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(We play Death Watch, but that is not central to my question.)

My idea is that the players enter a sentient dungeon that wants them to conquer it and is actively helping them by keeping them alive.

The party is on a timer, and as long as the timer has not expired, the dungeon will "Groundhog Day" them if they make a fatal mistake--such as a TPK or close to it, a vital NPC kill, or a wrong use of perishable items. The players and characters are aware of the timer.

I want this at a cost, though, so when the party is groundhogged, they each draw from a deck of cards. Each card has a penalty, such as -3% to a stat, -5% from a type of roll, or removal of ability (e.g., cannot run or use certain weapons.) or just a blank card so no effect.

I was thinking to have these be cumulative, so if they groundhog a lot, they get weaker, but it takes a lot to make a serious difference.

The idea was that they could fail by 1 on some rolls and think, "oh if only we had not groundhogged that time, I would have got that," and they can slowly discover how to use the groundhog system to their advantage.

Does anyone have experience of a similar system, or advice on how to change it to make it more workable? Does anyone have any guess as the the number of each card that should be included in the groundhog deck ?

EDIT: The dungeon is tied into the groundhog mechanic such as puzzles that can be solved multiple ways giving a key to different door depending on how it was solved.

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@jadasc, beat me to the edit! –  Joshua Aslan Smith Apr 24 '13 at 14:15
    
I think I might use this concept as part of a devastating dungeon I am trying to build. –  RMDan Apr 24 '13 at 15:26
    
re: your EDIT, if I understand correctly, you seem to be saying that you plan to both penalize the players for "groundhogging" and make groundhogging essential to completing the dungeon. That seems a bit unfair - "You must do X!" and "I'm going to punish you if you do X." don't mix very well. (Unless it's a certain type of BDSM scenario, but I don't think we're talking about that kind of roleplaying here...) –  Dave Sherohman Apr 25 '13 at 10:57
    
@DAVE the idea is i dont want the to decide death has no meaning, they need to still fear death even though they are imortal –  Skeith Apr 25 '13 at 14:38
    
Yep, I got your intention. But my impression of the edit is that they will not be able to complete the dungeon without dying at least a certain number of times so that they can follow each of the paths opened by the alternate solutions. If I were a player in that game, I would not be happy about being assessed penalties for doing something which is, by design, mandatory. I could accept penalties for PC deaths if it was possible to complete the dungeon without dying, but making it mandatory to die changes that dynamic substantially. –  Dave Sherohman Apr 26 '13 at 11:10

3 Answers 3

I guess your trying to balance PC knowledge of the dungeon gained through each attempt with some kind of debilitating effect?

I honestly feel that this will not work as you've written because players will make too many mistakes and end up terribly crippled (and prone to failing) as they progress. Likewise, players constantly replaying the same sections of dungeon with no change gets very tedious.

D&D fourthcore adventures which are modeled like the old convention dungeon crawls of yore works on the premise that player can die and make horrible mistakes, but they also comeback a limited number of times with the party. These revivals affect the party's end score negatively and thus players still have incentive to play smart.

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I would asume that after the first few times they would ask if that can assume the did the same actions up till point x which i would be happy doing. –  Skeith Apr 24 '13 at 14:32
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@Skeith than why have them pulled back in time at all? You're basically then giving out additional penalties for failure, which I think is in general a bad move for RPGs. Its a really sure way to create overly cautious players who spend hours tapping everything with 10 foot poles and hire street urchins and other vagabonds for 1 copper to walk ahead of them in dungeons and trigger traps. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Apr 24 '13 at 14:36

It honestly sounds like a “lose-more” mechanic. I’m not familiar with Death Watch, so I don’t know how bad or not a −2 to a stat is, but in d20 System games that I’m more familiar with, that would be very damaging; after two or three “Groundhogs,’” you’d be very unlikely to be able to complete the dungeon, assuming it was designed from the beginning to be taken on by people with normal stats.

If your players are up to it (i.e. able to roleplay it well), I’d try to make it more of a roleplaying thing: lost memories, haunting dreams or even hallucinations – stuff without mechanical impact but that drives home how unnatural this is or whatever. In other words, you should seek to punish the character for messing up, but not the player.

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my plauers average stat is 60 ish before modifiers, its a D100 system. there is little roleplay, am hoping to introduce more using this system –  Skeith Apr 24 '13 at 15:23
    
@Skeith Well, that's a lot different; I think you should add that into the question. Or just to say something like "reduced by about 3%" (which is 2/60) if you want to avoid system-specific details. –  KRyan Apr 24 '13 at 15:26

An idea to extend your current concept: Every time they 'Groundhog' they also gain insight along with the penalty. It would be something they could find out naturally, either from prior research of the dungeon or a clue hidden in the room, but in turn this would help offset the negative effects.

Also if you do such a thing, have check points where the dungeon will allow the party to shed any ill effects for a price. This cost could be time off the timer, gold, or something else. The party would keep any knowledge it gained regardless to if they purified themselves.

Check points could also be used as respawn locations. This way they would not need to retrace their steps each time.

While the concept you pitched is interesting, there is a lot that could be done before it is ready for play tests.

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