Tuesday, 4 September 2007

New poll! Didn't We Beat You Already?

So the returns are in, with the majority of voters (all 5 of you, thanks mum & dad!) considering themselves 'Good' DM's... which is fine, as there's plenty of room for improvement and you'll all keep reading the blog! /cheer

Our new survey is a trickier one: at what point do you consider your PC's to have defeated an enemy... to the point that they have earned XP? I know this is a question I wrestle with all the time. Myself, I like most opponents to choose the better part of valor and peg it rather than throw their lives away for the sake of whittling away two of the Sorcerer's magic missiles before the fourth encounter of the day... but I know for a fact that it can be irritating to never actually get to kill the guy who's been Sneak Attacking you for the last four rounds. Players, in my experience, can tend to feel a little cheated of victory if a villain escapes the field of combat while his less interesting minions cover the retreat.

For climactic encounters, it's an exceptionally bad idea in my opinion to deny the PC's the pleasure of looting a powerful, Evilly-aligned corpse. Recurring villains can be great fun, but if they are to recur, they shouldn't become the major obstacle or opponent in a fight until such time as you, the DM, are prepared for the possibility that they will be killed. And eventually, of course, you should plan for them to be killed. A bad guy who forever escapes justice at the sharp end of the party's weapons will become an annoyance, not a nemesis, so don't tease your players with the possibility of crossing swords with him until his death is an appropriate and realistic possibility. In the meantime, he should have plenty of challenge-level-appropriate subordinates to punt into the fray until such time as the PC's are worth dealing with personally. (Gamers among you, Shodan from the System Shock games is the model of such a villain.)

But I digress. The question is, what constitutes 'overcoming' a monster? Use the comments if you choose the 'Other' option.


Allen said...

The criteria I use is "what was the villain's goal? And what was his fallback?" If the PCs thwart the goal, that's worth most of the XP. If the villain is supposed to escape (or plans to escape), then there shouldn't be an XP hit. If the villain escapes because the PCs screwed up (read: they run because the PCs are getting hosed), then there should be a hit.

Wedge said...

As you might tell from this post I don't personally like villains that are intended to escape... I would much rather they were a passive threat (taunting from the sidelines, dropping in the odd monologue before teleporting out, etc.) and did not actively engage the PC's until I was prepared for them to get beat down.

Having said that, the idea of 'goal based XP' is something I've been trying to incorporate into my 3.5 game for quite a while; unfortunately, XP in D&D isn't stated in terms of goals (most of the time), it's stated in terms of the CR of the foes you overcome to get there. This sparked an interesting chat with my wife last night which I might post later-on.

guylambourn said...

I voted for the yes to XP but not full on XP. If a bad guy is there just to taunt the party then they are no threat and thus worth no XP. I feel such jaded plot devices are as laughable as Dr. Evil ("I shall leave them with one incompetant guard"). Much better to have a Goldfinger Type of bady with some worthy henchmen.

Bond; "Do you expect me to talk?"
Goldfinger; "No Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!"

Ok, so he made the mistake of walking off before the job was done, but the intent and the danger was there. Added to that, Odd Job was a very serious threat in himself.

If the party are faced with a nemesis character and they intend to just rough them up a bit then a limited amount of XP is fair. If the Nemesis intends to leave with a body count, then the gloves are off, beating them back before they achieve this goal deserves a much bigger slice of XP, maybe even full XP. In the end I think its a judgement call on how much danger the party was truely in.