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Realistic Consequences vs Gameplay

So we had the session last night. We started with a brief recap to get everyone back on the right page where we left off. One of the players had missed the previous session and rejoined the two stand-offish characters who were watching the instigator and assassin in the stocks. The rejoining character was told that the party was going to take the lieutenant's offer and flee the town.
This was unacceptable to him, so he started throwing his most powerful magic at the two town guards while the villagers watched on in horror. The two stand-offish characters tried to talk him out of it while also trying to keep the guards from dying with healing magic and trying to thwart the escape attempts at their friends in the stocks.
As the guards are being attacked, they blow their whistles, summoning reinforcements. Withing a few rounds, a dozen additional guards and the formerly friendly lieutenant arrive, and the lieutenant said that the party attacked his men, shed their blood, and his offer was off the table. The attacking sorcerer would be added to the stocks, and the two who tried to calm down the situation and healed his men should "just leave town."
The three men in the stocks would face the immediate judgment of the lord, likely to be executed. He left to get the lord, along with a small contingency of the guards.
I then paused the session. I told everyone to stop what was going on. I told them about the consequences. I asked them how they wanted to proceed. I wanted them to come to sort of agreement about what the party was going to do.
The two stand-offish characters decided to create a distraction to disperse a few more of the remaining guards and cast Fog Cloud to cover the escapes of those in the stocks - after a little lock-picking (with disadvantage). The party fled into the night, jumped the town wall. They are fugitives, likely never able to return to civilization and being hunted by the lord's men. They have lost many allies, they are hated by the townsfolk who saw them killing the town militia.
After the session I sent out an email telling them to expect consequences for their actions, that their characters can't just say whatever they want without any response from NPCs. If they don't like this style of game (and with the level of roleplay and mystery), then we can just play a dungeoncrawl.
 

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I am glad it worked out for your group. Your consequence seems harsher than the death of two characters. ;)

I would offer one piece of wisdom. If your party is going to just start killing innocent guards and threatening a king, and you as DM, are going to take issue with that (and there is nothing wrong with that depending on the initial campaign), then I would steer them clear of those situations.

In my experience, it is best to clear these things before the campaign even starts. One great DM I played with would just flat out ask it in the beginning of a year long campaign: "Do you wanna be the good guys or bad guys?" I have always asked a litany of questions, such as: how to handle skill challenges, how to handle character death, voiced actions vs talking *$&!, alignments, motives, and how you are going to deal with each other if the alignments and motives are at odds.

Just my two copper.
 

I am glad it worked out for your group. Your consequence seems harsher than the death of two characters. ;)

I would offer one piece of wisdom. If your party is going to just start killing innocent guards and threatening a king, and you as DM, are going to take issue with that (and there is nothing wrong with that depending on the initial campaign), then I would steer them clear of those situations.

In my experience, it is best to clear these things before the campaign even starts. One great DM I played with would just flat out ask it in the beginning of a year long campaign: "Do you wanna be the good guys or bad guys?" I have always asked a litany of questions, such as: how to handle skill challenges, how to handle character death, voiced actions vs talking *$&!, alignments, motives, and how you are going to deal with each other if the alignments and motives are at odds.

Just my two copper.
That would normally be great advice, and I'd be much better about improvising, but we're playing online with Roll20 and a published adventure. If they go too far off the rails, there's simply nothing there. I could create my own stuff, but it takes a lot of extra time online. And I can't do it at the drop of a hat.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
So the returning 5th character made things worse?!? You basically gave them an out and he pretty much threw it in your face in a fit of violence. Seriously, you should have just executed the idiots.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
After the session I sent out an email telling them to expect consequences for their actions, that their characters can't just say whatever they want without any response from NPCs. If they don't like this style of game (and with the level of roleplay and mystery), then we can just play a dungeoncrawl.
So, after this experience...

I suggest next time, if you get a major play expectation issue, you start with the stuff in that e-mail, rather than let it go on for yet another session and then end with it.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
And so this is one of the things you'd expect a group to talk about out of game - do we expect the team to hold together, even if you do something that other party members feel is rash, stupid, or whatever? Do we expect a player to at least ask before trying something rash? What is the group's tolerance for, shall we say, Leroy Jenkins solutions? What's the group's expectation for the GM to be forgiving of such?
Unless you're gaming with a bunch of complete strangers, this is far too formalized.

Just let it happen, for cryin' out loud, and let the chips fall where they may.

Having to ask before trying something rash rather defeats the point of doing something rash at all....
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I don't see a "problematic duo". I see one problem who started this, and then - one player who attempted to move forward with the situation and solve it for the party through escalation (note that with the history of this ruler the first player had already escalated this to his own death), and two other players who disavowed the party.

Basically, one player acting like it's a group, so they all stand together, and two players splitting the party (willing to let the original one die for his outburst and the second for trying to not let the first die).
Meh - I don't see a problem at all.

In my experience this is pretty much just another night in the trenches, only this crew took on a bigger fish than usual. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Likewise, if I as a player decide my character is going to try to kill the king, I should expect that there will be consequences for my character. I do agree that if you choose to have your character do something reckless, then be willing to have them face whatever the consequences may be.
Absolutely this! (says he the reckless who has played many a character straight into its grave)

I think some suggestions in this thread are advocating for punishing the character as a way of correcting the player, which I don't think is a great idea.
Depends how seriously the player takes it all, I suppose.

Which is another variable to consider: some people (both as DMs and players) take the game way more seriously - in some cases too much so, IMO - than others.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
The PCs get hung up in metal cages outside the king's dining hall. The players roll up new characters, but every session for the next six months or so you give them a quick update on how their original characters are doing (spoiler: not well).
I like this!

Then after six months, or whenever it is appropriate they either die and become martyrs for the rebellion, or they escape/are freed and start or join an underground rebellion. They don't become PCs again, and their personalities have changed by the time the party next encounter them: philosophical, bitter or vengeful towarss the king and/or their former party members.
But I don't like this. Those characters still belong to their players*, thus if they're freed their players should be able to roleplay them into whatever comes next - and if it means going up against their old comrades, so be it.

* - unless (and only unless) those players have explicitly given permission to the DM to use them as NPCs
 

You should really ask yourself if these players fit with you and the other two players. It looks like three of your players are all about action pace adventure and you and the other two players are about RP. I know that the best bet would be a middle ground but sometimes it is not possible.

The only advice I can give is : "Talk with them!"
If you can't find a middle ground, then either change your gaming or find other players.
 

MGibster

Hero
What's a DM to do? Let it play out how it would in reality (execution) or break verisimilitude and reward murder-hoboism and let them escape with a deus ex machina? Meanwhile the players not involved in the coup attempt are being punished as the spotlight focuses on the two scoundrels - since their characters aren't wanting to be involved with the escape attempts.
I think we've all had similar problems in our campaigns at one point or another. I was using Savage Worlds to run a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles campaign set in the future with an old Raphael as the PC's sensei. While mutant animals didn't have full rights, they were afforded certain protections under the law and there was a political movement pushing for those rights that was gaining traction. To make a long story short, the PCs ended up killing four New York City police officers. I couldn't figure out how to keep the campaign on track after that and just ended it early.

It's now my policy to pause the game whenever a PC decides to do something monumentally stupid that will likely derail the campaign and ask them if they wish to proceed.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
Supporter
It's now my policy to pause the game whenever a PC decides to do something monumentally stupid that will likely derail the campaign and ask them if they wish to proceed.
That's not an unreasonable policy, but I've played at tables that might go entire sessions without getting out of pause-stasis. 😉
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Unless you're gaming with a bunch of complete strangers, this is far too formalized.
I said topics like this ought to be discussed, I did not say what form that discussion would take, so I don't see how you can say it would be too formalized.

Just let it happen, for cryin' out loud, and let the chips fall where they may.
So, I recognize that I am at a table (real or virtual, these days) with other real-world people. Those people matter. In general, I expect those people have their own lives, and those lives probably aren't all sweetness and light. They are busy. They have stress, and fears, and complications. They are coming to a table with me to spend a few of their precious few hours of entertainment time. We are each using each other to enhance those precious hours of entertainment time.

That means we have a few responsibilities toward each other. And, "not trash out the whole game because I couldn't be bothered to make sure we were all on the same page before we started," is one of those responsibilities.

If "let the chips fall where they may" is fun for the other players, that's great. If the way I deal with those chips leaves everyone else frustrated and like the whole thing was a waste of their time, that's the opposite of great.

Mature adults can spend a half hour or an hour talking over expectations before starting a thing that's going to take dozens to hundreds of hours to complete.

Having to ask before trying something rash rather defeats the point of doing something rash at all....
And, if you are gaming with folks who might have a problem with it, don't you want to know beforehand, so that you can choose to either not join the group or not have a character for whom this would be a notable point?

In this case, "the point" may have been, "I cannot manage to use my words to state that this is boring the crap out of me, the player, and it has not been made clear to me that actions have consequences, so I will act out in-game." Yes, if that's the point of the action, I do want that defeated before we get to the table.
 

MGibster

Hero
Just let it happen, for cryin' out loud, and let the chips fall where they may.
I'm very much an "actions have consequences (good or bad)" DM, and I typically let the chips fall where they may. But sometimes a player character's actions are disruptive to the point where it makes the game less enjoyable for the other players and the DM. In those cases I think it's fair for the DM to put things on pause to speak with the player.
 

MGibster, I fully agree with you. Sometimes, a player gets too disruptive and needs to be reminded that his fun might not be the same as the others around the table. Talking is usually the way to go to solve most problems.
 

Absolutely this! (says he the reckless who has played many a character straight into its grave)
Yes, I’m all for facing the consequences. I think the best advice about playing that I’ve read in recent years is to play your PC like you’d drive a stolen car. I think that players are generally far too cautious with their characters in play.

That being said, I absolutely think that anytime a PC is doing something reckless or dangerous, that it’s the GM’s job to make that clear beforehand. The player should know about the scope or scale of potential consequences even if they character may not be aware.

Depends how seriously the player takes it all, I suppose.

Which is another variable to consider: some people (both as DMs and players) take the game way more seriously - in some cases too much so, IMO - than others.
I suppose that’s true. Generally speaking, I think that any activity that people spend hours actively doing is generally one they’re invested in, and so I kind of proceed with the expectation that the game matters to them.

Sure, at times people can go overboard or can overreact to something that happens in the game, but I find if I proceed with the expectation that they do in fact care about the game, such instances are fewer and also less surprising.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I think that players are generally far too cautious with their characters in play.
So, I'm afraid that's not a fully stated point.

Players are far too cautious with their characters... for what?

They are far too cautious... to have fun? ...to meet your personal tastes? ...to justify the time they spend on play?

Unless you complete the thought, we don't actually know what you are saying.
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
So, I'm afraid that's not a fully stated point.

Players are far too cautious with their characters... for what?

They are far too cautious... to have fun? ...to meet your personal tastes? ...to justify the time they spend on play?

Unless you complete the thought, we don't actually know what you are saying.
Too cautious to drive their characters like they're a stolen car, I'd imagine. That suggestion usually indexes playing with gusto and taking the kind of risks appropriate to the genre conventions, whatever that looks like at the table. It means a lot in a specific campaign, but not so much in general, IMO, because it's relative to each campaign.
 

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