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 Tarrasque
I’ve an idea for a D&D/Pathfinder game, which riffs off Cloverfield a fair amount.
I want to destroy the city the players are in, and make their challenges about saving themselves and others, and generally getting out alive.
It would not be about fighting the big ass monster.
Repeat, not.
That would happen in the background, with the level 20 NPCs throwing heavy ordinance at it, running up its flanks like Legolas or commanding legions of enchanted Mechawarriors (as cool as that would be) to crash against it like waves against the rocks.
My chief concern is the “moron son from War of the Worlds” effect – one of the players exits the main plot because they don’t want to survive, they want to fight futilely against the unconquerable foe.
Players can be morons too.
So, advice, should a DM ever throw a Tarraque level threat at a starting party?

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11 thoughts on “Player reactions / Is it ever acceptable to throw a Tarrasque at a 1st level party?

  1. Run with it. Let said PC get splattered, and then have a replacement character show up while they are still on the run. Major crisis games are some of the easiest to add new characters to in mid-game, in my experience.

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  2. I would say that it depends. I run a campaign where I've made it clear to my players that they can't expect to beat everything in a strait-up fight and that sometimes they'll have to run and sometimes they'll have to figure out clever tactics to stack the deck in their favor. If you've made that clear to your players, so that they know that you aren't expecting them to fight everything they come across, I say this probably OK. If your players are used to just fighting whatever you send their way because that's what they think you want them to do, this would be a problem.

    My other concern would actually be with shining the spotlight on your NPCs instead of your PCs. I would actually either not have NPCs fighting the Tarrasque- have them run away too- or have the NPCs die pretty quickly as they are fighting the Tarrasque, which would do three things. First, it would signal the players that their PCs are no match for the Tarrasque if the higher-level NPCs are dropping like flies. Second, if the PCs have any kind of relationship with the NPCs beforehand, it will motivate the PCs to level up and avenge their NPC buddies. Finally, when/if they do take on the Tarrasque and beat it, they'll feel that their PCs are extra awesome because they've done what the high-level NPCs couldn't do.

    Check out this classic blog post for more thinking along this vein: http://jrients.blogspot.com/2006/09/how-to-awesome-up-your-players.html

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  3. Cheers for the feedback, guys.

    I think one of the chief roles the NPCs would play is to be offed in the most spectacular way possible to help drive home just how tough the beast is.

    The second role is to provide obstacles and challenges.
    When a powerful offensive ability is deflected or misses, it has to go somewhere. Usually into the building next to the PCs, showering them with flaming (or frozen) debris.
    They will also bar access to certain areas and maybe go a bit mad.

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  4. How long do you have to set this up?
    Are you're players used to being able to kill everything they see?

    You could…

    Build your NPC's as up operating in a different league (or have done already) seeing them take a beating should be a good clue. (or finding the evidence/remains)?

    Incentivise the behaviour you want (think “It's me or the dog” or “Supernanny”?). If you've given your characters something “more important” to do such as save a sibling/child/parent/friend/contact or stop their current arch-nemesis from taking advantage they may be less inclined to throw their lives away)?

    Or suddenly give them something or someone to protect and or take somewhere. (Just as they are approaching the wee beastie they spot a downed helicopter with the presidents wife)?

    Fix the rolls/situation to KO them and take them out of the action. *imagines warrior charging towards megafauna only to be knocked to the floor comatose by a accidental flick of the tail as it fights NPC's* – just as a final hint?

    Pre-roll stand in characters… just in case they don't take the hint? ;o)

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  5. If your players are used to running into carefully balanced encounters that they have decent odds of winning, I would expect at least some of them to end up a stain in Big T's footprint.

    If your players are used to a more sandbox approach, where not everything in the world is conveniently within their level range and they know there are times to run away, they'll be more likely to be okay. Especially if, as others have pointed out, they have incentive to do others things.

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  6. Is it ever appropriate? Certainly. I'd lean toward the advice Oz gave. Big, massive nasty creatures don't require stealth so the party should be adequately warned with dire warnings based off the sound of ensuing destruction. If they still want to rush in, well…

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  7. This is currently a potential game idea. I don't have a D&D/Pathfinder group at the moment, but would very much like to use this idea as the first big story arc in a fantasy campaign.
    The advice regarding signposting the expected course of action is well taken, though.
    Thanks again.

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  8. Oh and I just had another thought where you could look for inspiration to keep the charactors busy; disaster movies. eg Day after tomorrow, deep impact etc. As well as real life disasters.

    The wee beastie may as well be a force of nature as far as the players are concerned!

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  9. The moron son lived.

    Spielberg punked out and went for the test audience approved happy ending. Then he made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

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