My Risk Averse Players (again)

Just for fun, I thought I would test my players’ memories. When I set up some encounters on Fantasy Grounds, I changed the unidentified names, and the identified names of the creatures. I then picked out two words that were both descriptive and evocative.

I had two types of creature, the weaker “Grotesques” and slightly tougher “Fouls”. I looked at the descriptions in C&T and picked out the words I liked the best and set up the encounters.

The scenario was simple enough, the characters were heading to a fortified house on the edge of dangerous wilderness. This was to be their jumping off point for some wilderness adventures, and a place where they could dump loot and heal if needed.

When they arrived it was under attack, so they were to be the cavalry and save the day. To add a bit of time pressure on them, the attacking Grotesques and Fouls were using burning torches to try and force the defenders out of their protection.

The characters did engage the creatures, this was good, but not until the defenders were already dead.

They also didn’t bother trying to put out the fires, so by the end of the evening the safehouse was a burnt our shell.

Most of the creatures fled and took shelter in a cave nearby.

The characters then started to investigate the caves, until they came across a grotesque, they let it flee and raise the alarm, so the characters retreated.

Eventually, they were in a position where the characters fighters were two abreast in a tunnel and could bottle up the grotesques coming at them. If they retreated further the cave opened up and they could be surrounded.

It was then just a meat grinder to slay their way though the mass.

A grotesques was a 0th level, 15 hits, AT1, 10DB orc non-combatant. 20PB with its bite.

The characters are in heavy chain armour, big shields and typically have 60-80OB and 40-60DB

It was a case of one hit, one kill.

But still the characters, or the players, were too worried to really engage.

Even the tougher Fouls, really Orc commanders, 5th level 60OB but armed with Cat’o’nine tails, but still AT1 and no significant DB were designed to be no real threat.

To the characters, the Fouls were using their whips to drive on the grotesques, trapping them between angry Fouls, behind and the invading characters ahead.

Listening to the chatter amongst players, because they did not recognise the name or description, they didn’t know what they were facing, so they were not prepared to fight something they didn’t know.

In an amusing meta-gaming moment, one player didn’t want to take the fight to the creatures because they died too easily, if the fight was this easy it had to be a trap.

In the last big campaign we ran, the characters were 18th to 23rd level. Obviously, it took years to get to that level. I am wondering if the players are still used to having huge OB/DB combinations, always succeeding at typical skill tests, and having a magical solution to most problems. At 2nd and 3rd level they are a lot squishier and have to get used to failing, and failing often.

I am going to continue throwing these players and characters into different situations until they start to act like heroes, or they die trying.

5 thoughts on “My Risk Averse Players (again)”

  1. Risk aversion occurred in my Swords & Wizardry game about a year ago. I voiced my criticisms, some feelings were hurt, then the group kind of fell apart. This is a local group that has been talking about gaming again, in person, once the pandemic settles. But now I’ve found other online groups (one Against the Darkmaster and two Conan 2d20), and I’m not sure if I care to resume with the old group. I am very frustrated with risk aversion and precious PCs. It feels to me like I, as GM, prepare this fabulous meal that the players just won’t ever eat… because perhaps it’s too spicy or unfamiliar? That metaphor got away from me.

    1. What I found most frustrating is that I created my best map ever using Dungeondraft, and they saw the front entrance and one tunnel, that is it!
      On the bright side, it was good dungeondraft practice.
      I have let them meet up with a healer NPC. I am hoping they may feel less vulnerable with healing backup.

      1. Your experience puts me in mind of another frustration I had with the old group: I felt like my locations had a shelf life. I had the impression that my players expected my “dungeons” to be a walk-through. They would expend a few too many resources and take some hits and say, “@&$ this! This is too hard!”

        Then they would leave. Not to recover and recuperate and return with more knowledge and a better plan, but to never come back.

        Voicing my concerns didn’t help. Then it felt like they were grudgingly doing what I “wanted” from them. Then, when I tried to figure out what THEY wanted (with a mind to deliver), all I could figure was a heroic adventure with the illusion of risk.

        For some games I could see myself accommodating that (Conan 2d20 comes to mind). But we were playing D&D. And they weren’t interested in anything else.

        1. I did get a bit of that, but they seem to have settled down a bit now. It is often hard in a VTT to be as spontaneous as I can be when playing in person.

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