On Choice, Consequence and the Right to Fail

Reynard

Legend
Like, Luke Skywalker goes to confront Vader? Okay, he's putting himself in knowing peril appropriate to a climax.

He gets into a speeder chase with some storm troopers? He can lose and have a negative consequence, but can't die.

Vader shows up out of nowhere? The rules should make running away a viable option.
I like to think of the story of the game only being complete and fully formed after the fact.

In the Star Wars example, Luke didn't have plot armor, but instead had a successful adventure culminating in blowing up the Death Star. He could have been killed by sand people, or crushed in the garbage trap, or blown out of the sky by tie fighters. But he wasn't, and the reason we tell his story is because things broke his way, by luck and pluck. If he had died early on, the player would have just rolled up someone new and we'd be talking about them.
 
While I'm not generally a fan of running APs, I have run epic style campaigns, which has the same issues. The death of a key PC, NPC, or even the entire party can derail an entire campaign. While I hate the loss of the work put into it, unless there is a logical way to continue, the campaign comes to an end. Actions have consequences, and unless there is a chance of failure, it makes the concept of an RPG pointless IMO.
 
Here's what struck me: what if one of those encounters resulted in a TPK? Would the campaign be over? SHOULD the campaign be over?
At my table, we have a couple of rules:

1) Thokk always lives. Always. If he "dies", he just doesn't get any loot or XP and has to wait for a long rest to recover. I don't necessarily like that rule, but that's how we convince my husband to play with us occasionally when we need the extra umph.

2) The rules for everybody else. If the entire party dies, we do an auto-save reset from before the deadly encounter. This is usually accompanied with "bad premonitions" from at least one of the players. If even just one character survives, however, everybody who died has to re-roll their characters and come up with a decent story about how they join up with the survivors -- just as if we had a new player join our group mid-campaign.
 

Kersus

Villager
TPKs are brilliant as long as the players are aware of the possibility. I have one player who gets upset if whatever foolish action he chooses doesn't result in success. The rest are happy to just see what happens. He's also the one that wants epic storytelling, while the others want action (except one who find the most unique ways to resolve issues without combat).

Anyway, that one player makes TPKs less than the romp fun they usually are.

The advantage one can take from a TPK is how the rest of the material is still usable.

One thing I like to do in long campaigns is for all the characters to have apprentices who would take over their estate and perhaps even try to reclaim their bodies. This way there's a dues ex machina for them to know most of what their mentors do and continue the campaign with the awesome story of succeeding where their mentor failed and getting retribution or at least learning from the mistake.

Some characters have diaries for their apprentices.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
In the immortal words of Darth Sidious/Senator (at the time) Palpatine:

Wipe them out. All of them.

If they only got 1/3 of the way through the AP, you can always design your own replacements for that bit and then have it lead into the remaining 2/3 at some point; it's not like you have to throw the book away. :)

I had to do this in my current game: I'd quietly set up to run the 1e Slavers' series but to my surprise the other active DM in our crew - with whom I share some players - pulled out A-1 and ran it just a few months before I was going to. Turned out he was using A-1 largely as a standalone adventure, so I just came up with a homebrew replacement for A-1 then ran A-2 to A-4 pretty much stock.
 

S'mon

Legend
I like to think of the story of the game only being complete and fully formed after the fact.

In the Star Wars example, Luke didn't have plot armor, but instead had a successful adventure culminating in blowing up the Death Star. He could have been killed by sand people, or crushed in the garbage trap, or blown out of the sky by tie fighters. But he wasn't, and the reason we tell his story is because things broke his way, by luck and pluck. If he had died early on, the player would have just rolled up someone new and we'd be talking about them.
Yeah; Palpatine's son presumably had a bunch of exciting adventures before his ignominious end. :D
 

S'mon

Legend
If they only got 1/3 of the way through the AP, you can always design your own replacements for that bit and then have it lead into the remaining 2/3 at some point; it's not like you have to throw the book away. :)
This is kinda what I did with Rise of the Runelords. After the end-of-book-1 TPK, I merged the remainder with Shattered Star and the new group started at 1st level and played books 1 & 2 of Shattered Star to level up before playing books 2 & 3 of Runelords, then books 3 & 4 of Shattered Star (plus Seven Swords of Sin), then book 4 of Runelords, then hiatus, then resume with start of Runelords book 5 followed by Shattered Star 5 & 6, then hiatus again currently.
 

dragoner

Dying in Chargen
In engineering there is an old saying, "a failure to plan, is a plan for failure"; and that is sort of how I run the semi-sandbox Traveller game I'm GM'ing now. It's funny, that what hems the PC's in are their own prior choices. Which sort of becomes a downside, such as when a new player joins, they too are caught in the same situation, for which they had no say in doing.
 

Advertisement

Top