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4/03/2017 11:54 am  #1


Killing Characters in Convention Games

I have returned from Gary Con without a single character death on my hands.  I think most everyone had fun yet no one died!  

I was wondering specifically how other GM's handle character death specifically at Conventions.  I want there to be a healthy sense of fear yet I don't want someone to sit out a large portion of the game as they probably paid good money to travel and have a good time.

Respecting the opinions of the GM's on the board I wanted to gather some insight as to how others handle this!

Thanks,

Morgan


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
 

4/03/2017 12:32 pm  #2


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Given my track record as a player, I think my pc dying is how I have fun ;-)

So long as I don't feel like I screwed another player I don't care if my character dies or not, triply so at a con.

I've only run Circus Maximus at con's. Sure it sucks when your chariot flips and you get trampled as you are getting dragged to victory. However, that's what is possible once you belly up to the bar.

I say don't worry about it and let the characters die where they may. Hell, some might not even leave a corpse behind to lament.


What? Me worry?
 

4/03/2017 12:39 pm  #3


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Have a few NPCs close by or in group to give to a Player whose character die!

 

4/03/2017 1:15 pm  #4


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

I haven't run any convention games in a long time (with a strong likelihood that I won't be running any in the near future) but I never set out as a referee to kill characters, or conversely to not kill them.  Fate (i.e., the dice) decrees who lives and who dies. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/wink.png


"The fear of death, its risk each time, is one of the most stimulating parts of the game. It therefore behooves the referee to include as many mystifying and dangerous areas as is consistent with a reasonable chance for survival." - J. Eric Holmes
 

4/03/2017 6:02 pm  #5


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Caveman wrote:

Have a few NPCs close by or in group to give to a Player whose character die!

I usually have a couple on hand for just that purpose. This generally takes care of the issue.  

In the case of a TPK or several deaths about half the way through is the consensus the dice have decided and the game is over or is there another solution to game on?

I haven't had this happen as yet but am still interested in what others may do.
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
     Thread Starter
 

4/03/2017 6:38 pm  #6


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Morgan,
If you don't, who will (haven't you noticed their numbers swelling unabated)?!
Since the monsters have always been seated at the table, death by a judicious DM is far preferable than a lackluster session (which isn't the remotest of issues for you - your adventures where tight and top notch!).
Have at it with full confidence and full consequences.

gizmomathboy wrote:

...I say don't worry about it and let the characters die where they may. Hell, some might not even leave a corpse behind to lament.

Chariotback weeping angel melee, Handy's trident in wheels, tumbling, dragging...oh, hello kitty...oh, hello void*...must say, probably the most rapid and comical character destruction I've had the pleasure to befall me!
Thanks Joe, quite a blast!

*good thing I'm part night gaunt

edit note: autocorrect keeps wanting to change melee into meld...

Last edited by Monkeydono (4/03/2017 6:42 pm)


...before fatidic silver pools on a auspicious night stood a Hyperborean Xathoqquan priestess; stripping naked like a beast crawling in on all fours in supplication...
 

4/03/2017 6:51 pm  #7


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Monkeydono wrote:

Morgan,
If you don't, who will (haven't you noticed their numbers swelling unabated)?!
Since the monsters have always been seated at the table, death by a judicious DM is far preferable than a lackluster session (which isn't the remotest of issues for you - your adventures where tight and top notch!).
Have at it with full confidence and full consequences.

gizmomathboy wrote:

...I say don't worry about it and let the characters die where they may. Hell, some might not even leave a corpse behind to lament.

Chariotback weeping angel melee, Handy's trident in wheels, tumbling, dragging...oh, hello kitty...oh, hello void...must say, probably the most rapid and comical character destruction I've had the pleasure to befall me!
Thanks Joe, quite a blast!

edit note: autocorrect keeps wanting to change melee into meld...

Perhaps I shouldn't worry about it as solutions are situational. There is a nagging part of my brain that says killing characters won't sell games.... BTW your signature is inspiring!




 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
     Thread Starter
 

4/03/2017 7:17 pm  #8


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

mabon5127 wrote:

I have returned from Gary Con without a single character death on my hands.  I think most everyone had fun yet no one died!

People say great things about your games, so you must be doing something right, deaths or no. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/smile.png


mabon5127 wrote:

I was wondering specifically how other GM's handle character death specifically at Conventions.  I want there to be a healthy sense of fear yet I don't want someone to sit out a large portion of the game as they probably paid good money to travel and have a good time.

Depends on the situation, but it's usually a function of timing. If someone dies in the first half of the time slot, I will offer them another pregen (some people decline because they're comfortable just watching or want the extra time before their next game to grab food or whatever [I've done this myself]). If someone dies very late in the game, usually they're dead and usually they don't care anyway. In the rare case that someone's been a total ass or something and also dies early, I'd be less inclined to offer them another pregen (this hasn't actually happened yet, thankfully). Now, back at my first convention running games (last year's Gary Con), my approach was more hardass (you die anytime, too bad), but then someone got killed early as a result of other people's actions, I didn't offer him another pregen and later felt like it was too harsh. So, I'm a little more understanding of the convention context now (travel, time and money).

My Foolsgrave living dungeon offering's a little different because it's intentionally very deadly and the PCs start as level one, so everyone expects PCs to die and sometimes it happens very fast. In this case, they can either use the same PC sheet (XP and treasure does not transfer) labeled as junior/cousin/brother or roll up a new character entirely if they prefer. I then work them in pretty quickly through some contrivance.


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

4/03/2017 7:46 pm  #9


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Or sometimes, like in Crystal Point, the session is mostly over and the party bangs like mad fiends on a door encased in a crystal substance, charge in, and fail their saves against a radium pistol. *POOF* clouds of dust.

During a normal campaign would we have done that? Not very likely. At a con where we scored a major treasure score, oh hell yes! Especially after we killed the statue that spat black flies at us and I think consumed one of the party.

Go down swinging me hearties when there is nothing left to do.


What? Me worry?
 

4/03/2017 7:47 pm  #10


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

gizmomathboy wrote:

Or sometimes, like in Crystal Point, the session is mostly over and the party bangs like mad fiends on a door encased in a crystal substance, charge in, and fail their saves against a radium pistol. *POOF* clouds of dust.

During a normal campaign would we have done that? Not very likely. At a con where we scored a major treasure score, oh hell yes! Especially after we killed the statue that spat black flies at us and I think consumed one of the party.

Go down swinging me hearties when there is nothing left to do.

Exactly! This is why I love it when gizmo signs up for my games. 


Blackadder23: Insanely long villain soliloquy, then "Your action?"
BORGO'S PLAYER: I shoot him in the face
 

4/04/2017 1:58 am  #11


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

mabon5127 wrote:

...BTW your signature is inspiring!

'Twas from your session deifying Her made manifest the feral-goddess of Inspiration, Devotion, and Breaker of Tools to which my home game PCs may now worship, as they're wont (obviously, right?) to do...

Thanks, for real, though! 'Tis an honor!

Last edited by Monkeydono (4/04/2017 2:04 am)


...before fatidic silver pools on a auspicious night stood a Hyperborean Xathoqquan priestess; stripping naked like a beast crawling in on all fours in supplication...
 

4/04/2017 5:04 am  #12


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

If character death occurs within the first two hours of the session (which is usually about four hours), I will give the player another character to play and work them in. If it's after two hours, dead is dead. In the three games I ran at Gary Con IX, we had a TPK in game #1, two character deaths in game #2, and none in game #3. 


Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea - A Role-Playing Game of Swords, Sorcery, and Weird Fantasy
 

4/04/2017 9:41 am  #13


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

mabon5127 wrote:

There is a nagging part of my brain that says killing characters won't sell games....

That's the same part of the brain that was used to design Third Edition. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/cute.png

(In all seriousness, people playing Old School games surely expect to lose PCs and even to have the occasional TPK. I don't believe they'll feel ripped off.)

Last edited by Blackadder23 (4/04/2017 10:00 am)


"The fear of death, its risk each time, is one of the most stimulating parts of the game. It therefore behooves the referee to include as many mystifying and dangerous areas as is consistent with a reasonable chance for survival." - J. Eric Holmes
 

4/04/2017 10:31 am  #14


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Blackadder23 wrote:

mabon5127 wrote:

There is a nagging part of my brain that says killing characters won't sell games....

That's the same part of the brain that was used to design Third Edition. http://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons/cute.png

(In all seriousness, people playing Old School games surely expect to lose PCs and even to have the occasional TPK. I don't believe they'll feel ripped off.)

Actually frustration with running 3rd got me on the journey to ASSH.  Got to give credit where credit is due!!  

When I run at Gary Con I get the type of crowd you suggest.  At Origins and (now) Gen Con I tend to get people that have not played any Old School Games let alone ASSH.  They pay for each game and are of a different mind set.  I love getting a table of folks that have never heard of ASSH because I do put on my selling shoes to showcase the game.  I probably am easier on them with missteps being a bit less deadly.  Selfishly I want the wave of ASSH to last a long time.

Anyway, Extra PC's seem to be the way to go.  

Thanks,

Morgan
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
     Thread Starter
 

4/05/2017 2:38 pm  #15


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Morgan, this has been on my mind, too. I actually just maundered on about it in another context. Here's the gist: I never really was a part of newer, harder-to-die-in games, I think, having come at all of this from AD&D. But I also had three TPKs in two games I ran at GaryCon, and now I'm kicking through some sort of amorphous wondering whether I was too harsh or provided too-few tools or had unreasonable expectations based on the somehow successful never-say-die-ism of my home-game goony players or just am a d*** and don't know how to show people a fun time at a con.

So I set it up this way: I made pregens for every class in the Player's Manual (including the variants like Death Soldier and Fire Thief) so that there would be a range of choices. For Meal of Oshregaal, I just gave 'em all the standard starter pack from Waif of Boreas (which I used for stats, names, races, descriptions, too).

For Ghost Ship, I gave the same batch of pregens 7000 XP and at least one magic item. I tried to make all of these new or unique or gave the character a few scrolls. Most characters were 3rd level, though thief, assassin, and scout were 4th. I assumed above-average HP rolls for the new levels. I also added spells to spell books.

In both scenarios, I let the players assume a "shadow pack" of replacement PCs waiting outside so that dead characters could be replaced after the encounter ended.

For background: Two PCs in the party in my home game (BigPerm's and Brooklyn Book Worm's) have now had 41 sessions dating back to late 2014 and are really close to 6th level. The other players have had many 1st and 2nd level characters die along the way but the ones that have stuck are now 3rd and 4th level and the party is starting to feel its oats. This progression suits my aesthetic sense, and my players seem happy. But I also get the feeling it's a lot slower than many other people's games.

For the con games, maybe I didn't provide enough for less-experienced players to get wring every last drop of survivor juice out of their characters?

There was basically a TPK worth of attrition (some failed saves, a series of which led to one player's Halifax-sized explosion) on the way down through Ghost Ship. And then there was a full-on TPK when they decided to risk a slippery slope without tying off ropes and slid loudly into a pack of radioactive Viking berserker zombies that would have otherwise been quiescent and easy to surprise. I'm not sure, other than providing higher-level or tougher pregens or loading them with magic items, what I could have done to prevent that one other than just nerfing, which doesn't seem quite in the spirit of things. And no one seemed upset or like s/he was having a bad time . . . but it just got me wondering.

I did offer those players the choice of picking up from that spot with a new pack of characters (from the dwindling stack!) or playing an excellent one-page adventure specifically designed for use after a TPK (http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2015/04/the-isles-of-dead.html). I kept this in my folder and would have run it in a shot if they had opted for that! They chose to bring down the next batch of PCs, though.

So . . . yeah, I mean, I guess I handled these con games by having extras in reserve. These were both self-contained adventure set-ups, though. I don't know how I'd do it in something more open-ended. I think I tend to prep more self-contained things for cons.

I have no idea how you would have handled a TPK or even a few deaths for Night at the Ptarmigan. I'm so generally impressed with your DMing, though, that I just assumed you had a plan!
 

 

4/05/2017 4:00 pm  #16


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

mabon5127 wrote:

Caveman wrote:

Have a few NPCs close by or in group to give to a Player whose character die!

I usually have a couple on hand for just that purpose. This generally takes care of the issue.  

 

Yeah, guess people would do that as a normal way to keep game going...

Well, as it is Hyperborea, instead of killing, take a body part; of course, not the head, leave that to last...

So, explain to Players before start of game, there will be less death, just more mutilations, and possible Con reduction or some other Attribute:

*Create a Chart with random effect..
01-02: Lose left hand. Cannot use 2H weapons.
03-04: Lose Left ear, -1 Cha and -2 listen roll; etc.
05-06 Lose 2 Constitution points and unconscious for 1 hour..
Etc, etc.

 

 

4/05/2017 5:22 pm  #17


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Kill 'Em ALL, and let Gary sort 'em out.

 

Well, as it is Hyperborea, instead of killing, take a body part; of course, not the head, leave that to last...

So, explain to Players before start of game, there will be less death, just more mutilations, and possible Con reduction or some other Attribute:

*Create a Chart with random effect..
01-02: Lose left hand. Cannot use 2H weapons.
03-04: Lose Left ear, -1 Cha and -2 listen roll; etc.
05-06 Lose 2 Constitution points and unconscious for 1 hour..
Etc, etc.

 

I'd probably be down with that...

Last edited by francisca (4/05/2017 5:26 pm)

 

4/05/2017 6:36 pm  #18


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Handy Haversack wrote:

I have no idea how you would have handled a TPK or even a few deaths for Night at the Ptarmigan. I'm so generally impressed with your DMing, though, that I just assumed you had a plan!
 

I had to build in a mulligan system with the memory stones.  If someone gets killed they would set out for the scene then "remember" while reminiscing back at the Ptarmigan that "they didn't get hit that hard" or "that wasn't really poison" etc by using a stone. The final scene is the one where death can be permanent as you are in the present.  

The other scenario "That Which is Old is New Again"  There is one back up from death as the priest you are working for would "Raise Dead" on the returned carcass.  Its a bit of a misnomer as the character is still dead but supercharged to a life like state till the end of the adventure, at which point they crumble away. They do get to finish the adventure however.

Thanks for the input!


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
     Thread Starter
 

4/05/2017 6:40 pm  #19


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

Caveman wrote:

mabon5127 wrote:

Caveman wrote:

Have a few NPCs close by or in group to give to a Player whose character die!

I usually have a couple on hand for just that purpose. This generally takes care of the issue.  

 

Yeah, guess people would do that as a normal way to keep game going...

Well, as it is Hyperborea, instead of killing, take a body part; of course, not the head, leave that to last...

So, explain to Players before start of game, there will be less death, just more mutilations, and possible Con reduction or some other Attribute:

*Create a Chart with random effect..
01-02: Lose left hand. Cannot use 2H weapons.
03-04: Lose Left ear, -1 Cha and -2 listen roll; etc.
05-06 Lose 2 Constitution points and unconscious for 1 hour..
Etc, etc.

 

Actually I like this idea quite a bit!  Trade a mutilation or debilitating effect for permanent death. 
 


“How can I wear the harness of toil
And sweat at the daily round,
While in my soul forever
The drums of Pictdom sound?” 
     Thread Starter
 

4/06/2017 4:51 am  #20


Re: Killing Characters in Convention Games

While I haven't ever run a convention game, I have run 40 years' worth of games, and with respect to AS&SH and my home game: I have no problem killing characters, but I use a more generous (and to me, pulpier) healing rule of all hit points recovered overnight (so death is rare). Complications, on the other hand, such as the critical hits and mutilations are common, though: that way everyone gets to keep playing, but maybe with one fewer eye or hand. For a convention game I think this would be my choice, and probably lead to more epic play.


"An intellect in full control of itself unfortunately must sacrifice that receptivity which distinguishes the primitive mentality. This is an evolutionary step I have, on the whole, been happy to make."
Jack Vance, The Asutra
 

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