit as degenerate.
Why do you immediately assume bad faith gaming? If player's bought into the no death concept they've also agreed to not exploit it.

That said, there are some changes in playstyle that might result - and that's not a bad thing. Gives players a chance to play in a way they might not when death is a constant fear (more adventurous, more reckless/headstrong etc.)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Here's how I would respond to that as a DM:

DM: Lanefan, when as a group we decided characters wouldn't die, we didn't mean to make this into Looney Tunes. If you really want your character to die, I'll follow through, but also don't expect me to invest in the story of background of your characters.
My response: Whether or not we meant to make it into Looney Tunes, the very fact that PCs can't die makes it so by default, which means we made a dumb decision. All I'm doing is pointing that out in an extreme enough manner to make y'all sit up and take notice.
 

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