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Author Topic: TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?  (Read 4318 times)

Jamfke

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« on: April 30, 2020, 01:21:31 PM »
Working up some rules for my OSR sci-fi game and writing up the entry for Astronavigation. Failure puts the ship off course by 1d10 lightyears. Failure with a roll of 95-99% puts the starship in imminent danger (comes out in an asteroid field, or just inside the atmosphere of a planet, etc). I've chosen to make a fail with 100% indicates that the starship comes out of hyper and collides with something, taking serious damage, or they phase back into real space within an object (an asteroid, another vessel, a planet, etc.), killing everyone inside.

Would this be too much for most gamers in the modern world? TPKs through combat with a superior force is one thing, but being due to the failure of a skill check by one player could be devastating for some folks, maybe. Thoughts?
Thanks,
James F Keck
Keck Publishing
4C or Not 4C? The real question is why not 4C Expanded? PWYW now at DriveThruRPG

oggsmash

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2020, 01:28:00 PM »
I would not do it, unless I gave grave warning as to what the consequences of a check could have..even then I would not kill the group, crashed, marooned, having to salvage a space hulk for repairs, etc.  I try not to let something that big come down to a skill roll that seems to be a basic part of transportation.   I have no issue killing a party when the risks are high, they are stupid, or are doing something brave, because it is only brave if you can die trying it.  What you describe seems like killing the A-Team because BA Baracus made a left turn across traffic with a red light because he was arguing with the crazy guy.

Crawford Tillinghast

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2020, 01:41:26 PM »
No.
Going out into space to have adventures is fun.  Designing a character, going out into space, and dying at random in the beginning is only an adventure in frustration.

A 100% is a chance to burn fate points, make extraordinary rolls, or maybe die in a glorious sacrifice.  "Everyone man the lifeboats!  I'll stay here!  Somebody has to keep the hull together long enough for the rest to escape!"

(This from someone who actually enjoyed the original Traveller chargen sub game).

robiswrong

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2020, 01:56:21 PM »
Quote from: Jamfke;1128357
Working up some rules for my OSR sci-fi game and writing up the entry for Astronavigation. Failure puts the ship off course by 1d10 lightyears. Failure with a roll of 95-99% puts the starship in imminent danger (comes out in an asteroid field, or just inside the atmosphere of a planet, etc). I've chosen to make a fail with 100% indicates that the starship comes out of hyper and collides with something, taking serious damage, or they phase back into real space within an object (an asteroid, another vessel, a planet, etc.), killing everyone inside.

Would this be too much for most gamers in the modern world? TPKs through combat with a superior force is one thing, but being due to the failure of a skill check by one player could be devastating for some folks, maybe. Thoughts?

I wouldn't, especially if they're expected to do so as part of normal gameplay.

Teleportation had a death percentage in D&D, true.  But that was because it was a shortcut and an escape clause.  The death percentage kept it from being abused trivially - you couldn't just go "oh, it doesn't matter if we get into a tough spot, we'll just teleport out" or "oh, we'll just teleport down there".  It was available as a last resort, and could be used if you thought the overall odds were better than of surviving the trip to where you were going, but it wasn't a freebie.

If the only way to get from planet to planet is Astronavigation, then basically having a 1% chance of dying every session isn't very good design.  I'd think about the overall structure of the game (what do players spend time doing?) and not put up artificial barriers to getting to the gameplay.  If gameplay is "each session, go to a planet, explore around, and then go back" (the space equivalent of a dungeon crawl) then having a percentage chance of just nuking the session when there's no way to avoid it isn't fun.

If Astronavigation is something that the players can choose to do, then it's fine for it to have more risk.

If I wanted something like that, I'd probably allow the Astronavigation roll to determine basic range that you can safely pilot, as well as extended range.  Traveling within basic range is safe and not an issue, and no roll is required.  Traveling outside of that range has whatever failure chances you want (though I'd still avoid the TPK on this one).

In this case the tradeoff would be that you can either do one big jump with an incurred risk, or several smaller jumps, which could have whatever complications are associated with refueling/etc.  That makes it more of an interesting choice and less "roll every time to see if we end the campaign".

Also, I'd keep in mind that it's generally better to have negative consequences for bad decisions rather than bad rolls.  (Though, to be clear, choosing to engage in a mechanic that can have a bad roll is a decision, if it's actually a decision.   Llike, if you play Russian Roulette, that's a decision even if the roll ends up being the thing that kills you).
« Last Edit: April 30, 2020, 02:03:56 PM by robiswrong »

Omega

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2020, 02:11:49 PM »
Quote from: Jamfke;1128357
Would this be too much for most gamers in the modern world?

This is too much for gamers in any world outside Paranoia and Crushed. Something where a slip up kills the player that slipped up, with possible collateral damage to bystanders. Is acceptable. You take the risk knowing theres a chance for a bad outcome. But something where one players slip-up kills everyone just for travelling? That is a bit far.

Sure there are players who want that sort of death world. But not many else will get on board. It would be like every time the party sets out to travel by train there is a chance for a train wreck that instantly kills the whole group. Does that sound fun? And I can tell you from experience that a 1% chance is not all that rare if it comes up fairly often. Or even if it does not! RNG will see to it that everyone gets offed ASAP. And if that chance is for every space trip then it is going to happen.

Instead consider something bad. But not a campaign, and likely game, ender. The ship ends up intersecting something. But the crew, or at least the PCs are alive and can try to salvage some sort of rescue, escape, whatever.

This is actually the basis for on of the original Albedo adventures. A ship is sent to check on missing vessels and on arrival in system is promptly attacked by an unknown ship which leaves the PCs ship crippled and without main power, the bridge crew dead and most of the officers dead or severely injured. The remaining crew, including the PCs, find themselves drifting near the remnants of a prior space battle. Supplies are low as is power so the crews going to have to use whatever means they can think of to maneuver closer and scour the wrecks to find supplies and parts to save themselves. Failure means they all die. And this is the introductory adventure!

Think about situations like that. The ship is crippled and things look dire. But there is still a chance, however slim, to make it.

insubordinate polyhedral

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2020, 02:19:00 PM »
Quote from: Jamfke;1128357
I've chosen to make a fail with 100% indicates that the starship comes out of hyper and collides with something, taking serious damage, or they phase back into real space within an object (an asteroid, another vessel, a planet, etc.), killing everyone inside.


Quote from: oggsmash;1128359
I would not do it, unless I gave grave warning as to what the consequences of a check could have..even then I would not kill the group, crashed, marooned, having to salvage a space hulk for repairs, etc.  I try not to let something that big come down to a skill roll that seems to be a basic part of transportation.   I have no issue killing a party when the risks are high, they are stupid, or are doing something brave, because it is only brave if you can die trying it.


Mostly +1 to this. Even if you have a party on board with the "space is dangerous" idea, it's probably more fun overall to have the cataclysmic event offer an opportunity to respond. It's certainly a viable middle road between 1 mistake TPK and plot armor. Maybe they do collide, or crash, and now are in a race against the clock to contain the damage and stabilize life support using the party's skills, creative thinking, and agency. Apollo 13 instead of immediate obliteration. They might still die, but they get a chance to respond.

Quote from: oggsmash;1128359
What you describe seems like killing the A-Team because BA Baracus made a left turn across traffic with a red light because he was arguing with the crazy guy.


LOL :D Extending this analogy, maybe the van goes into a spin, BA has to pass some drive checks to keep it from colliding and Hannibal has to do some quick thinking to improvise tourniquets and stabilize the team.

Jamfke

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2020, 02:29:02 PM »
Yeah, I was thinking that this would be too drastic as I was writing it. I'm going to include that properly plotting a course takes 3 full rounds to perform. As long as nothing dramatic is happening, they won't even need to roll. If the ship is under attack and needs to jump before the allotted time, then the 1% fail rule comes into play. I'm removing the TPK from the botched roll, but collisions with objects is still on the table with potential for the death of a character to be determined by what and where, and how much damage the ship takes upon impact and whether the characters are in or near the area.

BTW, has anyone ever done up an A-Team themed rpg?
Thanks,
James F Keck
Keck Publishing
4C or Not 4C? The real question is why not 4C Expanded? PWYW now at DriveThruRPG

lordmalachdrim

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2020, 04:23:40 PM »
These days yeah you'd get dumped on for having something like that in the game. Personally I know my group would just shrug and start making new characters. After all shit happens.

oggsmash

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2020, 06:34:07 PM »
Quote from: Jamfke;1128379
Yeah, I was thinking that this would be too drastic as I was writing it. I'm going to include that properly plotting a course takes 3 full rounds to perform. As long as nothing dramatic is happening, they won't even need to roll. If the ship is under attack and needs to jump before the allotted time, then the 1% fail rule comes into play. I'm removing the TPK from the botched roll, but collisions with objects is still on the table with potential for the death of a character to be determined by what and where, and how much damage the ship takes upon impact and whether the characters are in or near the area.

BTW, has anyone ever done up an A-Team themed rpg?

   I think you mean has anyone done any rpgs that are not A Team themed.  They are literally a balanced party of 4 adventurers moving from quest to quest.  I say there are no A team themed rpgs, because the show A team was literally a show based on RPGs.

Ghostmaker

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2020, 06:47:02 PM »
Strikes me as unusually harsh unless the PCs have made a series of bad decisions (for example, they've strapped Erin Palette's Turbo-Encabulator to their ship and aren't letting the doctor run it).

Then, of course, feel free to put on the spiked strap-on (figuratively speaking).

Spinachcat

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2020, 06:48:11 PM »
I've run Traveller for decades.
I've had campaigns get vaporized because of a bad astronavigation roll.
It's fucking awesome.

If you're not familiar, Traveller uses jump technology. If you take lots of prep time and make sure you are jumping far away from any stellar bodies, your chance of a misjump is very low...but not zero. A misjump isn't auto death because there's the random chance you'll pop out somewhere okay. Also, if you conserve fuel and do smaller jumps, your journey takes longer, but you retain the ability to have a second jump instead of being left for dead in an empty region of space.

However...that's not how space adventurer's roll. Instead of careful navigation, they hit the jump drive while being chased by angry pirates or patrol ships while waaaaay to close to the planet. And who wants to spend money on jump drive maintenance when you can instead buy powered armor and plasma guns? And does anyone really want to waste precious skill points on Nav-3 when its way more fun to get SMG-3 so you can shoot more bad guys?

So those misjump moments are a truly gorgeous shock to the system that drives home the wretched horror of the universe. It's a very big, very empty, very dangerous place...and nobody's luck holds out forever.

It's one of the reasons I love running Salvage Crews as one shot adventurers where they find ships which misjumped. It's sobering to find a floating tomb.

Darrin Kelley

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2020, 07:02:46 PM »
Total Party Kills tend to be the opposite of fun. Something a GM should avoid at all costs.
 

Shasarak

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2020, 10:58:39 PM »
This reminds me of a story from a friend's campaign. One person got his hands on an Old School Wish and said something along the lines of "I wish we had not done that" so the DM rolled the game back to the start of the campaign.
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Simlasa

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2020, 11:51:09 PM »
Quote from: Darrin Kelley;1128406
Total Party Kills tend to be the opposite of fun. Something a GM should avoid at all costs.
As a Player, I'd disagree rather strongly. Not that I want TPK every session... or anything close. But the number of TPKs I've experienced can be counted on one and a half hands... and every one of them was some combination of hilarious/awesome/horrifying. All of them were memorable and still get talked about.
A GM who will never allow for such a possibility is someone I don't want to game with.

Omega

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TPK for One Character's Mistake Too Much?
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2020, 05:15:16 AM »
Same here. TPKs should not be just totally removed. Then theres no real risk.