Players one-shotting your Big Bad

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Locke
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Players one-shotting your Big Bad

#1 Postby Locke » Mon Sep 17, 2012 9:56 am

I'm sure it's happened to all of us who GM Savage Worlds: You bring your main villain into an adventure to give your players an idea of who they're up against, and the dice start going crazy. All of a sudden, the NPC you thought was going to be the main focus of your campaign arc is staring down fifteen wounds, and you're fresh out of GM bennies (or worse, you have a jillion of the things and your soak rolls keep coming up botches).

What do you do? Do you give the players the satisfaction of anti-climactically killing their nemesis? Or do you say, "Sorry, guys, but he needs to stay alive." and give the (un)lucky player a consolation bennie? Or do you do like I want to and start crying and whining for a do-over? ;)

This is something I've struggled with a lot and don't have a good answer to. Any advice would be much appreciated. :)
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#2 Postby Tavis » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:00 am

Let the 'big boss' die.

They were clearly, actually working for (or the puppet of) someone else, if the plot needs a 'big bad'. If the plot doesn't, then the player gets their moment of awesome, and bad stuff can continue to happen anyway.

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#3 Postby Zadmar » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:05 am

Some options include:

1. My revised Soak rules:

Zadmar wrote:On a failure, nothing happens.

On a success, you eliminate one wound.

On a raise, you eliminate two wounds, or (if you received more than two wounds) all but one wound.

Two raises (or more) eliminates all wounds.

2. More wound levels for big bosses, the impact of which I described here.

3. Give the boss a special ability that allows them to divert damage to an adjacent minion (I've seen this mentioned before but can't find a link for it, sorry). The idea is that the loyal minions leap in front of them, taking bullets for their boss.

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#4 Postby OSIAdept » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:14 am

had it happen a couple times.

If its a final confrontation scenerio i usually have a back up plan. another end boss in the shadows if needed.

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#5 Postby Sadric » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:20 am

I like the way that many supernatural monsters in Deadlands have immunity against most weapons. This way you could use it in a first encounter without fearing that the players could kill it. :-)

But generaly spoken, its allways dangerous to show a villain early because then they could try to kill him. Make it a non-combat situation, a flashback where the players play some lowlevel NPCs "victims" that get mowed down by the main villain.

The fanatic follower/bodyguard that throw himself in harms way to save the big bad is often used-but that such a rule is necessary clearly show the "weakness" of savage worlds that everybody could killed by a lucky hit.

Another usefull thing is a demonic foe. If they "kill" the human shell the (unwounded) true demonic form burst out of the shell.

And dont forget that such foes have bennies and edges like hard to kill, iron jaw, nerves of steel, Elan , that could help them surviving such hits.

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#6 Postby Cutter XXIII » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:29 am

Tavis wrote:Let the 'big boss' die.

Agreed. Be happy, along with your players, for their luck and success.

Making a special effort to keep the big boss alive seems like a good idea until it results in a TPK. :wink: At that point, I'd argue the one-shot option is superior in terms of the players' fun.
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#7 Postby OSIAdept » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:30 am

It depends on the genre.

Pulp-action Sci-fi: It could be a android duplicate/ alien parasite
Horror: Demonic possession/or parasitic lifefrom
Action-Cinema: Bad guys have 9 lives
Realistic: Let them die

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#8 Postby Locke » Mon Sep 17, 2012 10:48 am

Thanks for all the help. (Also, Zadmar, I think the rule you're thinking of where minions throw themselves in front of the Big Bad is "Fanatics" in the SWD. :) )

I'll probably end up keeping my main villains in the shadows, combat-wise, for a while. Given that I'm running Rippers, though, there will be plenty of society events where the players know who the bad guys are but can't realistically throw down with them in the middle of the third course. :)
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#9 Postby ValhallaGH » Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:01 am

Barring D&D influences, fictional villains usually only show up for the final showdown. Until it's time to fight, the heroes and villain never meet, or only meet in situations where it's basically impossible to fight (socially unacceptable, hostages to enforce peace, heroes currently incapacitated, etc.).

This ties back into one of my earlier Savage GM lessons: If you don't want it to happen then don't let them roll. Even with a -24, one of those damn players will ace his roll enough times to succeed and screw up the plot.
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#10 Postby Kythkyn » Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:29 am

ValhallaGH wrote:This ties back into one of my earlier Savage GM lessons: If you don't want it to happen then don't let them roll. Even with a -24, one of those damn players will ace his roll enough times to succeed and screw up the plot.

A player last night rolled a 29 by the end of his rolling using a d4 skill. I would not have believed it were I not sitting next to him watching the whole thing.
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#11 Postby farik » Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:50 am

I am also firmly in the "let the chips fall" camp. As a GM I really enjoy those moments as I let the gears in my head figure out how the death of the big bad changes my little world. Usually there's a bit of a power vacuum created and a new threat is revealed trying to take advantage of the chaos or the big bad's protege takes over having learned from his mentor's mistakes.

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#12 Postby JackMann » Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:51 am

I have two abilities I give boss characters (one or the other; not both at once).

One is to give the boss an extra-long wound track. Six wounds rather than three. Halve wound penalties.

The other is to limit the number of wounds they can take in one shot.

I also try to prevent access to the big bad until it's time for them to die.

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#13 Postby ogbendog » Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:54 am

If the big boss is supposed to show up, be awesome, and leave, but goes down instead, the adventure isn't over, even if that wasn't a clone or whatever.

All the bosses underlings are still out there, obeying orders.

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Re: Players one-shotting your Big Bad

#14 Postby UmbraLux » Mon Sep 17, 2012 1:51 pm

Locke wrote:Do you give the players the satisfaction of anti-climactically killing their nemesis?
Absolutely! Except I don't see it as all that anti-climatic.

It's easy for me as GM to add a new NPC to the story...that's kind of my job after all. Why would I want to take the occasional quick kill away? Besides, there's far more to the story than a few fights. The 'climax' doesn't need to be a battle. Probably even shouldn't be the battle all that often...becomes too predictable. ;)

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#15 Postby Xavier Onassiss » Mon Sep 17, 2012 2:55 pm

The game design of SW makes it a good idea to have a little "insurance" against such an anti-climax, so I try to avoid this situation by having two "bosses" in the final confrontation. Sometimes they're nearly identical co-leaders (and both working for the same "over-boss" who doesn't appear in the adventure at all). It's usually easier to design two lesser sub-bosses than one super-powerful boss, in the end. And if the PCs get lucky and bump one of them off early, the fight goes on with a few extra mooks!

Or one of them is the Real Boss while the other is a Lieutenant who actually comes close to being equal in power to the Boss. Again, if the PCs knock off one of them with a luck shot early in the fight, the other one can still carry on and provide a credible challenge by himself, possibly with a little extra cannon fodder to keep things interesting.

Now that I think about it, this problem isn't unique to Savage Worlds, so I can truthfully say I learned this lesson long I started playing SW....
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#16 Postby TommyBrownell » Mon Sep 17, 2012 7:10 pm

Cutter XXIII wrote:
Tavis wrote:Let the 'big boss' die.

Agreed. Be happy, along with your players, for their luck and success.

Making a special effort to keep the big boss alive seems like a good idea until it results in a TPK. :wink: At that point, I'd argue the one-shot option is superior in terms of the players' fun.


Yeah, I'm in this camp.

Just figure out what mileage you can get from the big boss going down in one hit and run with it.

(In Deadlands Classic, during Perdition's Daughter, one of the PCs, a pacifist martial artist with the Flying Claw killed Edgar DuChamp in the first attack of the combat...so I had the ghost of DuChamp haunt his claw, leaving a trail of bodies from Colorado to Texas as the PC traveled, until he caught on and had to put the vengeful spirit to rest).
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#17 Postby jasales » Tue Sep 18, 2012 10:13 am

I celebrate their good fortune/good tactics and start them on the next adventure. Hazaah!

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#18 Postby Dracones » Tue Sep 18, 2012 1:10 pm

I think trying to design in "climatic" encounters can be very counter productive in SW. The dice can do a very good job creating climatic scenes all on their own. A Lt wild card and a couple minions can get some lucky rolls and send the PCs running for the hills pretty quick.

So I just try to create interesting situations instead and try to keep the NPC behavior fairly realistic and just let the game mechanics flow.

With exploding dice, chase rules, dramatic tasks, action/adventure cards and bennies the game has enough mechanics that big scenes sort of just happen on their own.

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#19 Postby Redtwin » Thu Sep 20, 2012 9:35 pm

I go out of character and act annoyed, talk about how awesome the boss was, curse the exploding dice, etc.

The intent is to prop up how epic the enemy was and make the players feel as accomplished as possible, without letting them realize that's what I'm doing. These kinds of things stick in people's minds and lead to stories they tell years later. I want to encourage that because it really makes the players invested, and I think that telling stories is the most effective way to bring new people into the hobby.

Edit: Also, stories are awesome on their own merit.
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Re: Players one-shotting your Big Bad

#20 Postby robert4818 » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:31 am

Locke wrote:I'm sure it's happened to all of us who GM Savage Worlds: You bring your main villain into an adventure to give your players an idea of who they're up against, and the dice start going crazy. All of a sudden, the NPC you thought was going to be the main focus of your campaign arc is staring down fifteen wounds, and you're fresh out of GM bennies (or worse, you have a jillion of the things and your soak rolls keep coming up botches).

What do you do? Do you give the players the satisfaction of anti-climactically killing their nemesis? Or do you say, "Sorry, guys, but he needs to stay alive." and give the (un)lucky player a consolation bennie? Or do you do like I want to and start crying and whining for a do-over? ;)

This is something I've struggled with a lot and don't have a good answer to. Any advice would be much appreciated. :)


:) Don't make your "Big Fight" revolve around the "Big Bad". For example, think of Superman 1. Superman could EASILY take out Luthor in one hit, or even an angry glance. But, superman had to instead stop two nuclear missiles sent in opposite directions. Same for Star Wars. Luke didn't fight anyone in the original one, his big fight was shooting a Death Star out of the Sky. In The Mummy, the big fight ended up with a kill against Imhotep, but only after he had to fight off and delay the immortal guards long enough for the spell to go off to make him mortal again. Then it was a one h it kill.

Basically, my thoughts on it are this:

1. The climax doesn't revolve around killing the big bad, it revolves around stopping his plan. Killing him doesn't stop the plan.

2. The climactic fight is mostly a delaying action until the big bad CAN be hurt.

3. The Climactic fight is a large battle, not one on one. So, killing the big bad may be great, but you still have his 30 minions to wade through as well.

4. Variation of the last. The Big Bad isn't a single wild card, its like an octopus, with the main body being a wild card, and the 8 tentacles being extras, that regenerate.
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