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When PCs fail.

Verdande

First Post
I've got a couple quick things to say, cause I'm cool like that.

1) If you don't want your players to fail, then don't set the stakes up high.

2)Clever adventure planners plan for their players' failure, also. Where in the adventure does it say, "The players fight Orcus; make him beatable so the players won't have to deal with failure"?

3) If your players don't slay Orcus (or rather, since they didn't), the world doesn't explode in a fireball. They can make new level 1 characters and see what happens. It'll be cool to hear other people talk about their old characters and see the things they've accomplished. They may not be able to stop him, but that doesn't mean the entire game world is changed. The game can turn into a post-apocalyptic one, where hordes of undead have nearly wiped out the humble populace, etc etc.

4)I repeat myself- always have a backup plan in case the players fail. I'm not saying, "If the players fail, have an NPC do it," or "If they fail, it doesn't work anyways,", no, that's cheating. You need a backup plan as in, what happens afterwards, and is it possible to keep playing. See above. You should always do this, since there's always a chance for players to fail. Robbing them of their chances to fail robs them of the glory of victory. Don't believe me? Try running a footrace against some 5 year old kids, and tell me how much you value your "win."
 

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If anything, this failure will provide the game with a lot of interesting events. Probably more than what would have happened if they succeeded (so that's kinda cool).

Do you own "Requiem for a God" from Malhavoc Press/Monte Cook? There are some interesting ideas/crunch in there that seem to be perfect for letting Orcus kill one or more gods in your campaign. If your PCs have a little fire in their eyes and some steel in their spines, this seems like a great way for them to interact with the consequences of their actions and maybe get a bit of redemption (there is even a scenario in the book about resurrecting a god).

Personally, as a PC, I'd want my second chance here, but I've seen groups that are ready to call it quits after epic fails. You know your group better than we do and you should do what you think is best. It sounds like you've got some great ideas and some great advice in this thread for a great "round 2" to your campaign. As long as your players are ready for more, keep it going.

Whatever you choose, keep us informed. This is very interesting.

Morgan
 

Oryan77

Adventurer
Oh the campaign will go on, that's for sure. The players don't want to stop here (neither do I). They are curious to see what happens next. They are also ready for some new adventures (so am I).

My biggest obstacle is to just figure out what happens now that Orcus has returned, and to figure out how I can blend that info into the next adventures that really have nothing to do with the Dead Gods scenario.

Do you own "Requiem for a God" from Malhavoc Press/Monte Cook?
I actually owned that book about 5 years ago and I sold it. I never even read it. Now I might have to buy it again. That's a good suggestion, thanks!

always have a backup plan in case the players fail.
I never really think that far into things. It has to do with the whole, "players will always surprise you with the unexpected", so I don't bother. I didn't even really have a plan on what happens if they succeed. I usually wing it and figure it all out at the last minute. :lol:
Basically, I do what I'm doing right now. When something happens, I think about it and figure out what I can do next. Oh, and I come to Enworld to ask for ideas.
 

Verdande

First Post
I never really think that far into things. It has to do with the whole, "players will always surprise you with the unexpected", so I don't bother. I didn't even really have a plan on what happens if they succeed. I usually wing it and figure it all out at the last minute. :lol:

Hey, me too! I don't plan much of anything, but you should really consider at least the basics, if nothing more than a scrap on a piece of paper or mental notes. A lot of things are basically binary, especially when the climax of the campaign is "Either you win or you don't."

For example, if your players fail to eradicate the goblins, and they were really the only hope, then the town is burnt to the ground. If not, they continue.

People act like there's only two kinds of DMs: those who try and pre-plan everything and those who wing it all on the seat of their pants. I lean strongly towards part two, but I've done my homework- the campaign world itself at least makes minimal sense in my head, I've got a vague idea of where they're going and what sort of stuff lies in that corner of the world, and I've got a Quiklist (tm) of setting-appropriate character names and some sample quirks/traits. Everything else, which is almost everything, comes out in gameplay, and in the back and forth between me and my players.

Personally, I've never had a situation where the players were the only thing standing in between oblivion and the entire world- my tastes run more to pulp, low-fantasy fare than the "epic save the world" stuff. But the principles still apply. :)
 

I agree with the suggestions previously posted that involve continuing with the campaign, while making it very clear the consequences of the PC's failure: grim(mer) world, death (or worse) of close and/or important NPCs, maybe, as was suggested, the death of a minor god (or if you want to be particularly nasty, the cleric PC's god :devil:)
 

DumbPaladin

First Post
I guess they had a decision; focus on their survival, or try to stop the BBEG from taking the artifact. Obviously their survival was more important (not a problem, but not heroic either), and they really didn't give any thought about what happens to the artifact if they flee. So they made their choice, they lived, but they failed big time.

[snip]

What are your thoughts about allowing the PCs to fail a mission?


If they failed, they failed. Certainly, given that you offered friendly advice as the omniscient narrator that they promptly ignored, I think they have no one else to blame.

Why not let them see the ramifications of their decision to flee rather than to stop the bad guys at all costs? If the world (even in some small degree) is actually altered by their inability to stop the BBEG, it may sink in that they need to take things a bit more seriously, or perhaps that your storytelling ability and decisions (or the stakes of the game) have stepped up to a new level.

But I'd also say, after showing them the ramifications of their fail ... give them a chance to fix it anew. There's nothing like a shot at redemption.
 

Aberzanzorax

First Post
I'm definitely in the camp of, as Kamikaze Midget eloquently put it "the players earned their failure". Negative consequences are GREAT for gaming.


So now there is a threat FAR above the level of the players. If I were dming I'd think "what would Orcus do?" (WWOD). From what I've read, he's got some pretty big chips on his shoulders against Grazzt and Jubilex.

I think, before attacking any of the good gods, he'd go after them. Does he simply kill them? Do they ally with him and, GASP, serve him...perhaps going after a united abyss, the end of the blood war, and a war upon the heavens?

Determine whatever your ideas are on the more cosmic level, and then think of how that would trickle into the world. Are their cults now at war? Are they allied and attacking temples of good? Do demons walk the earth? Can undead now enter holy sites/sanctuaries? This one event will not immediately end the world, of course, but to watch as the ripples spread out will certainly motivate your heroes in the future.
 

Alcamtar

Explorer
That's awesome. I am am tired of PCs who always win, who are fated to win (by the DM or the plot) and just ride the gravy train to glory. Epic failure is so much more interesting, and has so much potential for follow-on.

It would be REALLY interesting if Orcus threatened, blackmailed, or even killed one of the PCs' gods (or a close ally). That would nail home the Awful Truth, hit them where it hurts, and send the PCs scrambling to find a new patron/ally, meanwhile Orcus servants are overrunning the planet. Later if the gods themselves cannot directly confront or even resist Orcus for fear of his doomsday weapon, perhaps mortals can enter where gods fear to tread...
 

aboyd

First Post
What are your thoughts about allowing the PCs to fail a mission? Does it happen in your campaigns? Do you think it's better to fudge things to help them succeed?
Yeah, I let them fail, and I've even had the gang here at En World help me work through it.

In my campaign, the party failed multiple quests, and I just let the world get wrecked. I also let them explore whatever solutions to the mess they wanted. In the end, they decided to simply flee the devastated region and do more adventuring elsewhere. It actually ended up being kinda fun for me -- I got to think about what happens when a huge part of Greyhawk is ruined by intelligent lighting strikes. I created an apocalyptic area that was overrun by lightning-resistant creatures, blue dragons, shocker lizards, etc. Just thinking of the ecology got my brain all fired up.

As for the players, they really didn't care much other than when it started catching up to them -- the bodies of the dead began to flow downriver and eventually made it to a relatively safe region where they were hiding out. They never let on to the townspeople that they had helped the badness along. And for the most part, since only 2 members survived, it was true -- two-thirds of the party consisted of new recruits that really didn't know what was going on.

Anyway, these failures happened often, and were the source of some amazing long-running villains. So failures can be turned into interesting twists in the story. However, you really do need to accept that devastation can occur and allow it to happen. Maybe in your case, the consequence is the death of millions, but the PCs are still alive to react and maybe try to right the situation...?
 

Oryan77

Adventurer
I like the ideas that a lot of people are throwing around about one of the PCs gods or a god somehow related to a god a PC worships being killed as a result of Orcus returning.

My question for everyone is, do you think that would be singling out the PC and make it seem like it was more his fault that the group failed to stop Orcus?

I wouldn't kill his god, but the cleric worships Io and admires good dragons, so I'd choose an obscure dragon god as being the victim. But even so, I don't want the Cleric player to feel singled out and think that their failure was mostly his fault (as if I'm punishing his PC for their failure).

I'm just having a hard time getting a feel for this type of scenario. I'm not sure what a player would think if this happened. I don't mind if it made it more personal and the 'group' as a whole felt more guilty, I just don't want a single player to take all the guilt. Or maybe I can come up with scenarios to single out something important to each PC. That actually might be the best route and may make their failure hit home even more.
 

S'mon

Legend
I would only kill off a PC Cleric's god as an initial target if the PC were still able to quickly acquire spells from a different source, such as a different member of the pantheon. Eg Tyr is dead but you can still get your spells via Odin.
 

angelababy

First Post
This will be very, very, very bad for the people of the setting but that's the bad part of being the characters upon whom the fate of the world rests. A few times it has completely altered the campaign setting -- effectively the PCs endure a "fall of civilisation" event and focus shifts to survival/rescue/rebuilding.Too many times you read about groups that abandon the campaign or even split up over a major failure or TPK. However, it seems like it isn't quite so final with your group, so how does their failure impact the world?
 

I like the ideas that a lot of people are throwing around about one of the PCs gods or a god somehow related to a god a PC worships being killed as a result of Orcus returning.

My question for everyone is, do you think that would be singling out the PC and make it seem like it was more his fault that the group failed to stop Orcus?

Kill several gods and you won't have this problem. Make Orcus powerful enough and kill a handful of Gods and you'll be able to end up with anything up to and including a very uneasy alliance between Hieronius and Jubilex to deal with the worse evil/bigger threat of Orcus.

I'm just having a hard time getting a feel for this type of scenario. I'm not sure what a player would think if this happened. I don't mind if it made it more personal and the 'group' as a whole felt more guilty, I just don't want a single player to take all the guilt. Or maybe I can come up with scenarios to single out something important to each PC. That actually might be the best route and may make their failure hit home even more.

Imagine the world was a tray containing dinner. The PCs just dropped it. Not everyone is going to be equally hurt. But you have Orcus' demons roaming the land (which will help if the PCs were running out of plausible random opponents). Most towns need to fort up because of this. Trade is ... dangerous. Mutations of wildlife?

Just wreck the place both grimly and entertainingly.
 

webrunner

First Post
Have you ever played Final Fantasy 6? Spoiler warning, by the way..
[sblock]
Half way through the game, the party rushes to stop the BBEG from aquiring god-like power and destroying the world as they know it.

They.. fail at doing that. In fact, their attempt to stop them ends up giving him the power he wants, and they barely escape with their lives.

The game then picks up about a year later, with the party scattered, the world in ruins, and the BBEG destroying entire cities on personal whim from atop his gigantic tower. The game shifts from saving the world from destruction to re-gathering your party and saving the remnants of the world from Kefka's god-like dominion.

[/sblock]
Similarly, in Star Ocean: The Second Story (or Star Ocean: Second Evolution on PSP)

[sblock]
This game also ends it's first disc with the destruction of the planet every character you have (except the main one) is from as the main villain crashes it into their own pseudo-planet in order to get home.
[/sblock]


The point of all this is that massive failure is not the end of the line. Failing one task, even the overarching main task, as long as there's pieces to pick up the party now has a new goal, and the campaign can continue from there.

In your particular case I would imagine they would need to find a way to retrieve the artifact, or to find some sort of magical device to allow them to jump back to when they failed, and stop the villain that way. Or mount some sort of resistance against the now evil lord, maybe by travelling and finding other resistance cells, Peiping together a plan like that?
 

nedjer

Adventurer
Well, we just finished a 4 year long run of the Dead Gods adventure last night. I added a lot of content in between each scenario in the adventure, which is why it took so long. This was the biggest and most epic adventure I've DMed. I'm pretty bummed out though. The PCs failed to finish the last chapter as heroes and they did not "save the day".

As DM, I could have probably done some things to 'give the players a break', but this was supposed to be the big finally. So at the time, I was thinking that whatever they choose to do, I will not deviate from the events that are supposed to be happening behind the scenes.

I did everything I could to let them know they needed to be prepared, even to the point that I thought I might be annoying them by reminding them to buff, use their resources, and to work together as a team to win the day. They seemed very confident & sort of dismissed my advice (it seemed). When the time came, they did not do anything to improve on their tactics, and it took my NPCs only 2 rounds to send their PCs fleeing for their lives.

This last event was on a time frame. The master was on his way and the PCs knew this. So they knew they had to defeat the BBEG and take (or destroy) the artifact before his master arrived. The problem was, they left the major artifact that they came to retrieve (or destroy) in the room that they fled, which allowed the enemy to simply walk over, pick it up, and hand it to his master once he arrived.

So they expected to flee, lick their wounds (in their defense, they did get their butts handed to them), and then come back and try again. But the time frame did not allow for this. The BBEG did not care about the PCs; he only cared about getting the artifact for his master. So when they fled, all he had to do was pick it up and that's that (game over).

I guess they had a decision; focus on their survival, or try to stop the BBEG from taking the artifact. Obviously their survival was more important (not a problem, but not heroic either), and they really didn't give any thought about what happens to the artifact if they flee. So they made their choice, they lived, but they failed big time.

This is the first time I've seen such an epic fail before. So now I get to sort things out and figure out where to go from here. I honestly can't think of anyway for them to redeem themselves. So I think it will have to be chalked up to the bad guys won the day, and the PCs will just continue on with their lives (and the adventures I've been preparing). If anyone has ideas or advice for me, let me have it. I honestly don't know if the way I handled things was good or not. I also don't blame the players, they made a choice that they thought was best. And as far as they were concerned, they were prepared for the fight.

What are your thoughts about allowing the PCs to fail a mission? Does it happen in your campaigns? Do you think it's better to fudge things to help them succeed?

I feel guilty whenever a PC dies (heck, one died in that last fight due to a freak teleporting accident as they fled). But I feel guilty in a totally different way seeing as how it's 4 years later and everything they did was a at a loss.

Maybe call in the cavalry. That non-descript dude lurking in the background at various points who steps up and rallies 'the troops'. Not to win it for them but to offer a shot at redemption. A wizard who holds time still to give the players another chance but can only hold it for so long. The kid you saved in passing three weeks ago who's Dad and his mates turn up with a handful of healing potions and surprising skill with a scythe after years in the fields.

Build these 'backdoors' in the same way as programmers do and there's, hopefully, a plausible intervention on hand throughout the campaign. They might still fail but a glorious fail is better than a total fail :)
 

athos

First Post
It sounds like your players care more about their characters than the mission at hand. I really like that !

Seriously though, maybe if they are supposed to die to save the world, or fight to the death for the world, then they should have premade characters that are given them that they have no attachment to. How many people in real life care enough about something or someone to die?

You obviously ran a fun campaign for those 4 years and the players really have come to identify with their avatars in the game. This is a good thing, it means they had fun and enjoyed RPing their characters.

I wouldn't sweat it about them not winning in the end. Life goes on, the game goes on, the bad guys get stronger, the good guys get weaker, but their PCs (which they obviously attached to) get to live to fight another day.
 

anest1s

First Post
If I was Orcus, I wouldn't bother with mortals...I wouldn't even show that I could kill Gods because they would obviously team up against me. I would wait for a good opportunity. But IF I could get them all by myself, then they WOULD team up, and I couldn't bother with mortals anywayz...except if I have that many spare troops (?)

However Good Gods will be a bit distracted, and mortals would be left on their own luck..no wait, on the hands of some evil minor deities who see the opportunity to grow in power. So while the "Immortals" fight, mortals are suffering from the consequences of their fight. And since your players can't fight Orcus right now, maybe they could help the mortals survive, till they can.
 

lin_fusan

First Post
Oryan -

I would definitely have Orcus kill the player's god. Then this next chapter of the campaign would be either trying to bring the god back to life or getting revenge on Orcus and his minions.

Since Dead Gods is from Planescape, I take it you have a Planescapy kind of campaign? To mitigate the impact of the PC losing his/her god, they can quest for a power key which could hold enough divine energy for the PC to continue on with their spells.

The caveat would be to talk to the player and see if you can come up with an acceptable solution to a slight power drop in the divine character's power. Sometimes a player doesn't mind losing a bit of power if they become the center of the story.

As for failure, one way to spin it is to say that the PCs were the only ones who tried. They may have failed, but if they didn't even try (in terms of the whole campaign, not the last minute retreat), then Orcus would have won earlier.
 

Kingreaper

Adventurer
Oryan -

I would definitely have Orcus kill the player's god. Then this next chapter of the campaign would be either trying to bring the god back to life or getting revenge on Orcus and his minions.

Perhaps have a small aspect of the gods power take up residence in its followers. Especially the one that came closest to the wand.

The PC may be guilt-stricken at the failure, but has been handed an even bigger burden to shoulder. And they can't give up now, can they?
 

NN

First Post
some thoughts

- generally, let the players know that its The Final Battle so they can choose heroic sacrifice

- the ideal adventure is written so that failiure is fun

- in the OPs example, it seems the problem is not so much that they failed, but the rubbish manner of their failiure. They didnt last 3 rounds and they made a dumb - no, unbelievable - mistake leaving the Macguffin just lying around.

If the BBEG had wrenched the macguffin from the bloodspattered grasp of a dying hero while her despairing comrades fled for their lives, that would have been cool, yes?
 

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