retreat? not really

My players still have to perfect the notion of backing off when things turn sour. By “perfect” I mean “realize it exists as an option and not only is doable but oftentime necessary”: they just go forward like badasses, plowing into whathever is between them and what they’re looking for.

Actually they just hate losing PCs and oftentimes behave in case of loss (“ah, I’m dead so I’ll just roll another crappy PC so i can ruin your game because your game sucks nag nag nag”) in a way that is quite lame. I’m the first to take the blame as, for a number of reasons, in the big d20 campaign I’ve run for them a raise dead was just a big bag of gold away. But the GM that ran games for them after I stopped was much worse in this respect (every encounter was against a Mary Sue, thus nonsensically deadly, unless the GM decided the plot was ripe for a given Mary to be killed by our heroes).

Anyway, last thursday 2 retainers and 1 companion (it’s a PC’s “favourite” and most trusted retainer) died, and another left because he felt it was getting too risky. This happened because they were in a narrow valley and didn’t want to pay the toll asked by a stone giant. At level four. And when the battle turned really bad, they didn’t try to retreat, parlay, beg, buy their freedom, anything.

And this afternoon, while the whole party backed off after a skirmish with a 10 headed hydra hiding in a thicket, the dwarven fighter decided to charge ahead. Here we go, another fine hero ready for the halls of the Bearded Forefathers.

I’m not really above ringing the TPK bell should they deserve it, but heck if it’s annoying. I guess it’s going to happen soon. The bad part of it as that the above quote is not distant from the truth (can’t remember it exactly but that was the point driven by the nagging player). The problem is that I want to give everybody fun and a nice experience and TPK, unless it’s totally dramatic and cool, is the worst closure ever (still, at times better than no closure at all).

Most probably they didn’t get the fact that encounters are NOT tailored to their level: if dice say “4 stone giants in their lair” and the party goes straight towards it after noticing that actually the lair was a crude fortification across a narrow valley, they deserved what they got.

3 thoughts on “retreat? not really

  1. I think it’s partly because they don’t expect things to NOT be scaled to their level. Recent computer RPG’s don’t help with this. Getting it into there noggins that sometimes things are just too tough for them is important.

    My PC’s in my Rogue Trader game totally get it, but I did set a planet covering city against them. Start with something really big, when it kills them and they ask ‘How were we supposed to beat it?’ say ‘You weren’t, sane people run away.’

    Then maybe give them a campaign fate point or something.

  2. I was getting tired of the same thing in my last campaign, and although i agree that computer RPGs may have something to do with player expectations, I think a second factor in my group was that after 20yrs or so of 1stEd, we needed -or at least I know I needed- something totally new and unfamiliar.. and then I discovered the D&D blogoshpere… For some reason, a relatively mild monster of my own or from someone’s blog, or something entirely unfamilar like Mutations, scares the crap out of them in a way that more powerful, more familiar creatures don’t anymore. For the first time in a long time, they’re learning the advantages of retreat, and have found they like the idea of their characters surviving because of it!

    • A good solution to this problem might be trying a humanocentric campaign. No monsters, just humans around. Or adding the equivalent of d20 templates of prestige classes to monsters. Or a plausible solution for custom powers, like mutations. Good luck to your players then 🙂

      Anyway you might want to try my monster generator 🙂

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