I will be running a high-stakes Eclipse Phase game in the coming weeks and I find myself anticipating a severe problem.
The scenario (The Devotees, for any EP players) is based on infiltrating a super violent human-trafficking cartel's asteroid, investigating an existential threat to humanity, dealing with it, and getting off station alive.
While the PCs are entirely capable of accomplishing this task in a variety of ways, it's likely they will fail some task somewhere at some point. Here are a few examples off the top of my head:
- While hacking security, a failure might label them as infiltrators that should be dealt with.
- Failing to lie about their true motivations to a critical NPC could get them slagged.
- Killing an NPC that found them out could put a bounty on their head.
The PCs could definitively handle a few firefights, but not hundreds of armed gang members out for their blood. A completely blown cover seems to mean TPK and not much else.
Considering that the opponents would not hesitate to blow their heads off, how can I ensure the game doesn't end up in an unsatisfying TPK in their cover is blown?
I've thought of a few options that mesh well with the scenario, but I'd like more:
- The cartel is divided into 3 factions that hate each other, blowing their cover for one wouldn't necessarily affect the others.
- Giving the PCs a chance to act tough enough to discourage retaliation ("Yeah I blew his head off, what are you gonna do about it?")
- Retconning the mistake (I'd REALLY rather avoid this as it would remove the high-stakes, but it's preferable to "everyone's dead, see you next game!")
- Running a second game right after with "erasure squad" characters (aka: Can't have an existential threat if everything on the habitat has been reduced to dust by a conveniently placed tactical nuclear weapon.)