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OK, tg, I need something judged.
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OK, tg, I need something judged.

Imagine the scenario: Adnd 2E, lvl 1.
The party leaves the rails and decides to go into the forest, that is beyond the realm of any lord, 1 day from a city. The forest is described as "full of mist, shadows of large animals", and "kids used to run dares to go in there". They suspect a hidden gnome village is in there and want to find it.

They consult their gods, and one of them grants them a vision of the party rogue slitting the players throat.
Halfway through the forest, now filled with thick mist and shadows moving around, they meet an elven bard, who claims he is coming from a long-abandoned elven city (abandoned 900 years ago) who insists they stay with him at his campfire. They remember the vision and decide to press on through the night.

During the evening, the party divides up so that the wizard and rogue (still lvl 1) sit all by themselves and wait while the fighter and cleric go off.

Here a doppleganger sees the two unarmored dudes, jumps out and kidnaps them (through rolls and nonlethal damage etc) to barter with the party.

One of the players is throwing a tantrum that he didn't feel like they were warned enough and that they felt safe "since it was probably gnomes and their illusions"

Is this shitty DM-ing? What else could I have done?
Short story, they accidentally come across the doppelganger (elven bard) who was haunting the gnomes and the whole reason why they were hiding to begin with.
Well, I can tell you that if I were a player, I wouldn't be having fun if the first thing that happens to me is I get fucked over to that degree on the first session. Yeah, 1st level characters, I know, but I never said 2e was my favorite edition either.
yeah but what was I supposed to do?

They wanted to find a thing that I didn't plan for their adventure. I thought I warned them enough, and if they had been smart enough to not leave the wizard and rogue all alone in a forest, it would never have risked attacking.

Its the same thinking as "I went to *dangerousplace*, sat by myself as the most fragile class in the game, and was kidnapped by *dangerousthing*. Why didn't the DM turn everything I walk by into low level stuff?
I mean, it didn't have to be a doppleganger, It could have been 8 rats, or 4 kobolds, or fucking ANYTHING. Who leaves the rogue and wizard by themselves at lvl 1 in "the spooky forest" ??
No but this is an important question.
It isn't "fun" to get your ass handed to you, but what is the althernative?
Walking into fucking mordor and complaining it isn't fun when sauron and his nazguls take turns raping your asshole?
Anywhere the players go instantly turns into fucking wow leveled zones?
They stuck their dicks in the 2spooky4est, and got bit.

If you are nice, the party can manage to negotiate a recovery of those two.

If you aren't, the rest of the party gets offered stew by strangers in the forest. At the bottom of the cleric's bowl they find the wizard's finger bone.
>yeah but what was I supposed to do?
>They wanted to find a thing that I didn't plan for their adventure

Right here you should have just taken your pre-existing plot and put a thin coat of forest green paint all over it. Evil human duke becomes evil pixie duke, the sewer monster becomes a swamp monster, the X becomes a forest X, etc. etc.

Eventually you will be able to improvise, but for now you need to learn how to roll with the machinations of the players. As long as you keep up the APPEARANCE of letting them choose their own path, they'll think you're a great DM.
Sadly its against the established social contract.
There are several groups playing in the setting, and the rule is "stuff is where it is, regardless of your level or what you play". The players are responsible for hiring sages and asking around, the DM's job is roleplaying the NPC's and making sure everything makes sense"

I can't fudge dice, I can't fudge loot. Its waht they explicitly asked for, and its what they get. 3/4 people seem all too happy with it. Its just one dude who feels they were attacked without warrant.
>Level 1's vs doppelganger
fucked before they even started...

That one dude is a dumbass. He just wants to argue his way out of the consequences of his actions, while still getting to take whatever actions he wanted. If they knew they could go off the rails and end up in places they should not have been where shit was out of their league, fuck em.
As far as I can tell, you seem to have presented your players with a challenge that they were not equal to. Ultimately this is your fault, since as the GM you are supposed to know your players' capabilities and base quests and such around that.
Remember that you are running the game for the benefit of the players.
If you actually read OP's post you notice that they ignored the level-appropriate quest, fucked off to a deserted wilderness, and then used some truly dumb tactics.

The game world shouldn't be a hugbox
I'm currently DM-ing ADnD 2E for the first time and both my players and I have had some rude lessons about how easy it is to get fucked early levels. My advise is encourage them to hire allies as extra sacks of hp to mitigate the chance that one unfortunate roll ruins a player's day.
by the same logic:

Players wander into the wizard tower at lvl 1, discover a cultist plot, and attack the head wizard.
"b...b...but the DM didn't make the challenge equal to our levels..."

For fucks sake
I think one of the major issues might have been that when you say Omnious Forest Beware, the players expected a CR appropriate threat.
It is however, true, that a lone lvl 1 wizard and rogue in adnd would have been killed by literally any enemy in the game.
It's like wandering into a higher level area in a vidya. Sometimes shit kills you.
The problem with that "level zone" mentality is that it's not a single player RPG where you can just reload if you die. All other players have control over their own characters, so if half the party wants to stick together but the other half want to split up in spite of the danger (or they're just plain dumb asses), there's nothing that can really be done to keep them together.
OP here, another issue was that "the doppleganger was not something the group could have handled"

As a DM, the doppleganger is just a creature in my setting, just like a merchant or travelling wizard, and has its own reasons and intention, its not just "an encounter".
Its not going to bumrush 4 armed adventurers, but to catch two weak ones by themselves and use as a bargaining chip... that might happen.

I dunno, what happened to "don't treat every meeting as an encounter"?
yeah but its like "don't go by yourself in the fucking forest if you can't defend yourself"
Hmm, we had to fight all 4 of us really hard to survive last time. Maybe not leave the WIZARD by himself. Me and the cleric could hold off some suprise kobolds, but not the wizard.
If you can't handle that kind of logical process, you will not be adventuring for long, regardless of what the DM throws at you
Fuck off back to /v/ if you want to play a video game with "zones" and mobs to grind so you can level up and fight higher level mobs

If the players want to go and do something off your precious railroad then let them. If they go to the level 30 zone at level 1 don't just kill them and laugh, make it an appropriate challenge. Improvise.

The advantage of P&P over vidya is you can improvise and focus on telling a good story. If I wanted level gating and needing to do things in the right order id play a hand holding modern video game where you have no freedom.

Or if you really want them to lose have the evil wizard laugh at them and teleport them somewhere inhospitable and they have to quest back and get revenge.

"Lol u die because you went to the level 30 zone lrn 2 play nub" is shit GMing.
>Consistent established worlds with areas that are just dangerous is shit-tier /v/ GMing!
>You should make sure wherever the PCs go that they encounter level-appropriate challenges giving the pre-determined wealth per encounter, like in Skyrim.

/v/ please go.
And to add on to what this guy is saying, if you REALLY REALLY insist on keeping the players on your railroad, there are ways to do that without killing them if they ever DARE step off the tracks: Nothing happens. They wander into a big fucking world of not much going on at the moment. Forest? They luckily don't encounter anything. Because all the action is where you originally pointed them.
>fictional worlds are real places, set in stone and immutable because I want to be a novelist and have people wonder at my marvellous world building

Fuck you.

The players' fun and the story comes first. As the GM it's not your responsibility to WIN and PUNISH YOUR PLAYERS it's to make sure the players have fun.
>if you go here a dragon will eat you because there is always a dragon there my worldbuilding says so

Sure is just like my video games here
The attitudes in this thread are basically why I think D&D is fucking cancer in all forms and I'm glad my group only play narrativist games now.

There's no attitude of needing to "punish" players, no concept of a fixed world that you can't change and "CONSEQUENCES FOR BAD DECISIONS" aren't hard wired into "you die lol"

You shouldn't GM an RPG to try and "win" and you should avoid killing PCs where possible. Have the risk of death, or other bad things, but keep it as a threat or nuclear option.
OP here
My issue is that I cannot go "hmm, I want there to be a doppleganger hunting for gnomes here", because the players go full baby-mode if they encounter something they cannot kill if they attack it.
Its just an NPC, talk to it, negotiate and threaten. Its not going to attack you for the LuLz. If you remove its reason to eat you, by, like, being all armored and not divided into two smaller groups, it wont attack

Wtf is the althernative? You only ever meet kobolds and rats until you hit lvl 2?
Read my posts before swearing at me.
I offered 2 game modes, as is player contract. They chose the one where I randomly rolled stuff and made up shit regardless of what they do.

If they wanted special story mode, then they should have taken door 2
The issue is not that they encountered a thing they couldn't beat. The issue is that every NPC in the setting is a binary "can we kill it" marker.
Its a fucking NPC. Its not 3.5, its adnd.
If you go up to every single creature the DM presents you with and fucking stab it in the face then you will only see rats and goblins for the next 4 levels.

All those unicorns, dragons, wizards and harpies? Yeah you won't be seeing them until lvl 5, because you can't kill a unicorn with a lvl 1 party
OP, you done gud. If I were a player, I'd be thrilled as fuck. A villain NPC that's willing to kill us, but also is willing to negotiate. Suddenly the world is established as dangerous, which increases the reward level of success. It's also a perfect opportunity for role playing, begging for mercy, selling out others or scheming a heroic rescue mission. It tests the mettle of characters and allows players to develop their story in interesting ways beyond their efficiency at murder.

Not all encounters should be combat-winnable. Sometimes 'winning' an encounter means avoiding it. A tornado is 'own' by avoiding it. A rift to hell itself is beaten by staying well away (or sealing it). Your first 'encounter' was getting through the forest unmolested. They failed by splitting up. Your second 'encounter' is trying to convince the thing not to eat them. I guess the old elf was also an encounter, which they succeeded.

The presence of a stat block on everything is to account for the possibility of combat. It in no way necessitates or predetermines such.
Sounds like a good start to me. Have the doppelganger offer their freedom in exchange for a small favour that goes just a little bit against their alignment. Or plant a few clues about tricking the thing into letting them go.
Thank you, Its nice to see someone understands what I try to build here.
Completely correct. The challenge lay in getting through the forest unmolested, and when they through negotiations, trickery and bravery managed to retrieve both their party members, chase off the doppleganger, AND warn the gnomes in time, they succeeded. They got all the exp for the doppleganger (even though they didnt kill him), and the completion exp.
what happened was that they knew where the gnomes were, and the doppleganger wanted to eat gnomes. They came back to camp to see the elven bard sitting there and telling them that if they didn't show him where the gnomes where, he wouldn't tell them where he hid their allies
They sent a familiar to warn the gnomes while asking the creature to bring back one of their allies to show them they were still alive, and then fought it for a while before chasing it off with beads of force. During this time the gnomes managed to flee
His players aren't dead. They're just at the mercy of something stronger. OP isn't playing to win; he's playing to verisimilitude. 'Winning' is easy for a DM, so the fact that they're alive and presented with opportunities proves that he's not.

It's fun to get in over your head and have to talk and bargain your way out of it. It's satisfying to trick the beast and kill it. When Odysseus was in Polyphemus' cave, he didn't solo him in combat; he tricked him into sleeping, then blinded him. That makes for a better tale and gaming experience than 'I stab the cyclops for 2d6+5 damage'.

Your video games allow for you to go to areas where you're unable to fight things? Most have invisible walls or other requirements to stop you. The presence of this feature in a small number of games doesn't mean it's bad; on the contrary, it's laudable that they're present at all. Being in a video game doesn't make a feature necessarily bad.

That's lame and a more boring version of invisible walls. OP is still providing a game, not a TPK. It's not about keeping them on the railroad; it's about maintaining player expectation that when the NPCs warn about the dark, creepy forest of doom, the forest is actually full of doom, while allowing them to play the game.

DM has improvised. It's a challenge of convincing the doppelgänger to let them live.

I love you bro.

The challenge was 'don't leave the two squishy members alone in the evil forest'. OP can be sensible enough in not throwing beholders at them, but this challenge was thoroughly in their grasp, and still is.

>they asked for this
Well then, you're set. They wanted this style of game. You're giving it to them. You're handling the situation of a high level encounter with lowbies well. Keep at it.

This man has it.

This man does also.
What happened to the final ally, OP?

Also, you really should include all of story time in the first few posts.
OK OP here, storytime part 1

Ok, from the beginning:
Something was scaring the peasants in a far off village, taking their sheep, and being scary. Suspicions point to the old abandoned copper mine. The newly sworn Lord sends for adventurers to solve the issue so that his peasants feel they made a good choice of Lordship

In come the players. They venture to the Village and are awoken during the nigh when a kobold raid tries to steal some sheep.
They capture 4 of the kobolds and put on their thinking hats. Kobold Cave eh?
Priest does a thing where he asks the gods for guidance and sees his friend impaled on speartraps.
They clear the place, get a bunch of copper and the lords favor.

Two weeks pass. A wizard finds these copper coins in the marketplace and sets up posters everywhere. The players go to the wizard and he offers them vast rewards for opening trade with whoever minted these coins. Apparently made of some arcane copper ore of great value.

PLayers go back the the lord, interrogate the kobold, who explains that their predecessors raided a gnome settlement long, long ago.

The players proceed to participate in the Lords birthday tournament games.
Meanwhile player with visions gets a cat familiar who knows of a gnome village nearby.
Players ask around and the villagers say that the forest where they are going is full of fog, shadows of large beasts, and that kids run dares on each other to go in there.
But when the Lord sent his men they found nothing.
Puzzled by this, the priest asks his gods who give him a vision of a creature with the rogues appearance slitting his throat during the night...

part 2
They venture into the forest, led by the cat, and wander through this misty forest, where shadows of large beasts are swirling around them and weird sounds are heard, and come across a sleeping elven bard by a campfire. When awoken and questioned, he says he comes from an abandoned elven city down the road, where he went for inspiration for his songs. Would you fellow adventurers want to stay here for the night? Share the fire and company?
Note that this is beyond any village, straight into wilderness.
The party remember the vision and decide to struggle through the night.

part 3
They arrive at a lake, and the dwarven fighter and elven cleric decide to go down alone from here. The gnomes are secretive and might be scared if all go down there (note that the dm is heavily implying that the gnomes are probably fine with all 4 coming, and that being divided = bad)
Regardless they split up, and the wizard gambles with the rogue by the campfire, afraid that the rogue might attack him. The rogue falls asleep, and the elven bard jumps out to attack.
Through pure luck, the wizard makes his suprise check, but accidentally knocks the rogue out while trying to wake him up
(Here I ruled that waking the rogue up gently would have provoked an attack of opportunity from the adjacent foe, so he tries to kick him with non-lethal damage. Sadly, the rogue is of low constitution and is knocked out)

The enemy fails his attack, wizard casts sleep, which doesn’t work.
“Elven bard” knocks him out.
part 4
Meanwhile the other group finds gnomes, who say they cannot let them in nor tell them where the gnome village they seek is because of rules of the hidden.
If they would rid them of the “pale man” who shapeshifts and eats them, however, they would be honorary tribes members. Here follows dire warning about how terribly dangerous the “pale man” is.
The dwarf rolls well and convinces the gnomes to give him a magical item, a necklace of beads of force (player rolls on the tables for random magic item)

They return to find the elven bard by the campfire where their friends should have been.
“I have buried your friends. Tell me where the gnomes are, and I will tell you where I buried them”

part 5
“but how do we know they are alive? Bring us one of them, and you have a bargain”
meanwhile cleric sends his familiar to warn the gnomes.
He comes back, the players roll well on cha and
“OK, bring back the second one, and bury this one, we want to know both are alive”
Cat comes back and tells them its all ok
They inspect player 2, and then tell the “elven bard” where the gnomes are, they get the location of player 1.
Just before the “elven bard” goes out of sight, they fling a bead of force, dealing 5d4 of damage and nearly killing it. The creature wins init (just fleeing, no weapons) and curses them as it runs into the tunnels towards the gnomes

Final part 6
in hot pursuit, they charge after, and hear the deathcries of two gnomes ahead. They reach their corpses, curse the enemy, and run past.
Suddenly one of the corpses rise, Its the enemy, who has changed shape, its a ruse!
He ends up adjacent to the wizard, who threatens him that he will blow himself up with the beast with one of the pearls.
Still heavily injured, the shapechanger agrees on a truce, and they both run their own ways.
As they reach the gnome village they find that their time-consuming debacle with the monster likely JUST gave the gnomes enough time to leave everything behind and run.

3 people are happy, commend me on well roleplayed monster, and ask when the next session is.
The wizard is really mad, and argues with me for two hours about how he felt the social contract was broken.
Props for the player to wait until the session was over though...
The last player is recovered. The shapeshifter is too cowardly to race ahead and steal him
There, now you have all the facts.
Did the DM screw up?

He's playing AD&D with a whiny pussy, so yes, he screwed up.
Well I dunno, he doesn't stop whining about only having 16 as his highest stat (dex on a ranger), as two of the others have 17's
I've had players play with nothing higher than a 13, so tell him to nut up for me. How are you having them roll?
3d6 descending, choose bwteen 2 array.
Do note that they chose this way of rolling.
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