DM Events: Intent to Kill VS Enjoyable Encouters

  • This is my first ooc post to the community since I returned to playing CoA 2 months ago. The reason I'm posting is to raise a question that I feel is important.

    Is the intent of some DM events to de-level characters and thus manage the overall character level of the server?

    My feeling during the last 2 DM events was that on some level the intent was to kill 1 or more characters. This is based on how the encounters and monsters were designed and utilized. For the player/players killed in this way sitting in fugue while the rest of the group finishes the event is both frustrating and not very entertaining.

    Yes, loot is a compensation, especially custom loot. That can make up for a lot.

    Still, dying sucks. So is the intent to kill, or is it to create enjoyable encounters that tell a great story?

    It can be both. If it is both then the story has to matter enough to make dying feel worthwhile.

    Right now, for me, the last two deaths on DM events feel pointless story-wise and as a player I know it will take weeks for my character to gain back that experience, if she ever does.

    I'm interested in what other players and DMs think and feel on this topic.

  • It is not.

  • I believe that's actually been stated as part of the intent at some point or another- not the sole reason by a long shot, but among them.

    I agree that it can feel pretty disheartening to lose a lot of time 'sunk' in questing. It can feel like grinding, if you're doing many of the same quests over and over. It's also kind of a bummer if you've just hit what feels like mechanical momentum, like with a slow-burn build. However, as much as I dislike the feeling of losing 2+ levels, whatever the reason, it's an important part of the balance of CoA. Lower fatality means higher average level, and that means lowbies have (or feel they have) a harder time contributing, which means they feel the need to burn out doing quests to bridge the gap. IMO, one solution here is to branch out if possible. Roleplay on quests, do different quests (there are a lot), that sort of thing. Find a way to enjoy the non-DM stuff.

    It also sucks to have to sit out an event- particularly given the tendency for events to be full-server deals, so even if you were to switch to an alt or whatever there's often precious little to do. I don't know what the solution is here, or if there even is a solution.

    In short: I think it's both, and I believe the attempt is made to make it feel worthwhile. It doesn't always work, but it's impossible for it to always work.

  • Despite us joking around, it truly isn't the intent of DMs to control levels through death. If they wanted to do such, there are other ways. For example, I believe we do have the code to set a max level for the server, or to lock a particular PC's level. There's also been the recent change to Lv7+ XP.

    Also, when you can't quest, the server is less fun, since you don't have a good way to make money to fund plots x-x Ask Verk.

    Events are hard. And the only way you'll get better is by participating in them. I've had a number of players who are astounded that I can survive with my builds simply because I've learned some of the mechanics of the game.

  • @Havlach:

    Is the intent of some DM events to de-level characters and thus manage the overall character level of the server?

    Easy to answer this one.


  • There are reasonable expectations that should be met with these encounters that today were absolutely not met even in the slightest.

    If the death I suffer feels fair, I'm generally okay with that xp loss. But today I lost about 2 whole weeks worth of questing and events due to a horribly imbalanced spawn.

    I'm usually quite fine with the balance in these events but there's no way I was going to survive trying to break down a spiked barricade that hurts me as I break it, while being shot at by a bunch of 18ab high damage Eyesplitters while being posioned by traps we can't disarm AND being dispelled while my party who can't reasonably help me against those mobs (Because they will kill them in a single round as evidenced by Dagon getting very nearly gunned down in two rounds) stands around the corner.

    It was completely unreasonable and why I am in such a bad mood over this death because it DOES feel like it was made specifically to murder PCs.

  • There was a very easy counter to it, which was Darkness. Just nobody had it prepared.

  • So, do DMs purposefully create scenarios to piss players off? No, it is quite evident from their care that they do not.

    Yet, it'll happen anyway. Because without consequence, you cannot build drama.

    Honestly, a lot of it is system mastery. Learning to use the mechanics of NWN properly. 'Getting gud' so to speak. Some players like myself enjoy this.

    Also, the DM team is very aware I think of which players enjoy what kind of scenarios. I have had Spiffy or Strife cackle manically while trying to murder my characters in a creative manner. And I had a ton of fun while it was happening. It was a challenge I enjoyed.

    Not all players enjoy that, and the DM team is undoubtedly aware of this. Because they aren't dicks. They are entertainers.

  • @kittenblack:

    There was a very easy counter to it, which was Darkness. Just nobody had it prepared.

    You are correct.

    Players should not have to become walking libraries of counters for various events, however. If we did (and many of us have, as evidenced by our ever-growing tendency to hoard the shit out of every consumable we can), we creep ever closer to that League of Legends mindset often joked about.

    Let me be perfectly clear - many of the events I've attended recently (including today's orc assault, for reasons that occurred later in the event) were very fun. The perceived difficulty and deadly behavior in possessed NPCs recently, however, has made me much more hesitant to attend them.

    I once heard a DM say (whose name I will not say here, as I do not wish to point fingers) that they treat possessing NPCs as they would PvP. For me, PvP and PvE are two extremely different poles in the spectrum of gameplay in NWN. In PvE (player versus environment), I generally have an expectation that there will be hordes to cut through, a few more powerful enemies as the mission organically progresses, and the culmination being some kind of final boss/event that requires tactical (but feasible!) application of our characters' abilities.

    PvP is a very different animal. In many cases, it's the inventory race, throwing every last hoarded consumable that you can and hoping that your bag is better/your knowledge of the items you're using is better. I don't feel that this relentless, all-or-nothing-to-win behavior should creep into our PvE experiences. That is purely my own opinion, however, and I encourage discussion if you think otherwise.

    All of that said, do I think the DMs are intentionally trying to kill us? No. Probably not. Nonetheless, there has certainly been a philosophy shift in events that either the players aren't aware occurred, or it crept unto everyone without realizing it.

  • Doesn't darkness still bug out any spawns that arent immune to it?

  • Admin [DM]

    Do DMs intend to kill players? No.

    Do players die because the dice rolls are unlucky, or because the difficulty of the encounter was meant to accurately reflect the intended challenge of the encounter? Yes.

    Do Dms concoct new ways to challenge players? Yes. The game is over 14 years old at this point, and let's face it, how many orcs can we spawn before you know every orc in the palette like the back of your hand? By presenting new, deadly scenarios, do we keep players entertained as they adventure through the server. It's because we want you to have fun do we make something deadly and harsh.

    Sometimes, this encounter is beyond the scope of the group, and often times, this is a mistake, but can also be intentional. In the cases of the latter, very obvious flags and warnings are given to the group before they attempt to confront the Champion of Gruumsh or the Lich King in the Haunted Halls.

    As for treating npcs as if it were PvP, I guess it's better described as PvDM. PCs, will always, have more consumables than any NPC unless I spent 10 minutes spam clicking cure serious wound potions on said npc. So we adjust other stats to represent the skill of the NPC to challenge the group. Increasing HP, Strength, Dex, AC- etcetera. While unrealistic, honestly- we ask you to pretend that the spawns and mobs around you are behaving intelligently or he has some uber magic on him or some nonsense for you to take down. This way that party of 8 who struggled through the dungeon feels like they achieved that win over that villain. However, since this is CoA, there has to be that nagging possibility of losing, and unfortunately, it's best represented via XP loss. Another way to do it is that win you die, a third of your inventory breaks. I don't think that's fun either.

  • Admin [DM]

    I will say what many older DMs said before me - If we wanted to just kill players, we have a much easier way to do that with the DM Kill button. We wouldnt go to great lengths to create and setup plots/events, if that was the end goal. And yes, alot of work goes into making an event/DM quest so the point about DMs out to get you or kill you is moot when considering the amount of work put in. You can rest assured that our intent is to entertain you.

    That being said entertain and challenge go hand in hand. I told this to other people when I was a player: If I wanted an easy and unchallenging experience, I'd go play Tetris or Pacman. A DM quest/Event is an escape from the norm of grinding through the same scripted quest that most players metagame by heart. It is a step above it, not only to raise the bar/challenge but also to have you think other ways other than hit red till dead or skimp on your consumables. In DM events that isnt going to fly and if you dont think outside of the box or exert yourself - You will end up losing XP and levels. Mind that this challenge is also meant to emulate the one thing that most characters we see now days in Coa lack - Fear for their lives. How do you achieve fear in the minds and hearts of a character? You instill it into the player. And I assure you, I have had plenty of those moments in my time as a player: Blood rushing, hands shaking at the prospect my character might die - People like Citizen Bane, Dagon and Spiffy can tell you all about that feeling - There is nothing like it.

    DMs also perform in events very different than one another. Some events may seem very easy for you compared to others, because some DMs dont know how to make the most out of a situation/NPC as well as others. I already know that some consider my events/spices to be very hard but I also reward accordingly. Me and Spiffy probably more than most know exactly what will make the players cringe, what will challenge them, what will kill them and what they will simply steamroll. We often possess NPCs that inflict insane amount of damage and drive them ourselves so we spread the damage evenly between the party members - Not focusing on one person, to give everyone a chance to survive. But sometimes despite our best effort to give players the chance we still have to act accordingly and how the creature would act and kill a PC or two - Because if we didnt, it would break immersion.

    DM Events were always traditionally harder and straining on your supplies(Gold sink anyone?). You would spend time doing scripted quests to prepare for them, and you would spend all your gold to make sure you and your allies are ready for every possibility. But when players over the years slowly adopted the mindset that DM events are always meant to be rewarding, and that hoarding gold(8000+ gp) becomes a trend - You wonder where did the challenge level go. Did the players become much more adept at the game? Or did the DM Team lower its standards?
    DM Events also were never mandatory and they arent ones now. If you feel you cant handle the challenge and the chances of dying, you do not have to join on the event. You can tell a DM that you would prefer to be ported back to the Spire and a DM will gladly do it. But then you will miss on possible custom loot, possible plot hooks and most importantly - Missing on bearing that badge of honor with pride that says "I survived this event". Which will be a darn shame, but we will respect players who prefer to just bow out. To high level PCs btw, this will be the only way to possibly earn XP to advance to the higher echelons of the server in terms of level - By exerting themselves.

    As the event yesterday was mentioned I will comment on it briefly. There were two hard encounters on that event which could have been handled much more wisely. Here are some ways you could have handled it:

    • Destroying the barricades(Fireballs anyone?) and then retreating back beyond the bend to force the enemy forces to come to you to a position you can reduce their range to make it their disadvantage.

    • Employing scouts to understand the layout of the ambush ahead and come up with a viable plan.

    • Use the party chat to discuss amongst yourselves a possible plan and RP coming up with a strategy.

    • Hurling a Fear Spell in the middle of all the mobs.

    • Hurling a Confusion spell in the middle of all the mobs, thus turning the Eyesplitters against them.

    • Hold Person/Monster the Eyesplitters, after identifying they were the major threat of that encounter.

    Think outside the box. Dont go in with guns blazing. Sometimes you will find that if you actually stop for a moment to plan your next move a DM will make the encounter easier or lean into your favor(Provided the plan is smart and sound).

    So no. We are not out to get you, and there is no greater scheme. We are here to entertain you, challenge you and tell a story.

  • I don't usually take the time to make these posts when I die. It sucks, mostly, but I'm almost always fine with raising/respawning from these types of events because I feel like I did something wrong personally when I die. I've done it on plenty of Spiffy events, it would have been fine if I had died on the Durmoth incident not too long ago (that being quite IC for my PC.) What I do have a problem with is the increasing Arms Race that seems to be happening between players and DMs. In Myron events, I understand it. That's the premise. They're built around being wholly challenging, but rewarding events that you can prepare for mentally.

    But these days it really does feel like EVERY event that isn't an RP event is to that level of difficulty. Every new mob is made to test the power of the PCs fighting it to the absolute limit whether its Tarantula Hawks or spiders that Dispel you when you die. It's ludicrous and unhealthy for the server in a lot of ways. It puts strain on players to be constantly as fully supplied and geared and leveled as possible just so they can survive or even participate properly in even a random Orc event. When I say "Oh, I'm low on (x) potion, better run 👍 quest a few times this week" these days it's not because I want to do the quest but because I NEED those supplies to do these events. When I hit 10 just a couple days ago, I didn't want to hit 10. I could have asked to be lowered back to 9, but I didn't not because I WANTED my PC to be more powerful but because it feels like I NEED it to. I really just want this arms race to slow down, and maybe not make every event something you empty your inventory for and prepare for weeks for.

    The most memorable event DM event in recent history for me was when those ant-outsiders, not because it was particularly difficult but because it was interesting. I had never seen those mobs before, didn't know what they were, and thought it was a genuinely fun event even if it wasn't strictly the most difficult.

    And just so we're clear- I probably would have been fine with this encounter mechanically and mentally had I not been dispelled. That was the point where the encounter became impossible, and that's the tipping point as far as reasonable expectations go for me. It was a hard encounter even before that, and it didn't need that extra push that ended up instantly killing me.

  • Judging by the type of DMs running it I really doubt there was an intent to kill. Can't expect to steamroll consumable a DM event without utility or tactics. Bad luck also can mean death.

  • You guys both died at the most difficult part of that event. I know that for sure, because I built the map and set up the spawns. You also did exactly what the orcs wanted you to do, headed to the left while the archers on the right picked you off. I think that if you guys paused to plan how you were going to approach that part you would have come up with a better strategy. At the end of the day though, its just a game and you get to live to learn, even if that means you lost a bit of exp.

    As far as me trying to kill players for this reason or that, comon man. That event was easy except for that one corner, and the events will get progressively harder as the story goes on (assuming people go after the story).

  • +1 to what HellzYeah is saying.

    The sheer amount of money and consumables required to survive DM events these days is staggering, and seems to be geared to challenge the RICHEST member of the party. I ended up burning everything I had on one recently trying to keep up with someone who's got a bank account like a small gold ocean, and since I'm almost a solo player and don't quest often, it takes me a lot of time to recoup those losses. Compared with what Hellz is saying, where it's absolutely required that you grind quests just to survive DM events or have a prayer of doing so, or you die and lose relevance exponentially, I don't think it would be too harsh to ask the DMs to be more mindful that this is the sort of culture that's arising.

    You have to very carefully make sure that you stock everything, and missing just one or two, or being a bit short on gold at the time, means that you die, lose a level or two - and for higher levels a lot of gold in raises - and then the reward at the end, even if it was geared to recoup your losses, can't possibly recoup the loss, so you end off worse than you were and still in the same poor position. People actually seem to sometimes avoid DM events occasionally for this exact reason, and I've been cautioned not to go on some of them for this exact reason. I do it anyway, but then I get caught by it and despite my best efforts sometimes do end up both dead and poor, but I find expressing optimism to be less depressing than holing myself away from fun.

    Not every DM event needs to have huge risk huge reward. Sometimes it's OKay to have minor risk, and minor reward, or moderate risk/moderate reward, I think.

  • I think a major problem with DM events are that… well, the stigma that you HAVE to complete the event.

    Very rarely do players have their PC back down or retreat in the middle of a DM event. At least from what I've seen.

    Myself included with this. Even though many of our characters are Roleplayed as intelligent, tactical, skilled/powerful etc. we the players have it in our minds that we need to power through and finish, for the loot. Again, perhaps I'm only speaking for myself here. There have been times when I thought briefly, "Maybe I should back out of this" but continued onward anyway with the lure of phat lewts. Very rarely have I seen DM events turned down or stopped midway despite the characters getting shrecked. Maybe it also is the PC's themselves being too prideful or overconfident...

    I don't know. I think the DM events are fine as they are, challenges are always good. While I think majority of the time the "heroes"(PCs/Players)should have a decent chance of winning, there should be that overwhelming, nearly impossible event that can only be overcome by sheer luck or divine intervention. As well, I'm a big fan(from when I ran tabletop)of times where the PC's would just steamroll everything. They should feel powerful, too, because they are, in fact, more powerful than mere commoners or run of the mill adventurer's.

  • I wonder if anyone has ever backed out of a fight, and the DM went "you wisely realise you are overmatched, and have backed away from this battle" and given them symbolic XP. I actually agree sometimes with the "DMs are trying to kill us!" (I am looking at you, you scumlord!!) But i also believe that very often, DMs pull their punches when they could easily have been merciless.

    How many times have we been brought to Near Death, only to see the boss monster inexplicably switch targets? More times than i can count! It is practically a regular occurance. We all know from our normal PvE that monsters only occasionally switch targets once they hve latched on. Yet at the same vein, i have seen 3 fireballs target me directly, just after obtaining a powerful but 50% fire vuln that made me bitterly question whether a DM had it out for me. (few years back)

  • @Thune:

    I wonder if anyone has ever backed out of a fight, and the DM went "you wisely realise you are overmatched, and have backed away from this battle" and given them symbolic XP.

    I've done this before, so it certainly happens

  • Admin [DM]

    I have personally giving considerable XP to people for backing out on events that make 100% ICly, such as their moral compass found it irreprehensible or whatnot.

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