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Kingdom Death: Monster» Forums » General

Subject: Random death - fun or not? rss

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Drake Coker
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So, we all hate it when good survivors die just because of one bad roll or card draw. It's harsh and explains much of the love for the new SotF, not to mention general strategizing around how to keep the most valuable survivors alive.

Let me quote Fen here (from a feedback thread on my additional settlement events):

Quote:
A Hut Collapses
Please don't make this a random survivor. The weakest of all the mechanics in the game are 'roll 1 one and a survivor dies', it's why people love SotF, to reroll stuff like that.


I have to agree that experiencing these kinds of deaths is not fun.

But, are they important to the overall fun of the game?!? I think maybe so.

Imagine a new group of players. If they don't read up before their first campaign, they'll likely get trashed by the game. They'll learn some tricks in the process and probably do some reading and the next campaign will go smoother. By the end of the second or third campaign, their ability to get to the end in decent shape is much, much higher.

At this point, the challenge of the game is significantly muted. The group can have fun by trying different strategies, but the more they play, the more the game narrows to the "best" approaches. Expansions help to vary the game and extend the life quite a bit, but they eventually figure them all out too.

Of course, that is a perfectly reasonable life-cycle for any game. Play it out, play the expansions, then shelve it, sell it, or keep telling yourself you'll play it someday.

There are two traits about KDM that make it special, though:

1. We invest a stupidly large amount of money and time into it, so we want good value back!

2. The game's theme is intentionally dark and harsh. We should expect to be badly treated at points during the game.

The random deaths speak to both points. Point (2) is obvious: the game is intended to be harsh in both theme and experience.

Point (1) is more subtle, but the main point of this article. The random deaths force us to adapt and help to make each playthrough unique. Adapting on the fly is one of the appeals of the game. So, while random deaths suck, they also add variety and challenge in the long term.

Of course, they have to be held in check. Too many random setbacks makes the game just chaotic. But a small number of serious hiccups during a campaign is interesting, even if painful.

Thoughts?
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Reed Dawley
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I haven't had a random random death yet but in my first game I stupidly lined up my characters and the lion ran them over and a bad die roll made one of their head explode. I realized afterwards that I could have got the same distance and not been lined up. If you are fearful for your lives in a small space you don't have to outrun the lion, just your newfound colleagues/lion snacks.

But I do think that random random death in a game with death in the title is fitting and makes things even more tense. This game really shines when it makes things tense for me.
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Fun! thumbsup
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Random Death is a hallmark of the game, it's a reminder of where you are, a chaotic and punishingly cruel world. Don't put all your eggs in one basket, don't care about your baskets, make lots of baskets and bring tissues.
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Billy Crawford - Greybeard
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I think it's even worse when your uber-beefy survivor bites it in what should be a perfectly ordinary fight.

Last night, I had a 6 str 3 accuracy 2 evasion surivor die of brain trauma from the 3rd time the trap card came out within maybe 6 turns on a lvl 2 antelope.

It was horrific lol. LY16 and have never had a showdown death since the prologue.

I really don't mind the random deaths, it just reminds you that you have to spread the love among your survivors.
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Matt
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Rebuttal: I don't think there is any truly arbitrary random death in KDM.

Even the Murder event has some element to it that can be gamed.

I think chances for death are frequent enough that it seems random, but especially with SotF working how it does now, you can mitigate, control, or outright avoid most all random death.

That said, yes there is so much to keep track of eventually you slip up and you are punished harshly for it. I departed on a hunt with three survivors who needed one more weapon XP to go master, and lost all 3 to poor luck. It was a miscalculation on my part, a bad gamble. nothing in KDM is ever assured, it's all weighing the odds and hedging your bets - that's (part of) what makes it awesome.
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It's a mindset thing. When people think of survivors as their characters they get frustrated with random deaths. That isn't the intent of the game design though. Survivors are meant to be resources rather than personal characters. Losing a good survivor should be like losing a good pieces of gear, more of an inconvenience than a personal blow.
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Sabe Jones
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I'm pretty ambivalent about it. I keep going back and forth.

In the moment, it's absolutely not fun. The best kinds of setbacks in games are ones you can learn from and do better about in the future. There are many random deaths in KDM that are absolutely arbitrary and have no counter. You don't learn anything, you just suck it up and move on. Or if you do learn something, it's a "don't do this" that cuts out game content that would otherwise be enjoyable, like learning never to use Noisy gear because you might roll a 10 in the hunt.

But then I acknowledge that the game needs some way to keep pressure on the settlement and shake things up, like you said. You can't always count on your veteran survivor maxing out their weapon specialization or whatever; you need backup plans. That's fun!

But it feels like lazy design to implement that pressure via sporadic random culling. It feels doubly lazy when the game then introduces mechanics to mitigate the prior lazy design without really improving on or fixing it, like the SotF rerolls.

But...

But...

Like I said, back and forth.
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Nick Wirtz
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I think they (and many aspects of the game) push you to play too conservatively...
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Gabrielle
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my partner and I, we enjoy games mainly for the story in which we take part; we don't really play to win (of course we strategize and try to). What I mean is, it "saddened" us when some of our best survivors died from random events/rolls, but it's not like we got angry and didn't want to play the game anymore. We actually sing a death song, draw on the survivor sheet to keep as a "memorial", and move on. We feel these random deaths are thematic, and we "expect" them ("accept" might be a better word).

I can see that if we played to win it would affect us more, maybe?

anyway, we are on our first campaign, so it may change later on..?
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Sabe Jones
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Gably wrote:
anyway, we are on our first campaign, so it may change later on..?

That's actually a great point. Early on it was definitely "haha dammit, there goes that dude, he was pretty cool. But that's life in Kingdom Death!" It took a while for it to get old, with the seams of the design showing through.
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David Sintec
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spiralingcadaver wrote:
I think they (and many aspects of the game) push you to play too conservatively...


That's a really good point. I seem to remember hearing somewhere that Poot's very much prefers a "take the big risks" play style and that him and the team were somewhat taken back by the conservative stratagies that developed once 1.3 was out in the wild. One might argue that the playtest pool wasn't big enough or diverse enough as it seems strange NONE of them noticed these paths to victory.

I'm frequently left wondering if Poot's has actually broken down the probabilities on some of the mechanics. 1.3 versions of SotF and Bone Witch are the prime examples here but there are plenty of less egregious ones still littered through 1.5. Weapons that just aren't worth using, optional tables that no-one in their right mind would opt to roll on, events that mean certain paths are closed.

I think that stuff annoys me more than the random death per se, although sorting those things would probably also lead to less random death.
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George Aristides
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I like randomness in the game when I can mitigate it and control the risk/reward payoff by making the right choices.

Such as protecting my best survivors from Murder or Plague by not taking the same 4 survivors out on a hunt each year.

Or not taking 4 insane survivors out on a hunt. Or not taking a whisker harp on a hunt but instead saving it for Nemesis fights. Or taking a dried acanthus and monster grease on most survivors. Or avoiding heavy gear.

A truly random, "roll a die and someone dies" event wouldn't be fun because there wouldn't be a way for me to plan for that contingency and work to minimise the possibility of that happening.

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Drake Coker
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Quote:
I'm frequently left wondering if Poot's has actually broken down the probabilities on some of the mechanics.


I struggle imagining that he has worked many, if any, of the odds. Certainly the original SotF would not survive even a cursory analysis.
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Fen Batten
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spiralingcadaver wrote:
I think they (and many aspects of the game) push you to play too conservatively...

Yup, random death results in conservative play, because weapon masteries and high stats (looking at you Evasion) are so key to doing well and experiencing the higher level content. All high level strategies in this game involve reducing risk as much as possible, you can play without them, but you're just not going to get to fight the really big monsters and have a chance to win.

I personally feel game shouldn't have recommended strategies of; "if your weapon master is 1 or 2 points short of completing their mastery, then leave them at home and nightmare train them to the end". (As an aside, I think now there is a legitimate strategy to build weapon masters without even sending them out on hunts and that's not fun at all).

For me, this game should be about sending out those survivors to experience glorious ends in the most involved part of the game, the showdown. I want my survivors to die in combat against The Butcher or a L3 Dragon King, those are the great stories - not, my victorious Club Master came home after beating a L3 Dung Beetle Knight and fell down some cracks in the ground. Death is fine, but it should have some sort of meaning.

You play long enough and stuff like Cracks in the Ground becomes tiresome and departs from your settlement deck and Murder becomes something you spend extensive time gaming your hunt party around in order to avoid it hurting too much (I use Saviors as murder fodder myself, it's very quick and easy to do, birth a savior, take them on a hunt, have them get murdered).

Ultimately I think the blame for this lays with the design of Weapon Proficiency/Mastery, these mechanics are so 'single survivor' focused and so interesting, exciting and valuable that they drive the need to protect survivors, survivors without weapon training are resources to be spent, but the more weapon mastery they gain, the higher the value of them goes up (peaking when they are 1 point away from completion). It's counter to what the game wants us to experience and it's that plus the all or nothing nature of the showdown resource gains that drive the 'survivors should be protected' playstyle that I adopt. It's not really a choice when you have to protect your Katar user from anything that would randomly kill them because you absolutely 100% have to have Katar Mastery by LY16 for Green Armor (for example).

Also, I can confirm that the design team did not perform extensive testing. I've read admissions that they never crafted Green Armor in an actual campaign during testing and that they thought that the Level 3 DBK was unbeatable.

nobody82b wrote:
I like randomness in the game when I can mitigate it and control the risk/reward payoff by making the right choices.

Such as protecting my best survivors from Murder or Plague by not taking the same 4 survivors out on a hunt each year.

Or not taking 4 insane survivors out on a hunt. Or not taking a whisker harp on a hunt but instead saving it for Nemesis fights. Or taking a dried acanthus and monster grease on most survivors. Or avoiding heavy gear.

A truly random, "roll a die and someone dies" event wouldn't be fun because there wouldn't be a way for me to plan for that contingency and work to minimise the possibility of that happening.

*claps* Well said.

-----

So there is a form of random death that is interesting, and that is "hard decision or death". One example I've cited is the Harvester Event. So the Harvester automatically kills any survivors with noisy gear, no avoiding this, they are gone and your hunt is in a seriously bad situation because it's now missing one member. The community response has been to avoid taking noisy stuff out on hunts because of that 1% per basic hunt event chance of just losing 25% of your hunt party (especially bad when you're playing 4 players). This has made the Whisker Harp, Vespertine Cello and Rawhide Drums become an item that's only take out during Nemesis fights (which have no hunts) - effectively eliminating them from most situations.

If the Harvest didn't auto kill survivors with noisy gear and instead said 'sacrifice your noisy gear and all your survival or die' then it would give us a meaningful decision to make. You take the instrument out on the hunt and you stand a chance of losing it + all your survival. That's a risk, because it can be a lot of effort to recover that instrument again - even the Whisker Harp can take multiple White Lion hunts to recoup. Personally I find decisions like that to be more interesting and difficult than 'Roll X and you die.'

I'm also very keen on mechanics like 'A random non-returning survivor dies'; because you can control that by taking your survivor out and having them risk dying on the hunt. Or you leave them in the settlement and risk that they get hit by the random death. There's a choice, a risk to be taken and there might not be a right answer.

For your collapsing hut example I would prefer something like 'it collapses, lose a random non-returning survivor' or 'lose a random survivor unless you spend X endeavors'. There's a choice there and at times it can be really difficult to make.

In 1.31 Randomness was mitigated by hard avoidance, nightmare training, shared experience and massive populations. In 1.5 it's mitigated by the above or by SotF (which is the easier route).

Death is a good fun mechanic, completely random death is a bad and unfun one and it's one of the fastest ways to turn people off from the experience.
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Drake Coker
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Quote:

I'm also very keen on mechanics like 'A random non-returning survivor dies'; because you can control that by taking your survivor out and having them risk dying on the hunt. Or you leave them in the settlement and risk that they get hit by the random death. There's a choice, a risk to be taken and there might not be a right answer.

For your collapsing hut example I would prefer something like 'it collapses, lose a random non-returning survivor' or 'lose a random survivor unless you spend X endeavors'. There's a choice there and at times it can be really difficult to make.


Now why didn't I think of that
 
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Gabrielle
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yeah, those are great alternatives!
 
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Hugh Jorgan
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The reason it raises our ire is that KD is an RPG boardgame and it's one of the few RPGs where no character is safe from insta-kills.

Enjoy KD for what it is, the beautiful death.

While it is pretty damn slow to use, I love the feature on the KD Web Manager to document how your character died.
It's always fun to go through the list of all your deceased survivors, remembering how they kicked the bucket... Depressing? Maybe, but that's
the kind of people KD is marketed to.
I love the tragedy and drama.
 
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Nick Wirtz
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fenpaints wrote:
lots of stuff, including

I've read admissions that they never crafted Green Armor in an actual campaign during testing and that they thought that the Level 3 DBK was unbeatable.
First, I agree pretty much completely with your design thoughts. Second, that's kind of depressing, honestly. I don't understand why you wouldn't test things' possibilities.

Specifically, I don't understand how a lot of those things occurred in a game that is so inextricable from its campaign system: If the game had a robust one-shot scenario mode, that would be one thing, but it doesn't- apart from a few dropped promo rules, it's all part of one massive time commitment, and their system doesn't encourage that experience...
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eric cire
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well said comments all around here.

i would like to chime in myself and say that mechanics that kill returning survivors bother me significantly less than mechanics that kill during the Hunt Phase.

Mechanics that kill during the Hunt Phase require you to have to weigh the odds, and makes fighting things that are already-a-little-sketchy outright impossible. As an example, Phoenix is particularly bad about this, as it has a nearly-unavoidable combo that has a ~5% chance of firing.

A similar example would be first turn off-the-top kill cards (turn 1 Deja Vu is 2-3% to kill, depending on monster level).

Tough decisions "gear or death" is clever, as fen pointed out above.

Killing non-returning survivors would be one way to push the game back towards PtY, and it is certainly a mechanic that is mostly unexplored.
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The game needs random death. If you don't risk anything bringing your strongest survivors then you will have no incentive not to, and will slaughter everything on your path.
What I would like though is for ways to circumvent those random deaths by paying a high and dear price, like in Overwhelming darkness. Give the player a choice. A hard one, but a choice.

Aeon's End does that really well with cards that give you two options, both extremely painful.
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Vince De Zutter
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I think this is another situation of survivor vs. settlement.

Random survivor death can't be avoided on a survivor level, but you can build your settlement to not suffer to greatly when someone dies - even if it's your best guy.

Random settlement wipe and game over, now that would be a bad mechanic. As far as I know there's no event in the game like that (at least not one that I've met so far) - I think Plague is the worst offender but even that event can be mitigated before it can wipe your settlement.
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David Sintec
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Vinceness wrote:
I think Plague is the worst offender but even that event can be mitigated before it can wipe your settlement.


Plague in LY1 can be the death knell of a settlement, a few bad dice rolls and it's a recurrent returning survivor killer which can quickly reduce a population to a non-viable level. If you don't manage to innovate Ammonia quickly or get some lucky dice rolls you're done for.

nobody82b wrote:

Or avoiding heavy gear.


The problem with this is it means certain armour sets become useless because no one wants to risk the survivor wearing them (and maybe more importantly all their kit) disappearing down a crack in the ground. Heavy has several events that interact with it, all the others (Heat Wave, King's Man's HLs) provide interesting choices. Cracks in the Ground shuts that down by making Heavy a random death sentence, at least with the Noisy stuff it's still useful for Nemesis fights. Although having said that I think I'll play with Fen's suggested tweak to the Harvester event in future, that takes the edge off whilst still maintaining the theme and some level of risk.
 
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Vince De Zutter
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sintec wrote:
Plague in LY1 can be the death knell of a settlement, a few bad dice rolls and it's a recurrent returning survivor killer which can quickly reduce a population to a non-viable level. If you don't manage to innovate Ammonia quickly or get some lucky dice rolls you're done for.


Well, yes, but it's not random "game over". You can either:

- Hunt only with survivors that have hunt XP and hope for a TPK so the plague dies out (since it's pretty much agreed upon that it doesn't have any effect on 0 XP survivors)
- Innovate Ammonia
- Hunt WL with a survivor that has +3 understanding to gain Ammonia
- Go for New Life SotF and reroll your Plague rerolls

Your odds wouldn't be looking too good if you draw it at LY1, but it's not a random game over.
 
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David Sintec
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Vinceness wrote:

- Hunt only with survivors that have hunt XP and hope for a TPK so the plague dies out (since it's pretty much agreed upon that it doesn't have any effect on 0 XP survivors)


That's the only 1 of those options not reliant on luck though.

LY1-2 I generally don't seem to have a survivor with 3 Understanding and even if I do a white lion hunt only has a what 2/9 chance of giving you Ammonia.

Taking SotF requires that I manage to successfully augury (or draw a love juice) followed by successful intimacy. Admittedly once you have it burning re-rolls should sort things out.

Innovating Ammonia relies on having the resources to spend on an innovation and getting a lucky draw from the deck.

And losing 4 survivors early to a TPK is very painful. That's a year with no resource gain and -4 population. Which means you're almost certainly going to end up under-geared for the Butcher which means another potential TPK in LY4.

It's not a guaranteed death sentence but it's potentially the start of a slow death spiral which isn't overly fun to play through.
 
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