After having only 3 sessions and already having two characters roll Last Breath (although the first one did make a…

After having only 3 sessions and already having two characters roll Last Breath (although the first one did make a…

After having only 3 sessions and already having two characters roll Last Breath (although the first one did make a rather stupid decision) i’m starting to worry that i’m making the world too tough for my players.

The first “Death” (Even though he rolled a 7-9) came about when the Ranger, during a lull in the fighting against an overwhelming number of cultists, decided to take advantage of the quiet by launching an arrow at one particular Sorcerer-Shaman-guy. This was responded with a Fireball, which the ranger promptly failed a DD to avoid, removing his last remaining hitpoint.

The second death, however, i take most of the blame for. She rolled an 11 on Last Breath, so it all worked out in the end, but afterwards she said she was frustrated out how things played out. Her (Cleric) and the Thief were fighting some Specters in the Priesthold underneath the temple (the same temple of the cultists from earlier) and she rolled a 7-9 a hack-n-slash. Not wanting to just keep hitting her for damage, i decided to Use the environment against them and use an effect of the Cult. The “divine” being Globner, Demigod of Blood, i had the Specter’s final act create an effect where she felt a certain bloodlust and wanted to attack the nearest thing. Then the Thief charged at the Specter, failed the attack, received the same effect, and tumbled into her. I told her that she felt the urge to try to murder him, and so she asked if she could supress it. “Finally” i thought to myself “I can have someone defy danger with WIS!” and so she did. She rolled an 8. I gave her a worse outcome, which is that the effect was slow to leave her, so she still must attack the thief this once. She failed. The thief dealt his damage back (being under the same bloodlust effect, we felt it made sense) and it was enough to drop her.

In hindsight, i suppose everything i did was in my moves and made sense from a rules perspective, but I worry that i have made the world too tough on a party that consists of a Ranger (Who is about to multiclass into Cleric, worshiping Death himself so cool!), a Thief, and a Cleric.

Any suggestions?

9 thoughts on “After having only 3 sessions and already having two characters roll Last Breath (although the first one did make a…”

  1. Your player directly told you she was frustrated with how things played out. Ask her why she felt that way and listen to her. From my perspective, you made appropriate moves at appropriate times, and things seemed to make sense given the fiction.

    But my perspective doesn’t matter as I’m not a player in your game. Ask your players how they feel about the lethality of the game and adjust as necessary.

  2. You got to be careful with controlling players effects, those can be really frustrating. I would of asked her, is it ok for this to happen before doing it to get by in.

  3. I agree with the others. But here’s two points:

    1. People get frustrated when they don’t have enough info to make good choices. Were they both aware of the consequences of their actions? Did you “tell the consequences and ask”? “Ranger, the guy looks like he knows his way around magic. You’re probably not safe even this far away. Still wanna do it?”

    2. I don’t like “urges” and mind control stuff like that. It takes choice away.

  4. Also remember that one of your principles is to be a fan of the characters. Are you giving them moments to be awesome or simply wearing them down through challenges?

    As a GM, I avoid taking away player agency because it’s extremely punishing. Whatever happens while you are controlling the character, they have to deal with the fallout, which might be huge. Also while you’re doing that, the player gets to make no choices which means that they’re not actually playing any longer. It feels frustrating.

  5. The only thing I would be frustrated about here is losing control of the character. Those kinds of effects are really, really difficult to pull off. Most of the successful ones I’ve seen use the framework:

    10+: You shrug it off

    7-9: The GM tells you to do something; mark XP if you do it

    6-: You come to in [amount of time]; the GM will tell you what happened

  6. I would also lead more with soft moves that foreshadow the hard move. So instead of having the mind control happen to her, on the mixed result first, instead have the blood lust affect someone else (hireling? another cult member?) to let the players know what they might be dealing with and, possibly, come up with fictional ways to potentially deal with it.

    Just an idea.

  7. From what you present here, it doesn’t sound like you went too heavy-handed against the players, but i would echo some of the advice here, generally.

    For me as a player, loosing my agency over my own PC is pretty frustrating. Specifically in response to how you handled the Cleric, it may have gone better if instead of demanding she attack the nearest thing, which was her ally, you told her she was feeling an overwhelming blood lust well up from within her; and it scares and tantalizes her. “What do you do?” – let her narrate how she responds to the need to swim in blood.

    And when she succeeded on a 7-9, you are called to add complications, but you always need to treat a 7-9 as fundamentally a success. When what she was attempting to do was fight off a compulsion to attack the thief, “Okay.. you only have to attack them once!” is not fundamentally a success. A worse outcome might have been to have her mark the condition “confused’ as she struggles against the bloodlust, and that could affect her until she fully shakes off the effect of the demigod of blood. Or perhaps her deity admonishes her weakness and demands she kill the demigod in the deity’s honor. Examples like these let her succeed at what she wanted, but not without costs that spin the momentum in the new direction.

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