D&D General How to work with players who wont accept any setbacks/defeat?

p_johnston

Explorer
So I've noticed a feature of my group, with some players being worse then others, that as a whole they would rather get their characters killed (up to and including a campaign ending TPK) rather than accept any sort of defeat or setback.

This came to a head last session when the party was more willing to have a character effectively die rather then give up the ingredients to make 2 potions they had gathered that session. This is just one example of many that has come up.

I admit I tend to run harder games/battles in general but i also try to give players an out or a way to fail forward, but its hard to do so if it feels like they'll only accept totally victory or death.

Has anyone else had a similar problem or just any general advice?
 

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DND_Reborn

The High Aldwin
Has anyone else had a similar problem or just any general advice?
Ah, yes, the "charge and never fall back" issue!

Just keep killing them and spending the time making up new PCs. Comment how it is so much more fun to actually play instead of just making up PCs. Maybe they will learn that keeping their PCs alive should be objective #2 (after having fun, of course).
 


FrogReaver

As long as i get to be the frog
So what do you currently do when those situations come up? Do you kill the PC? Do the players seem to resent that?

Some players have no issue with their PC dying for a cause, even a seemingly trivial one. If that’s your players then I wouldn’t worry. If they take issue then there’s a number of reasons it could be. Figure out the reason then an appropriate solution should come easily enough.
 

p_johnston

Explorer
It sounds like a passive aggressive attempt to get you to back off.

Personally, I would let them die. Eventually, if they stick around, they'll get the message, and stop that behavior.
So the funny thing is Ive straight up asked tgem before "do you want me to dial it back." And was told its fine.
 


overgeeked

B/X Known World
So I've noticed a feature of my group, with some players being worse then others, that as a whole they would rather get their characters killed (up to and including a campaign ending TPK) rather than accept any sort of defeat or setback.
Yep. Gamers.
This came to a head last session when the party was more willing to have a character effectively die rather then give up the ingredients to make 2 potions they had gathered that session. This is just one example of many that has come up.
Players like three thing more than anything else. Agency, accomplishing things, and not wasting time.

If they spent the session gathering ingredients, that’s accomplishing something. If you then try to take those away you’re flipping that accomplishment into wasted time.

Yeah, they’re going to fight you on that.
I admit I tend to run harder games/battles in general but i also try to give players an out or a way to fail forward, but its hard to do so if it feels like they'll only accept totally victory or death.
Yeah, that’s gamers.
Has anyone else had a similar problem or just any general advice?
Yep. Every time I play with gamers. Try finding players who are more interested in the drama, story, and roleplaying than winning the game.
 


Oofta

Legend
Discuss it with them as if they were reasonable adults. Try to have an open discussion and ask leading questions, like "last session you ____ and it meant your PC died. What do you think should have happened?" Try to have an open discussion and avoid any kind of blame game. If that doesn't work and they'd rather die than admit defeat then they die.

Rinse and repeat all steps until you have a resolution. 🤷‍♂️
 

Fanaelialae

Legend
@p_johnston What were the circumstances surrounding this "your potion ingredients or your life" scenario?

I ask because one of the reasons I've seen players behave this way is due to the DM trying to subvert their agency.

From one of my own experiences, the DM contrived an encounter where he intended that our PCs would be captured. When, despite an absolutely overwhelmingly designed encounter, we actually managed to persevere, he contrived to have the enemy threaten an incapacitated PC with a poison he made up on the spot that instantly killed with no saving throw (this was 3e, where every poison had a DC, even if it was impossibly high). We refused to surrender, he killed the PC, and the players basically just rebelled and declared the campaign over.

I'm not saying you are doing anything like that.

However, as I said, I have seen that kind of behavior as a reaction to heavy handed plot hammering.

If that's not the case, then you may simply need to follow through. After all, death is one form of defeat, and if the player chooses that route then validate their agency and follow through.
 


beancounter

(I/Me/Mine)
If they spent the session gathering ingredients, that’s accomplishing something. If you then try to take those away you’re flipping that accomplishment into wasted time.

Yeah, they’re going to fight you on that.
If the DM is intentionally trying to take stuff away, I agree - because that's just toxic DMing/powertrip.

However, if the players lose stuff due to their actions, and the end result of their actions as acted upon by the DM are reasonable, then that's the player's fault, and they should learn to accept that bad decision may have negative consequences.
 
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This came to a head last session when the party was more willing to have a character effectively die rather then give up the ingredients to make 2 potions they had gathered that session. This is just one example of many that has come up.
How did they end up in the situation where they had to give up the ingredients or risk death?

If their decision making led to them risking losing the ingredients, that's fair enough but if immediately after gathering them you sprung an ambush on them to take the ingredients away, I'd probably resent that as a player too.
 



tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
I've found that 5e is pretty bad at helping with this because of how far the odds are already stacked for the players & the lack of support in player facing books but a dcc funnel with alcohol* can really help here if everyone is of legal age. Obviously if alchohol is involved nobody should be driving home & the host will probably need to let people chill or sleep on couches for the rest of the day/night.

*Doing shots is one thing but there's a more enjoyable way that introduces an extra layer of carousel hazard type strategy to the mix. If a player dies they must appoint someone at the table to make them a mixed drink of the mixer's choosing. The drink must be finished before the recipient of the drink dies again or they need to gulp it down & appoint someone for mixing their a new drink.
 
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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
So I've noticed a feature of my group, with some players being worse then others, that as a whole they would rather get their characters killed (up to and including a campaign ending TPK) rather than accept any sort of defeat or setback.

This came to a head last session when the party was more willing to have a character effectively die rather then give up the ingredients to make 2 potions they had gathered that session. This is just one example of many that has come up.

I admit I tend to run harder games/battles in general but i also try to give players an out or a way to fail forward, but its hard to do so if it feels like they'll only accept totally victory or death.

Has anyone else had a similar problem or just any general advice?
Me, I'd just run it neutrally and let the chips - and, sometimes, characters - fall where they may.

Don't go out of your way to hose them when it's not deserved (as others have noted, that's poor form for any DM), but don't hold back on hosing them if they bring it upon themselves through ir own decisions/actions.

You tagged the thread "general" - which edition are you running? I ask because characters dying in 0e-1e with their faster char-gen isn't nearly as much of a player-side headache as it is in 3e-5e where char-gen takes so long.
 

jgsugden

Legend
Talk to the group of players. Ask if they think the current tendencies are fun.

If so, no problem. Continue on as is.

If not, talk about other approaches. Give suggestions on things they didn't but could have, considered.
 

Clint_L

Hero
I like to remind players that not every situation is immediately "winnable," and that in terms of story structure setbacks are a good thing so that the eventual payoff feels earned. I will literally remind them in the moment that retreat is an option. Because I will intentionally design encounters where the only "win" is escaping to fight again another day. If they are persisting with a course of action that will very likely lead to death, I will make sure to emphasize that, since it should be apparent to their character: "Do you really want to charge across the lava? Because as the heat impacts you like a wall you sense that you are only going to survive for a few moments of terrible agony."

Edit: In my last game, a player decided to stay and "hold the door" against a wave of enraged cultists. I emphasized that this was a fatal decision, he insisted, and we put the dice down and I asked him to describe his heroic sacrifice. It was fun. He could have escaped instead, though.
 
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