On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

FAQ | Search | Register | Login
View unanswered posts | View active topics | View your posts
Want to talk, specifically, about RPGs? Then post it here. Questions, comments, and views are all welcomed.

On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby shortymonster » 9:07am on 09 Apr 13

So, the current situation is thus: PCs have uncovered something a bit suspect about their boss, a Democratic hopeful to be the presidential nominee. Nothing too bad, but extra-marital affairs with hookers are far from good. What they don't know - because they missed more than one opportunity to dig deeper into the story, is that a couple of the girls have died/gone missing. So, they let their boss know what they've found, and he assumes they know everything, and are about to blackmail him. A reasonable assumption all things considered.

he arranges the meeting, but has every intention of just killing them before it gets out. The players get a warning about this in the form of a quite cryptic note. Cryptic to protect the person who sent the note and allow them deniability. They choose to ignore the note, and turn up to the meeting totally unarmed, where four secret service men are waiting for them with guns.

Now, they had a warning, and chose to ignore it, so what happens is on them. But, the person who sent the note has a vested interest in keeping them alive, and could be in a position to act. I don't want to just jump in there and pull their arses from the fire in a Deux Ex Machina kind of way, but I also don't want the game to be totally derailed by 66% of the characters perishing in a hail of gunfire. ##What would you guys do? Or have you any similar stories I can take some cues from?
Check out my blog, it's about gaming
shortymonster
6th-level
Location: Huddersfield
Thanks: 51 given/56 received
Playing: Orbis Terrarum
Planning: Original Deadlands

Re: On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby dpmcalister » 10:04am on 09 Apr 13

I'd give them a chance to escape but if they've missed all the hints (or just plain ignored them) then they have to take the hits (literally perhaps ;)).

Possible get out clause. Deep Throat (for want of a better term ;)) makes an anonymous call to the police about hearing shots being fired a couple of minutes before the PCs are due to arrive. PCs arrive, Secret Service open fire, police arrive - all in the space of a round or two. Secret Service are unlikely to surrender but nor are they likely to kill police officers (I'm presuming they're not bad guys themselves but believe, however unlikely, that the PCs present a clear and present danger). Secret Service shout to police that PCs are terrorists (or what-not). In confusion, PCs have a chance to escape. If they don't take this final opportunity that's their fault :)
My administrator/moderator voice is RED.

UK Role Players Affiliate Schemes: Amazon :: CafePress :: DriveThruRPG :: D&D Classics :: ProFantasy :: RPGNow
Personal Links: Blog :: Flickr :: LinkedIn :: Twitter
dpmcalister has received thanks from the following for this post:
James Mullen, shortymonster
dpmcalister
Administrator
User avatar
Location: The City of the Imp
Thanks: 5244 given/2394 received
Playing: D&D (home), Night's Black Agents (online)
Planning: Seven Hills and ShaCon scenarios

Re: On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby w00hoo » 10:07am on 09 Apr 13

I'm in a similar position, crashed ship near a hostile force. The party have had one of their number kidnapped by the hostiles (who have a vested interest in keeping that character alive) and have had a spy in their midst escape so able to pass on all the defense information about the crashed ship. The remaining members decide the best course of action is to continue to fix the ship, not try and rescue the abducted crew member and ignore any safety precautions (like someone on watch, etc.). The hostile force has slowly been increasing the level of their attacks (and as the crews first act on meeting them was to kill one of them before talking they have no reason to want to try negotiation) and should be at the point where they just attack. I know this is going to wipe the crew out unless they act in a way completely contrary to everything they've been doing. The first wave of this they knocked out one of the crew who was on their own outside the ship (it's cinematic unisystem so basically they killed the character but the player is drama pointing their unexpected survival) and stole some better weapons from the ships locker. I've told the players 'pick the next game' as the final shot across the bows, next session if they don't want to survive then it won't happen.

In your case, it may be the players are deliberately ignoring offered clues (that's what most of this group of mine seem to do) or it may be that they just have decided what is going to happen and are blinkered to the reality.

Options that come to mind are -

As they arrive they spot something out of place - if they are in the know then maybe the company van that the secret service use for wetware clean up parked at the entry of the parking lot, not quite well enough hidden, or some such. And you hit them with 'you know this can only be here if they are expecting to need a rapid response'

There is a mix up in the timings and they arrive in time to see the secret service with obvious guns moving in to ambush positions.

The guy in the know realises they are being klutzes and gives them a much blunter warning (how cryptic was the cryptic clue? Did they decipher it correctly and then ignore it, or was it too much to bother with now?) phone rings, distorted voice, 'WTF are you doing, I tried to warn you, it's a trap, I need you alive...'

The guy in the know realises they are being klutzes and has his own guy set up with a sniper rifle to take out a secret service guy as they arrive, the firefight they are in the middle of is mainly secret service vs sniper but they may take injuries anyway.

Their boss doesn't kill them, he shows them he can, then he threatens blackmail on them (they must have something he can hold over them? Although being PC's possibly not?) and tells them this is how he recruits the people he can really 'trust'.

Someone else turns up at just the wrong moment and gives the PC's their distraction. Nosy cop, lost tourists, janitor, whoever. Just enough time at the right moment that they can run.

Just shoot them all. Seriously, make it a big reveal scene, have the bad guy monologue a bit, offer them some tough choices, if they say 'no' kill them.

I suggested the last one because, and this is one I've learned the hard way, unless your game has been designed to be about fugitives on the run, it's about to take a major diversion the second bullets start flying and possibly in a direction that nobody is really going to enjoy. Think really hard about what your players are going to do when confronted with the fact that everything they thought they were working for is wrong and the status they thought they had has been destroyed. Their world view has taken a major swerve to the left and they aren't in Kansas any more. If this is going to make them dynamic and involved in a great fun game. Then do it. If you are looking at sessions of hiding in coal cellars and refusing to do anything that might draw attention to themselves and general turgid annoyance (and from the set up of your question that might be the case) then don't let it happen. It's dull, unfulfilling and ultimately will be no better than finishing the game now. It may be you aren't running the game they want to be playing, sometimes no matter what you add to the dish, it's already beyond saving.
"I don't want to remember. But if I don't have the memories, nobody will, so I can't forget." - Samantha.
"I think on this one rare occasion the majority of the fault for the confusion probably lies with me." - Omnifray.
w00hoo has received thanks from the following for this post:
Badgers, dpmcalister
w00hoo
King of the Scribblers
User avatar
Location: Maidstone - Kent
Thanks: 2735 given/2773 received
Playing: Torchwood Victorian, Unisystem Post Apoc, G+ TOR
Running: Nothing
Planning: Always SFLRP

Re: On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby shortymonster » 10:18am on 09 Apr 13

The message wasn't so cryptic that they didn't now it was a warning, they just chose to go ahead into the meeting. It was just enough that if it gets found on their bodies, they guy who sent it has plausible deniability.

The aim of the game was that for the final chapter, the players were going to be on the run and in hiding, after figuring out what has happened, and doing their best to bring down the guy who will likely be the next nominee - if not president - depending on how quick they act. I've made sure that throughout the game, it's been made perfectly clear that they have the means to survive without any outside help at all.

the reason they went after the warning is one of the biggest problems I seem to have with the group. The guy who sent is known to them, and arranged them work when they were struggling. He paid them well, and sorted out medical and police insurance for them. He got them promoted and into a nicer apartment. And the player characters just don't trust him in any way, even though he has repeatedly shown himself to have their interests at heart. I could go on about the multitude of things he's done, and the hoops hes jumped through, but they just seem to be happy casting him in the role as shadowy villainous guy, rather than the chap they know to be having extra marital sex while running for high office, and doing so while consorting with a human trafficking ring.

Bloody players...
Check out my blog, it's about gaming
shortymonster
6th-level
Location: Huddersfield
Thanks: 51 given/56 received
Playing: Orbis Terrarum
Planning: Original Deadlands

Re: On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby w00hoo » 10:40am on 09 Apr 13

In that case my temptation would be to have them arrive slightly early and find guy who has been helping them being killed by actual bad guy. NPC's in the crosshairs and everything.

Alternatively maybe this NPC is coming across as too good to be true, players can have a habit of believing nothing good can happen to them so anything good that does must be bad they haven't spotted yet.

Option B, go with their hunch and make him a bad guy too. Have them arrive to overhear him telling the Big Bad how he's tried everything he can to keep these patsies from nosing around too much but they're too dumb for their own good and can't be stopped from interfering (get out some of your GMing frustration on just how vitriolic he is about them) and make it clear that they are being groomed for taking the fall if things get found out. Hopefully it'll be the trigger to run.
"I don't want to remember. But if I don't have the memories, nobody will, so I can't forget." - Samantha.
"I think on this one rare occasion the majority of the fault for the confusion probably lies with me." - Omnifray.
w00hoo has received thanks from the following for this post:
shortymonster
w00hoo
King of the Scribblers
User avatar
Location: Maidstone - Kent
Thanks: 2735 given/2773 received
Playing: Torchwood Victorian, Unisystem Post Apoc, G+ TOR
Running: Nothing
Planning: Always SFLRP

Re: On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby Ishmail » 11:13am on 09 Apr 13

Personally, I take the view that the players actions should result in an adverse consequence. In this case, in order to keep the game alive and value the work the GM may have put into developing an entire campaign based upon this encounter, I would suggest an averse consequence which both embarrasses them by highlighting their naivety and arrogance, and also obligates them to put matters right.

If it were my campaign, I would let them walk right into a trap in order to let someone else save the day by exposing themselves- and therefore compromising their own agenda and personal safety. The NPC that sent the note must have inside information from some source, so I would use that as a way of forcing them to intervene. Some initial ideas that spring to mind are:

1) The NPC is an opposing political candidate who has an informer or colleague inside the diplomatic protection group, and they are forced to turn on the secret service guys in order to save the PC's.
2) The NPC is part of a surveillance operation- either by the host nation or another nations intelligence service- and has evidence of the conspiracy to commit the murder, yet is powerless to call the operation to an end due to political and administrative instruction which condemns the PC's to their fate in order to save a higher purpose (or perhaps another conspiracy). The NPC has a tough moral decision to wrestle with.....
3) The candidates wife intervenes as she is aware of the infidelity but has a agenda of her own.

I would see this as an opportunity for the players to be made to feel incompetent, and obligate them to then assist the NPC and/or his inside contact- either to go on the run and survive after the encounter, or to try and put things right by salvaging an existing operation.... which raises an interesting opportunity to run a campaign or adventure rather like a series of "24" whereby the PC's have to try and keep one step ahead of the investigation being run by the secret service as to what happened to their colleagues, and find a way through the political power-struggle being played out during the election process....
Ishmail
4th-level
Thanks: 1 given/17 received

Re: On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby Al » 7:49pm on 09 Apr 13

Villains love to gloat. Arresting officers make mistakes. Bystanders do helpful and unhelpful things.

Punish the PCs for their controlling presence's heroic idiocy by all means but do it in an exciting way.

As Rich pointed out after one of my Dr Who games, just because I want any PC deaths to be heroic and noble (or non existent) does not mean that the players cannot fail and fail hard.
Alanomics: the less you spend, the more you save.
Al
18th-level
User avatar
Location: Llongborth, Logres
Thanks: 48 given/196 received
Playing: none
Running: Faerie Tales RQ-lite
Planning: none

Re: On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby shortymonster » 9:16am on 10 Apr 13

They managed to survive it. They did so much as one would have liked, almost completely ballsing it up, and t the last moment, one player came up with such an amazing idea it was almost certain to work, then managed to beat the target number by a good four degrees of success. Uber amazing game play followed, and I ended up having one of the most fun night's gaming I've had since the campaign started.

In the end it came down to just letting it pan out, with an ace up my sleeve if needed, and they all did me proud. Thanks everyone for the advice and help, you all got me thinking about the problem in ways that would never have usually occurred to me.
Check out my blog, it's about gaming
shortymonster has received thanks from the following for this post:
w00hoo
shortymonster
6th-level
Location: Huddersfield
Thanks: 51 given/56 received
Playing: Orbis Terrarum
Planning: Original Deadlands

Re: On keeping players alive, in spite of themselves...

Postby MrLloyd » 1:58pm on 10 Apr 13

It's got to be a massive fail forward right? They've failed, but the game needs to move forward...

So maybe they arrive to find a room containing a dead body, and they're in the frame for the murder. This may or may not make sense from the bad guys point of view.

Or decide that they've been dumb enough that they deserve what's coming to them. They'll pay more attention next time.
MrLloyd
8th-level
User avatar
Location: Netherlands
Thanks: 115 given/291 received
Playing: All sorts
Running: DCC
Planning: Feng Shui II, Alas Vegas


Return to Open RPG Discussion



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

The team | Delete all board cookies | All times are UTC