D&D General How much control do DMs need?

Oofta

Legend
So in this specific case, you wouldn’t let a low level party know anything more than “it’s dangerous”?

What would make you stop at “dangerous tower”? Why not add a detail or two more? You’ve already shared that it’s a dangerous tower.

Seems pretty arbitrary.

I don't see anything particularly arbitrary about respecting player agency. They can do what they want, even if it's stupid. They heard the tower was dangerous. They had an opportunity to get more information.

I've never run this scenario but I did just let a PC attack a cave bear even though they knew the other PCs (using food and animal handling checks) had subdued it for the time being. It was their choice to attack even though they almost died in the ensuing fight.
 

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Mort

Legend
Supporter
I don't see anything particularly arbitrary about respecting player agency. They can do what they want, even if it's stupid. They heard the tower was dangerous. They had an opportunity to get more information.

I've never run this scenario but I did just let a PC attack a cave bear even though they knew the other PCs (using food and animal handling checks) had subdued it for the time being. It was their choice to attack even though they almost died in the ensuing fight.

Adventurers do dangerous stuff. It's much of their thing!

Expecting the players to be EXTRA cautious to the point of avoiding something just because a place is labeled as "generically dangerous" goes against most adventurers whole existence. A "level 1" goblin warren is dangerous too. Are we expecting the group to avoid it?

Sure signposting a threat way above PCs pay grade may be some degree of unrealistic. But there has to be some kind of balancing act to ensure the PLAYERS have an idea what they're getting into and can make choices as to that regard.
 

hawkeyefan

Legend
I don't see anything particularly arbitrary about respecting player agency. They can do what they want, even if it's stupid. They heard the tower was dangerous. They had an opportunity to get more information.

What makes it "stupid"? We don't know exactly know how they learned it was "dangerous" and nothing more. If this was just starting info that the DM shared, then he should have elaborated a bit to give them enough context to make their decision to go to the tower or not an informed one.
 

Oofta

Legend
Adventurers do dangerous stuff. It's much of their thing!

Expecting the players to be EXTRA cautious to the point of avoiding something just because a place is labeled as "generically dangerous" goes against most adventurers whole existence. A "level 1" goblin warren is dangerous too. Are we expecting the group to avoid it?

Sure signposting a threat way above PCs pay grade may be some degree of unrealistic. But there has to be some kind of balancing act to ensure the PLAYERS have an idea what they're getting into and can make choices as to that regard.
Sure, but if I understand it the story wasn't that the didn't avoid it, they went out of their way to get to the tower. That's different.
 

Mort

Legend
Supporter
Sure, but if I understand it the story wasn't that the didn't avoid it, they went out of their way to get to the tower. That's different.

We don't know the whole story, but to me it sounds worse.

The players are told that they see a tower in the distance, and only know that the tower is dangerous. Keep in mind "dangerous" is adventurer speak for interesting and profitable.

Presumably, they don't have any pressing business or more interesting hooks, so decide to check it out, as adventures do - when presented with something interesting.

We're told that the group didn't do their due diligence in scouting the place, but that's a second hand account. We don't know what they actually did/didn't do or what the DM signposted, if anything.

We do know that they tried to sneak in, met with something and the ones that didn't immediately flee, immediately died.

That to me seems a waste of an interesting adventuring opportunity. Especially if it was a new group where the PLAYERS didn't realize they were in over their heads.

Now, again, maybe the DM flat looked at the group and said: this place seems evil and truly, truly deadly you feel dread just stepping into the grounds something EPICALLY bad dwells here - just so you know. And the group moved on anyway - in which case, well ok. But somehow I doubt it.

And even still, this is the perfect opportunity for the DM, thrown a bit of a curve ball, as opposed to the one usually throwing them, to have a different type of scenario entirely. One where the big bad throws the group for a big loop and recruits/blackmails or otherwise conscripts them Or something to that effect. Wiping them out is just a bit too obvious and short sighed for the litch.
 
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Oofta

Legend
We don't know the whole story, but to me it sounds worse.

The players are told that they see a tower in the distance, and only know that the tower is dangerous. Keep in mind "dangerous" is adventurer speak for interesting and profitable.

Presumably, they don't have any pressing business or more interesting hooks, so decide to check it out, as adventures do - when presented with something interesting.

We're told that the group didn't do their due diligence in scouting the place, but that's a second hand account. We don't know what they actually did/didn't do or what the DM signposted, if anything.

We do know that they tried to sneak in, met with something and the ones that didn't immediately flee, immediately died.

That to me seems a waste of an interesting adventuring opportunity. Especially if it was a new group where the PLAYERS didn't realize they were in over their heads.

Now, again, maybe the DM flat looked at the group and said: this place seems evil and truly, truly deadly you feel dread just stepping into the grounds something EPICALLY bad dwells here - just so you know. And the group moved on anyway - in which case, well ok. But somehow I doubt it.

And even still, this is the perfect opportunity for the DM, thrown a bit of a curve ball, as opposed to the one usually throwing them, to have a different type of scenario entirely. One where the big bad throws the group for a big loop and recruits/blackmails or otherwise conscripts them Or something to that effect. Wiping them out is just a bit too obvious and short sighed for the litch.

Okay, we don't know everything. All I'm saying is that I don't stop PCs from doing stupid, perhaps suicidal things. The world exists, it doesn't revolve around the PCs is a perfectly valid play style.

If they knew the area was dangerous but diverted from their path to chase it down without getting more details, that's on them.

Feel free to run it differently, we've expressed our opinions.
 

pemerton

Legend
The most interesting tower story I know of REH's Conan story "Tower of the Elephant". It's about the deadly tower of an evil sorcerer.

Conan hears rumours of it, and decides to rob it. The upshot is an interesting adventure, which I could easily imagine being interesting as a RPG scenario.

It didn't involve the evil sorcerer crushing him like a bug!
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Isn't there usually some kind of way to handle this? Like in a dungeon delve, generally speaking things will get tougher the deeper you delve. Or in a hexcrawl or wilderness exploration, the further you go from civilization, the greater the danger. Obviously, this is not always true... but when not, shouldn't the GM then be trying to cue the danger in some other way?
Sometimes. Not necessarily always, I don't think; and this applies to when things are too easy for the PCs as well as too hard.
Letting a very low-level party walk up to a lich's tower that's guarded by demons and then blaming them for not being more resourceful seems pretty bad to me. What resources did they have at that level? And which of those would have somehow helped against a lich and demons?
As far as I know from the "media coverage" lo these many years, the party were utterly and completely outgunned. What I don't know are the specific details as to just how much warning they had - whether for example they saw from a distance the demons standing on the front steps and still tried to sneak past them into the tower. I also don't know how much demon knowledge the players/PCs had - this was early days and they were as yet not at a level where demons would be expected, so it's possible they didn't recognize the demons (either in or out of character) for what they were. I'm fairly sure they had no idea there was a lich in the tower (but could be wrong on that) though the lich's name was, I believe, already familiar to them kind of in a mentor's mentor's mentor way.

And yes, the demons were rather casual about how they dealt with these annoying little PCs. I mean, they only killed three... :)
Why not give them a warning of some sort so that they're actually making a decision? Maybe three demons manifest, and the two laugh as the weakest chases off the mortals.
The demons were already in place as door guards.
There's no right or wrong answer, I don't think, because it's a matter of preference. But why do you feel that way? I can explain my feeling about it... that the real players are more important than the pretend events of play.
In my case, I see it as part of what the players signed up for - that fiction and character takes precedence over table concerns; and that what happens in character stays in character.
Also, can't some reasonable result be found that satisfies both? I came up with just one above, in a matter of a minute or so.
Situationally dependent. If for example at least some of the PCs were determined to take on these demons no matter what (which, knowing some of the players, might well have been the case), then what?

To me this whole scenario is a fine example of character-side trial-and-error adventuring; and had I been the DM I don't think I'd have done anything differently in a broad sense (can't speak to fine-tuned specifics).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Right. But do you just say dangerous or do you add some details? The party was low- level… dangerous could mean anything from some ghouls to some ogres to demons to the tarrasque.

This is the point. “Dangerous” isn’t a sufficient description to lay blame on the players. The DM’s at fault.
Why? If "dangerous" is all they happen to have heard then sorry, in the moment they decide to wander over there that's all the information they get. If they're not careful they'll find out by trial and error what "dangerous" means in this context when they get there.

Welcome to the sandbox. :)
Why not just say “legend says an undead wizard has lived there for decades, conjuring demons and other awful things”? Then if they go there they’ve only themselves to blame.
Why wouldn't I say that? Because it's not something the PCs know. All they know is that it's a dangerous place; and as they're already in the field further info will be hard to come by other than by direct observation. Now, they were on a town-to-town journey already so they could decide to carry on to the next town, get some info there, and come back later; but they didn't - instead they altered course and went straight to it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So here's a question:

Back in the days of module B2 Keep on the Borderlands, it was taken for granted that the scenario that the GM presented to the players, via "hooks" and "rumours" and so on, was the one the players were expected to engage with. In this particular example, that's the Caves of Chaos.

Part of play consisted in gathering information, but that information - whether gained from collecting more rumours, or speaking to rescued prisoners, or whatever - was expected to help the players do better at the scenario in front of them.

But now we're discussing an example where the GM is foregrounding some bit of fiction - the dangerous tower, the dragon in the hills, etc - and the players are not expected to engage with it, and the point of collecting rumours etc would be so that the players can confirm that they ought not to engage with it.

That's a big change in gameplay. When did it happen? And why?
It's not a big change, really, if you consider that in a run-up to B2 something the PCs will probably learn or realize from other info gathered is that the rumoured threats there are quite possibly the sort of things their group could handle. On realizing this, their attention then turns more to how best to deal with and-or mitigate said threats.

Contrast this with the dangerous tower, where info-gathering by the same party would (or should!) quickly lead them to conclude the place is way above their pay grade and should be avoided.
 

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