Thread: Deathwish

  1. #1


    Most roleplaying games involves "the risk of dying". I put that in quotation marks because if something goes south for a character "in an unfair way", most GMs will start fudging die rolls to avoid "an unpleasant experience" for the player.
    This bring us to the question: Is the risk of death actually something that the player wants, or just that he feels that he wants?
    Action movies depict combat in really dramatic ways, where the protagonist faces opponents equal to his level, and not creatures tailored to be beatable at his level. When you employ the latter, is it really action, or is it a slaughter fest? Are the characters really heroes, or just executioners feeling heroic, while carrying potions of healing and ressurrection?

    This is why I want to stay clear of combat in my games. Besides the gambling aspect (which I've avoided talking about here) it's just an undeserved ego-boost. It's XP farming. Surely there are more actually exciting ways to roleplay, aside from feeling that your very life is being threatened. You can't approach the brink of death, while at the same time not being prepared to die.

    I feel this to be true in computer games as well: Dying isn't really dying, unless the game specifically "features permadeath". ...because the player wants to feel like they may die, but they're not willing to actually die. They want to feel like they're badass, but they never really had to deal with the consequences of it, so how badass are they really? take my advice, at least in campaigns outside of Paranoia: Have the characters do other things than fight. Come up with exciting dramas, scenarios and consequences, that doesn't involve weapons and mortal peril.

    That's my opinion. I never said that it was a popular opinion, but it exists none the less.

  2. #2
    SirGraystone's Avatar
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    There's many way to run games, most of them are good as long as DM and players agree on how to run their game. Some prefer more combat, some less or none at all. For my own, there's no XP farming in my game since I don't give XP. While I don't go out my way to kill character it does happen, I have an unlucky player who last 3 characters this year. If the characters are heroes or executioners usually depend of the players choice on why they fight, I had group killing any monsters in sight, otherss who did their best to use diplomacy first and violence only as a last choice.

    In the end it all depend of the kind of game you and your players want.

  3. #3
    Most players these days (if ever) don't want to be railroaded entirely by their DMs sense of propriety. This is true despite any DMs longing for the contrary.

    Rolling dice gives an element of taking understood risks. The risk of death, even if the ramifications of death are not real life equivalent, add to the tension.

    Your well-understood commentary about players doing others besides fighting is spot-on, however.

  4. #4
    "Have the characters do other things than fight" that sounds a bit like railroading in my opinion. So what if they always choose to fight? Do you not allow it?
    I kinda always thought the DM narrates the "players" game with plausable outcomes/consequences within the "world" they are in. If my players are having fun then I win.
    Glad this just opinions...your fun is not wrong. So have fun.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Beemanpat View Post
    "Have the characters do other things than fight" that sounds a bit like railroading in my opinion. So what if they always choose to fight? Do you not allow it?
    I kinda always thought the DM narrates the "players" game with plausable outcomes/consequences within the "world" they are in. If my players are having fun then I win.
    Glad this just opinions...your fun is not wrong. So have fun.
    The GM has lots of "railroad" control in what scenario he constructs:
    - He could make a wartribe of orcs kidnap a fair maiden and bring her to their cave outside of town. This would involve no options of diplomacy.
    - He could make a merchant guild hire them to figure out which one of them has been stealing from their treasury. This would involve no options of violence.

    Especially in modern settings, law enforcement will make violent options an often dangerous and ill-advisable matter. Players may still restort to these things, but that's only on the fault of the GM. If the GM has contructed the scenario so that it offers a peaceful solution, then players will often choose to take it. ...and if they don't, it's no longer "unfair" if they die in combat.

    There's also some "railroading" involved in telling the players what sort of game you'll be playing as they join the game. Once the player has already rolled up his barbarian warror (according to his expectations of the setting) playing a non-violent scenario will not make him happy, and vice versa. You dictate this before the players even sign up for your game, so that only players who consider non-violence to be fun, sign up. That's how you get players to have non-violent fun.

    However, I argue that violence is only fun when it happens to other people. There are plenty of tricks at play to make an unfair fight seem fair, the last option being to secretly fudge dice, or have a healer being able to raise the dead in the nearby town, essentially making them invincible. I often watch videogame LPs of very unskilled players, just to expose just how easy it is for them to beat all those games that I took pride in having beaten, because all those snarling visages with teeth, actually just amounts to clicking a bit with the mouse, and they're gone. It's the winning that is fun - the illusion of winning big.

    Violent scenarios are actually also very railroady by comparison:
    - The antagonists need to be unreasonable. You can't convince them to just hand over what you want.
    - The antagonists will typically be cartoonishly power-mad villains who laughs in the face of danger, with no thought of retreat or surrender.
    - They need to be in a location secluded from law enforcement, or their lives have to be considered forfeit.
    - They often need to threaten the very lives of one or more people.

    There's a reason why most people, even in medieval times, don't walk around armored or armed inside a city: They can manage their problems just fine without taking to violence. Hiring mercenaries like a typical party, will be such a rare solution that it will take a world filled with various greedy, hostile monsters, to even make it seem plausible, and/or some very elaborate plot setup.

  6. #6
    LordEntrails's Avatar
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    To me it's not about the risk of dying, or not. It's about a sense of accomplishment. The players through their input and decisions need/want to feel that they have accomplished something that would not have happened if they were not there (why decisions and player agency are important).

    I have yet to personally achieve a sense of accomplishment for something I did not feel their was a consequence for. i.e. if I can't fail/lose/not win, then did I really succeed/win/not lose? In some games this might be character death, but it doesn't have to be. It might be the prince not being rescued and being turned into a goat, it might be the fall of the elven kingdom, it might be a character dying.

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