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Badly-Planned Encounters: Is There No Escape?

December 8, 2013


So I’m running a side campaign of Pathfinder for my wife and I. We’re having fun with it and it’s something to do to scratch that roleplaying itch when we can’t play with the rest of our group. This last session something bad happened…and, as GM, it was entirely my fault.

You see, I planned this encounter for her and her NPC companion. It was meant to be challenging, but survivable–a little side-trip from the main adventure to allow them to get a little bit of advancement. It nearly turned into a TPK*.

The player made no bad decisions to place herself at death’s very door. The dice were falling as they will, sometimes in her favor and sometimes not. But the encounter was clearly too much for them. The baddies were entirely too powerful. No matter how well the dice would have rolled, the PC was probably going to die.

This falls on me 100% as the gamemaster. I should have planned better. I should have known.

So what did I do? My number one rule as a gamemaster is that the game should be fun but fair. But I felt like this party-killing encounter was not the PCs fault and, frankly, it was only supposed to be a diversion from the main story. Nothing major was at stake here other than the party’s survival.

I gave the PCs every possible benefit. And I may have fudged a few hits here and there.

But they lived to fight another day. Possibly to die later. But not today. Not when the stakes didn’t matter.

Am I a bad GM?

Maybe. I don’t know.

It’s not as if I’m a GM that lets the PCs win every battle and gives them Monty Haul dungeons. And, when the stakes matter, I let the dice fall where they may. I want the PCs to have a good time and want the story to matter. I want there to be real danger and consequences for failure.

But I don’t want to kill off a campaign based on bad judgment on my part. When I paint the PCs into a deadly corner and give them no way out, that’s not fun. That’s not fair. And, as GM, I feel like I should try to mitigate that as much as possible.

What would you have done behind my screens?

* TPK = Total Party Kill

From → Ramblings

One Comment
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