Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thoughts on Gamemaster Fiat, Hit Points and Challenges

So there are typically two camps of thought on Gamemaster fiat, (fudging dice rolls to the uninitiated). To the hard-core player who likes the rolls to always be what the rolls are, GM fiat is a bad thing. I'm typically of the other camp, the camp that believes that role-playing is about entertainment. If the players get slaughtered due to a couple of lucky (unlucky for them) rolls that cause massive criticals in the first encounter; then the story isn't fulfilled, casualties due to stupid play I generally don't fudge though, as that reinforces bad play. (Such as charging off after a kobold into an unexplored hallway, and running face-first into a gelatinous cube.)

I won't pull punches in important battles, but random encounters will never kill one of my parties (sans stupid play). I will also not keep adding HPs to big bad end guys just so they can speak their monologue. Pathfinder characters tend to kill even BBEGs pretty quickly. Now, I do make sure my BBEGs have lots of HPs or High ACs, max HP per level is one way I control HPs of a boss, no random dice rolls. I use the following HPs in my games of Pathfinder:

Weak or Henchmen enemies have 1 or 2 HP/HD (plus Con bonuses) 10-15%of Max)
Standard have 3-4 HP/HD (35-50% of Max)
Mini-Bosses have 5-9 HP/HD (75% of max)
Bosses have max HP plus usually toughness, as they're meant to be a threat, and to stay around. Adding additional HP or AC with one shot items (potions, scrolls, etc)

With playing with younger players, character death can be especially traumatic, but, it can also be VERY memorable, everyone remembers their first character death, just make sure your players are ready for it.