Your money or your life?

Jack7

First Post
This is my take on it Jeff.

There are so many things going on in-game that make it not like real life at all that it is to me hardly surprising that someone would risk death over material possessions.

The very fact that there is even a possibility of resurrection (there is no such thing in my settings, but that still doesn't make character death like real death, only slightly approximately closer to real death) means that people value death less as a strategic consequence of their choices, than a tactical one.

Now in game as in real life I am a very big believer in being well equipped. And for making sure you have the very best equipment possible for whatever you mission or assignment. You just don't risk your life or anyone else's life on being unprepared.

But then again in real life death has consequences that are absolute and irreparable.
It is a strategic end, not just for yourself but for others.

For instance if I were in a real situation in which my life were threatened and my buddy and I were engaged in a near-lethal combat, and I die through a stupid decision, I also realize that my buddies' odds of survival have just been cut in half by my being prematurely terminated. This makes you razor sharp in one way, and extremely cautious in another.

That's not necessarily true in a game world, especially one which goes out of it's way to lessen the value and consequences of what death really means. An end of all things, at least in this world. So it makes you dull and lazy in one way when it comes to death, and reckless in another.

So, psychologically speaking, in a game (and no [know] matter how deeply invested in the milieu and story of the game the players still know it is but a game), and especially in a game that devalues the importance of death as being final (I mean hell, you can always just roll up another guy, right? Even if you lose your "best man" you can still theoretically make a better man. Who gets to do that in real life in such a way? Just start over cause you make bad decisions or decide your stuff is more important than breathing?) would that not color how you approach death?

Just like in real life, with death being final, and knowing what that means, it colors your attitude on what is really worth risking your life and the life of your companions over, and how you are willing to act as a consequence. (also in real life few go around saying, "if you give me all of your stuff and give me your word never to return then I will spare your life" - that's TV and drama school stuff - nothing wrong with that in-game because part of the point of role play is drama, but then again death is a dramatic moment in a game, not a concluding one. And that's a tip off to people, even if only unconsciously, because in real life no-one who expected to live themselves would give you such a choice, they would just kill you. Telling people you are gonna kill them is for people who mistake TV for real life and who participate in drama actions, real killing you don't telegraph, by the time they first learn of it, if you know what you're doing, they're already dead. No explanation needed, or given. It's self-explanatory.)

In a game I might could justify to myself risking my life to retain my "stuff." I might could even in game terms justify risking my life and the life of my buddies over something so stupid and petty (you can always get new stuff and a much better plan and come back and ambush your enemy and kill them, after all anything that can ambush can be ambushed, and anything that can kill can be killed with the right strategy) as material possessions. Because deep down I know it is a game and no matter how well acted or how deep my suspension of (dis)belief, I know that there will be no real tears and no real funeral. No one's real blood has been shed, no friend has gone from this world never to be seen in this world again. Death has no finality in that sense and to a large extent people always react to their environment in the way in which it actually works. And when you have an environment in which you don't really bury real people, death always has far less of an impact than in this one. In which there will be no easy resurrections, no returns from the gap, and no new characters to pick up where the last one went cold.

In this world however I would never, ever risk my life or the lives of my buddies, or family, or friends, or anyone else over equipment, or even entirely unique possessions. Because what can be lost or taken can always be later recovered. Everything that is, except for a pulse.
 

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Charger28Alpha

First Post
One question I forgot to ask the OP: How often do NPC foes of the party surrender when in hopeless situations? If they do does the party accept and honor the surrender?

This is an excellent question. If there is no precedent of surrender set in the campaign, than PCs would be less likely to surrender.

On the other hand, the PCs were not facing imprisonment. The Dragon was basically "mugging" them, and at the same time openly letting the party know that she was after them to avenge her ally. Toying with opponents is a fitting action from a Dragon.

I still think the players made a bad call, the should have taken their lumps and then re-equipped themselves. In fact since these two PCs played no part in killing the Dragon's ally, they could present a good case to rest of party to foot the bill for new equipment.
 

Jeff Wilder

First Post
I answer this question with one of my own - if the players make new characters (I assume they will since you stated there was no chance of a Resurrection)
Actually, that's not what I said.

FWIW, the PCs have an artificer in the group, and I place very few limits on buying magic, so at least 90 percent of their gear is chosen by them. And, again because of the artificer, they're over suggested wealth-by-level.

How often do NPC foes of the party surrender when in hopeless situations? If they do does the party accept and honor the surrender?
Reasonably often, and especially when clearly outclassed. They also will attempt escape if they have the chance, unless there's a compelling reason not to do so.

And yes ... in general, the PCs accept and honor surrender.

These sort of events - PCs end up in an impossible situation (in this case, they weren't even able to run away)
Actually, they could potentially have escaped, if they had immediately run. As I said, they didn't immediately run ... they immediately chose to stand and fight.

then get beaten up, humiliated, threatened - very often result in irritated players who flip their DM the finger and take back control in the only way available to them.
I'd like to think my players are more mature than this. I'm trying to get a discussion started with them via email, and if it turns out that this was a motivation ... well, it either needs to change, or they'll need to leave. I simply refuse to play a game in which actions don't have consequences, and sometimes those consequences will involve unpleasant things happening to the PCs.

Anyway, please keep the comments coming. I'm finding everyone's thoughts extremely interesting.
 

OK. Based on your answers, the PC's are over equipped and have access to most any gear they need, and they know that surrender is a valid option in the game.

I would certainly try and get an answer from them. Some players think that there isn't going to be any combat involving a known bad guy that they can't win and will face ridiculous odds based on that assumption. There is also the situation of being unable to retreat once they decided to fight. They might have thought that the other characters would think them cowards if they didn't at least try to make a stand.

Let us know what they say if they tell you. I'm curious.
 

mmu1

First Post
I'd like to think my players are more mature than this. I'm trying to get a discussion started with them via email, and if it turns out that this was a motivation ... well, it either needs to change, or they'll need to leave. I simply refuse to play a game in which actions don't have consequences, and sometimes those consequences will involve unpleasant things happening to the PCs.

I'm strongly in favor of causality. :)

Obviously, we don't know the intricacies of the campaign, and I'm not going to try to guess your motivations.

However, the way you've written this up, it doesn't really seem like this was a confrontation the players were going to be able to do too much about. They might have been able to be better prepared for it, and they would have been better off if they never split up (which is fine in a dungeon, but silly if you do it all the time, like sleeping in armor) but if the fact of the matter is that a dragon was going to ambush them at its leisure, then no matter how logical this outcome was, it could very well feel like DM fiat.

As someone pointed out upthread, a dragon played optimally - "how would something this old, smart and powerful do this?" - feels like that anyway, and I'd argue that, for all the PCs are usually able to do about it, it often might as well be DM fiat.

Although you did mention earlier that you were trying to drop hints that there might have been more to this dragon than met the eye... but if none of your players picked up on them, or tried to act on them, I'd say that means you just need to drop bigger hints. Having the PCs suffer brutal consequences of their ignorance / lack of preparation / lack of planning is fine if your players are the kind that enjoy investigation, intrigue and tactical thinking to begin with - but if they're there to "just play D&D" and aren't engaged in the underlying mysteries of the campaign at the same level as you are, then logical consequences might as well be bad things happening for no reason...

(mostly just playing devil's advocate, here - not actually saying I think you're doing anything wrong, and I hope you're not offended...)
 

Jeff Wilder

First Post
(mostly just playing devil's advocate, here - not actually saying I think you're doing anything wrong, and I hope you're not offended...)
I'm absolutely not offended, believe me.

It may very well turn out that these two players and I have deep enough differences -- in what we want and expect from D&D -- that they're only showing now. As I said, they are the two newest players, and while I thought (in one case) that we were sympatico and (in the other case) that the player was casual enough to not really care about the style of the campaign, I could be wrong.

I have experienced differences with a couple of other players, which we've gotten out in the open, which I'll illustrate just 'cause.

One player thinks PCs should have script immunity. In his opinion, PCs should never die. (This is particularly odd, because he DMs a game, and PCs have died in his game.) I've told him, straight out, that's not the kind of game I will ever be interested in running, and he's chosen to keep playing.

Another player has said to me, on more than one occasion, "I just don't see why my character would stay with this group." As a general statement, I've got no problem with that, but in discussing it he seemed to be surprised that my viewpoint was, "It's your PC. If you want him to stay, you can invent a reason." As far as I know, he's still struggling with it, whether it's the concept that he can shape the PC's motivations, some difficulty in executing that concept, or a nebulous desire to simply not play the PC any longer.

Anyway, keep the comments coming, folks. I'll share interesting stuff that arises from my group's email discussion, if anybody takes me up on it.
 

Mark

CreativeMountainGames.com
In the games my group plays, death is always just around the next corner. I think the game would lose a lot of its excitement if death was not a real possibility. Stuff gets stolen, lost, destroyed regularly enough, too.
 

This is a really good point, and one that I don't see brought up often.

What's a white dragon's alignment again? And why would the PCs believe that it would keep its word?

D&D is described as a game where the vast majority of HP represent luck. Metagaming aside, who is to say that dragon wasn't almost out of luck? Smaug was killed by a single arrow.

Also, you said that the dragon scoured the area such that a true ressurection would be required. I am frankly not sure how a white dragon would accomplish that. Its breath, frost, freezes and preserves tissue, rather than destroying it. Its claws are certainly too large to pick up tiny bits of flesh, and Ressurection only requires a tiny part of the body to work. You could make a case that someone could be Ressurected from a drop of blood, actually.

I think you should have stopped short of the whole 'True Ressurection Required' thing. It strikes me as a means for you to 'punish' your players for not behaving the way you wanted.

Ken


How about: players are being entirely rational, and understand that there is no reason for NPCs to not take both their PC's money and their lives once they disarm (and every reason to take both). PCs live in a hyper-violent world where people DON'T think twice about killing someone, and leaving your foes alive just comes back to haunt you later on. Under those circumstances, disarming just makes life easier for your foe.

It takes meta-gaming for surrender to make sense (at the PC level) in most DnD worlds. If you want your players to have their PCs surrender, make the meta-gaming clear. If you want your players to have their PCs accept surrender, make it clear that defeated NPCs will not try to return and extract revenge.
 

Spatula

Explorer
How about: players are being entirely rational, and understand that there is no reason for NPCs to not take both their PC's money and their lives once they disarm (and every reason to take both).
This doesn't make any sense in the situation as described. The PCs' items weren't helping them to survive the fight in the first place; the dragon doesn't need to take the items from them to kill them. And once it kills them, it gets the items anyway.

What's a white dragon's alignment again? And why would the PCs believe that it would keep its word?
Probably evil, but creatures in Eberron don't necessarily follow the alignment guidelines. In the given situation, it doesn't seem like they have a choice of disbelieving the dragon - "Give me your stuff and live, or you die and I still get your stuff," from a foe who obviously has the power to back up the threat.

I think mmu1's rationale is probably spot-on. This was an instinctive buck against the perceived railroad.

Also, you said that the dragon scoured the area such that a true ressurection would be required. I am frankly not sure how a white dragon would accomplish that.
Eat the bodies, cleaning cantrips, gust of wind? 3e dragons are spellcasters and have spell-like abilities on top of that.
 

LostSoul

Adventurer
It's often the rational choice.

You're playing a less effective character if you lose all your stuff.

You're playing a more effective character if you create a new one with level-appropriate stuff, even if that character is a level lower.

Exploder Wizard is probably right about the solution - broaden the character's influence on the campaign world. Those sorts of resources can't be replaced with another PC.
 

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