I'm currently playing a Swedish-developed RPG called Götterdämmerung, a d100 based game, set in the 18th-century. Currently my players are fleeing by carriage from a risen being of supernatural origin(Hommonculus), and the transition from the chase sequence to a "r&r"-type situation I will create by having the city guard shoot out the carriage with a light 10-pound cannon.

This shot of the cannon would be directed to the front of the carriage as it would be racing towards the city gate, and therefore-if the accuracy role succeeds- pass right through it, taking out the coachman, the horses pulling the wagon and destroying the superstructure.

I find this situation a fitting crescendo to an otherwise dark and mute adventure. This ending would also create an appropriate scenario for me to start my players of on a new quest through the citys underworld, in the search for a magician with sufficient powers to restore what will be taken from them in the transition.

My question is as follows:

Would it be to rash of me to simply let the carriage be shot out while the players is fighting the Hommonculus on the roof of it, and by this add the possibility for crippling injury or maybe even death?

Would the search for a way to heal themselves prove an efficient way to both hinder the players, and give them motive to keep looking?

  • \$\begingroup\$ "r&r"? Rest and relaxation? \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 24 '13 at 6:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JonathanHobbs More like Rest and recouperation, but yes, that is the principle. To have an hour or so of more calm gameplay before I set them of on the new quest. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Wigert Jul 24 '13 at 6:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ Well, I'd say that there's a danger the PCs might feel they were railroaded into losing limbs. How well do your players usually take it when you force bad consequences onto them with no chance to avoid the situation? \$\endgroup\$ – GMJoe Jul 24 '13 at 7:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Also, death kinda sucks. \$\endgroup\$ – doppelgreener Jul 24 '13 at 7:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GMJoe The point is that this railroading is a non issue since the players are already on the carriage and engaged in fighting. The dilemma is if it would be to harsh to smack them with this. My thought is to set the situation up and do multiple rolls on e.g if they know about the cannon, do they get of the carriage, does the ball hit etc. This will give them the chance of avoiding the horrible accident and keep the story going in another direction. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Wigert Jul 24 '13 at 10:49

Adapt the story to your players

You know your players better than anyone else. You should know whether they will react badly to their character being injured or dead.

Most players are fine with their character's losses as long as those losses can be recovered: the stolen money can be stolen back, the broken limb can be healed, the dead character can be resurrected... this is a common hook for additional adventures. But maybe your players are not like that.

Some players are fine with unrecoverable losses because they provide with good role-playing opportunities, but this is not as common, especially if the result is that their character does not seem as "useful" as the other characters in the party.

The most important aspect of a role-playing game is having fun. If in doubt, ask your players how they would react if "hypothetically, there was an accident and some of you lost a limb for some time...".

Make the story logical and believable

If you were the guard of a city and saw a carriage speeding towards your gates with a terrible monster on top, what would you do? I would say you would close the gates and fire your cannons against the monster. If that kills or maims some people in the carriage... well, your duty is to protect the city, not the carriage.

Most players will not feel as bad if they think that the bad outcomes of the story were the logical and kind-of-inevitable outcomes of the story.

I would say that the answer to your first question is "probably not", although this depends on your player as I said.

Recovery is a powerful motivator

For most players, the prospects of recovering something they have lost (stolen treasure, a limb, a friend's life) is motivation enough to do anything in the story: travel to a remote place to find the right cleric to resurrect your friend, enrol on a boat to know who stole your most precious jewel, etc.

I would say that the answer to your second question is "probably yes". Then again, this depends on your players.

Give them a little advantage but keep everything in the open

Many players do not like to feel railroaded into anything, much less into something bad for their characters. A common antidote for this is keeping all rolls in the open.

You can help your characters feel a bit better if you give them small advantages. For example the Hommonculus may have a penalty to dodge the cannonball because of its size, which means that the cannonball can be both a blessing and a curse. Another possibility is allowing a perception roll to the characters to see that the guard is reacting to them, aiming with a cannon, etc. If they do something sensible to avoid the cannonball, they may get a bonus to their dodge rolls, etc.

In short, giving them a little hope of avoiding the bad outcomes will make them feel better. Keeping all the rolls in the open will (probably) make them feel that you are fair.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ "The most important aspect of a role-playing game is having fun." -- I'd slightly modify that, since just as in other forms of art, fun/enjoyment isn't the only possible goal. What matters is, as you mention elsewhere, player expectations. \$\endgroup\$ – starwed Jul 24 '13 at 20:59

I'll introduce a way to do things without railroading it too much by taking a different game as an example.

In Apocalypse World - and its many, many hacks - the players are always presented a threat, allowed to take their move and only if they ignore the threat (in game terms, they offer a golden chance to the GM) or they try to do something but fail hard (roll 2d6+mod, 6- is a failure, 7-9 is a partial success, 10+ is a success) the GM is allowed to draw from a list of hard moves. Otherwise, he can only use soft moves (e.g. presenting a new threath - that's how the game snowballs).

While your game does not have this snowballing effect and the GM is presumably free to introduce threats as soon as they want, my take on the problem is: Let them be aware of the cannon. If they are, it's their choice to keep fighting on the carriage or take cover. Then, I hope the cannon is quite precise, especially if it's used to target things in a familiar landscape where the actual operators already know the settings needed to hit something in various positions. Roll.
A missed shot is some sort of grace for the lucky, but make it clear the cannon is dangerous and it's pointed at them with low margins of error.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The cannons crew is supposed to be trained cannoneers(?), but I think of setting the situation up in a way that gives the players a chance to spot the danger. \$\endgroup\$ – Marcus Wigert Jul 24 '13 at 10:51
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    \$\begingroup\$ In my opinion that is key. If they are affected by danger that they have had absolutely no chance of spotting then I think it would be extremely unfair. \$\endgroup\$ – Wibbs Jul 24 '13 at 11:12
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    \$\begingroup\$ @MarcusWigert more to prepare you for discussion with your players, I must state that hitting a moving target at some distance seems very hard even for trained cannoneers. Maybe you want first make a pair of failed shots. This way, the players should be well aware of the danger. \$\endgroup\$ – Flamma Jul 24 '13 at 11:47

sergut answer is excellent. I will try to extend a little about the story logic.

Fire the cannon if it makes sense that there is a cannon and someone fires it, not only because it's cool to shoot at the players.

Once the cannon has been fired, be fair. Roll for the shot. If it fails, you can make the horses and the carriage fall, so you don't lose the dramatism of the action.

If the players are impacted, resolve all situations as normal. Then, you can be generous to your players and lessen the effects given the fact they couldn't do much to avoid the impact. If the setting allow recovering the lost limbs, it can be considered not too much nasty.

What I would never do is killing the players on a situation like that. Characters' death should never be a matter of rolls. If the player has put his character in a risky or dangerous situation, it's logical that the character can die depending on his performance (sometimes rolls). But if it was you who put the character in that situation it's nasty to kill the character just because they failed the rolls.

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