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Author Topic: The Power 19 cheat sheet?  (Read 9558 times)
soundmasterj
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Posts: 120

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« Reply #30 on: November 06, 2008, 01:41:48 AM »

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So before they roll, they could choose to expend a resource to guarantee narration. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that I have a resource for that.  What do you feel about having an XP purchased resource that replenishes periodically?

Oh, before I move on, let me explain the context of "Social Encounters" for you.  Social Encounters are where *something* is at stake, but not the character's life (except in the case where he's thrown in jail or something.) Basically, as soon as their life is at stake, it becomes combat.
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Jona
soundmasterj
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« Reply #31 on: November 06, 2008, 01:54:03 AM »

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Jona
dindenver
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« Reply #32 on: November 06, 2008, 08:18:27 AM »

Dave,
  One thing to consider is, roleplaying is the feed into and out of combat and roleplaying situations are the output.
  It sounds like that is what you want, so maybe you should consider something like Pendragon.
  In this game, you character doesn't have stats like Strength, Intelligence, etc. You stats are the 7 virtues, humility, bravery, etc. the idea was that you play a knight of the round, and in that milieu, might does not make right, only the most virtuous soldier of god can defeat evil, right? Now, you haven't said exactly what your game is about, so I can't give you a appropriate example for your game, but maybe you can do something like that with your design. Like maybe your stats are compassion, confidence, self control and self esteem. And if a player gets into a conflict, they roll these instead of double-specialized, long sword. So that the feeds into combat are the characters feelings, hopes and aspirations. And then define the stakes of the fight before it starts so that the out put is whether or not they achieve these hopes and dreams? This might be a way to use the fighting mechanics tyou have and preserve a role playing context for fights.
  I mean with the XP/Treasure system you outlined, the only way to get treasure is to fight. You can get XPs from both fighting and social conflict, but you can only get treasure from fighting.
  Also, for some genres your definition of social conflict will not work. For a samurai-era game, every conversation can get you killed. Samurai had the right and ability to behead any fool who said the wrong thing to them. It doesn't sound like that is the genre you are going for, but I thought this little tidbit might help you refine your definition a little.
  Good luck on your game man!
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Dave M
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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #33 on: November 06, 2008, 04:52:36 PM »

Good stuff here.

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How do you visualize the flow of influence between the combat part and the rest of the game?
I think combat's primary purpose is to "correct" a mistake, or resolve a plot point.  For example, a combat might be entered because a player fails to convince (a "mistake) the mad wizard to give him back the blacksmith's daughter. (a plot point) In other words, it gives "motion" to the story. At other times, it is entered in unfortunate circumstances, almost as a punishment. (You insulted that group of orcs, and now you have to fight them before you can get further along.) Kind of like a tar pit...

Would you say, then, that it's not part of the GMing methodology in this game to force combat encounters? It's fine with you if the players are combat-averse?

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If you imagine the combat system as a big black box that is taking input from the rest of the game, what sort of input is it?
Hmm, I'm not sure how to answer this question, I'll give it a shot, though.  The input it takes is what the story is delivering.  If the characters are traveling through orc country, and one of them decides to blow a horn, a bunch of orcs might attack.  If a mad wizard has kidnapped the blacksmith's daughter, you might fight him and his magical contraptions.

How are the strength levels of the encounters determined? Is there some monster manual where you can look what an individual orc weights in system terms, and how many orcs are involved in a random encounter? Or will the GM balance the encounter based on the characters? How about the terrain? If the country's been established as hilly and woody, how, if anyhow, this translates when going into the combat box? How about weather and such? Can the players control the number and type of their opponents, terrain, weather, somehow?

How about positioning and supplies, how do they affect the input the combat box is getting? Is it important to get to surprise the opposition? Are there lots of cumulative advantages a party can gather against their foemen if they know a battle is coming and want to prepare for it? Are there non-specific preparations that help against any combat encounter aside from the already established "gain xp and grow more powerful" and "gain magic items"? Are there specific preparations that need to be set up at a definite time or definite place or against a definite opponent or that have such crippling penalties for some non-combat things that you can't keep them up all the time?

How does the combat system handle subversive input? Will it be used at all if the player characters do their very best to ride the countryside with an army of NPCs, or will the players control those NPCs in the fight, or will combat only be entered when the characters are separated from their army, or is it presumed that such won't happen? What if somebody refuses to fight, what happens then? What about escape, surrender, fighting not to kill but to capture?

Are there dramatic issues that the combat box needs to know about? Is the combat any different between Darth Vader, the random encounter, or Darth Vader, the evil father of one of the PCs? How about Darth Vader, the loved one of one of the PCs? How about two PCs fighting for fun? To the death?

You don't have to answer the above array of questions, I'm just providing them as examples of the extent of the field that can be dealt with when inputting stuff into the combat box. Some games use all, most, some or none of the above; my negative experiences with 4th ed. D&D, for example, come largely from the fact that when played according to its own instructions, the game takes almost no input at all from anything except the static abilities of the characters and the occasional surprise round. Segregated subgame more than an organically flowing part of the larger system, that.

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When does the rest of the system turn on the combat machine, and why?
In addition to what I've already mentioned, I think the combat machine gets turned on because it brings on the dramatic and atmosphere.  This room is dangerous... explore further and you'll encounter something grisly. This mad wizard is going to be a tough opponent to bring down.  Your cult member disguise was just blown in the middle of a dark ritual. You decide to try and steal that flaming sword from the shopkeep... It should be a natural evolution of the story, and there should definitely be story reasons NOT to go into combat some of the time.

Would you say that a monster is invented and the combat system is turned on to deal with it because the room is dangerous, or is the room dangerous because the monter is in there? Who decides whether a character's disguise is blown, resulting in a fight? Is the decision to turn on the combat machine objective, or can one or more players decide to not to do it in some circumstances?

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What sort of output does the combat box bring out for the rest of the system to deal with, and how does that output affect further events?
In some cases, the output would be further motion of the story.  (Now that we've dealt with the mad wizard, we can reunite the blacksmith with his daughter) In other cases, it would allow you to escape a "very big mistake" (Fighting your way out of the cult's hideout). In some cases, you've merely dealt with an obstacle getting to the guy you really want to kill.

In cases where combat is not desired, the output is change in reputation or ability to progress down a certain path. For example, lets say the party decides to kill the blacksmith and just take their "reward."  Well, now they can't progress towards saving his daughter, because only he knew where their tower was.  Not only that, but they've gained a reputation as murderers.

So the output of the combat system comes mostly in the form of fictional events both rewarding and punishing, according to the internal logic of the story? How about wounds and fatigue, do they linger? Permanent crippling? Fears and psychological costs? Vendettas and such are already intimated, but is there systemic support for those coming about, or is it all up to the GM to bring in?

Then there is experience and treasure, which have already been mentioned. The important point in looking at what sorts of inputs and outputs a phase of play like combat takes is that this allows you to determine whether the combat system is doing its job as part of the game. If it's being used for the right reasons and brings about the desired dynamical change in the game, then all is well. To take a simple example, Dust Devils combat is pretty much about having the player exchange his character's mechanical well-being for fictional achievements - it's up to the player to determine when the stakes are such that he's willing to make this trade, as taking on all comers will soon reduce the character into a wreck who'll fail to defend the things he actually cares about. As a consequence of this role combat plays in DD, the inputs it takes are simply fictional situations with some very simple rules for gauging the strength of the current opposition - and outputs are equally simple, mostly just a determination of who won and who loses how many points of ability strength.

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I think I'm getting an understanding of how the reward system needs to work. So, basically, I want to encourage players to do two things. 1) Contribute to narration and story development.  2) Address problems in non traditional manners

I like your goals, and I like how you're going about fulfilling them. Perhaps one angle you might consider is that giving the ability to narrate a situation as a reward encourages the player to use the narration right as a tool for manipulating the fiction to his benefit. You need to realize this and deal with it in some manner, even if that manner is just to accept it. An alternate approach is to not make such a big deal of the right to narrate, and focus more on how to get the players into an inclusive, active mood where they'll feel like participating a lot in developing the fiction. One way of substantiating this is to make narration a pre-condition of success rather than a result of the same - Wushu works like this, players get explicit effectiveness bonuses in conflict for taking the trouble to create some fiction. This is the main source of effectiveness, actually. Many other games have similar rules to some degree. Another way of encouraging participation is to give players explicit, real responsibilities - in The Mountain Witch, for instance, the players know that it's their responsibility to develop an interesting story out of their characters; the GM doesn't have the required knowledge to do it for them. The players have no other motivation, but they have the right and the power to participate in shaping the story, so pretty often they do.

Addressing problems in creative ways is a good goal. Probably the way to make this happen is to have the rules support inventive solutions to problems. Modern D&D is a major example of a game that actively works against this by providing a comprehensive rules system that specifically strives to balance level-appropriate challenges to provide a well-rounded opposition for anything you might decide to do. There simply aren't any inventive ways of dealing with opposition, because if your opponent were able to be defeated with some much easier method than the one the designer planned for, then he weren't of the challenge rating he was supposed to be in the first place. Your example from the other thread about the dragon fed into the ticket machine is exactly an example of the sort of stuff that's anathema to the modern D&D rules.

You mention a need for an expendable resource. My incomplete understanding of the style of your system inspires me to suggest that you could just have the players expend some xp to buy a resource pool. Like, you spend 100xp or whatever to gain a "Contacts Pool" at one point, and every 30xp more you spend increases its size by one. Then you can spend these points to introduce new, useful NPC contacts the character has met in the past. And you replenish the pool by some specific action, like simply staying a week or two in a specific community and getting to know people there. Similarly you could develop a "Willpower Pool" or other such expendable resources, whatever makes sense for your game.
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David C
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Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #34 on: November 07, 2008, 12:00:46 AM »

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Would you say, then, that it's not part of the GMing methodology in this game to force combat encounters? It's fine with you if the players are combat-averse?

The system is neutral, the rewards are not greater from slaying the wizard, or convincing him to give the daughter back.  The system can be played with the players avoiding all combat (although, I don't think this will be my target audience, since it will still have a robust combat system, and there are other games that nail "avoiding all combat".)  However, it will be up to the GM if a combat can be avoided or not... he can always DENY them the chance of convincing the wizard.  I'm going to try and discourage this "combat rail road" behavior with the GM, but ultimately, it's his story. 

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How are the strength levels of the encounters determined? Is there some monster manual where you can look what an individual orc weights in system terms, and how many orcs are involved in a random encounter? Or will the GM balance the encounter based on the characters? How about the terrain? If the country's been established as hilly and woody, how, if anyhow, this translates when going into the combat box? How about weather and such? Can the players control the number and type of their opponents, terrain, weather, somehow?

I think you'll have to wait for the design doc Tongue 

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How does the combat system handle subversive input? Will it be used at all if the player characters do their very best to ride the countryside with an army of NPCs, or will the players control those NPCs in the fight, or will combat only be entered when the characters are separated from their army, or is it presumed that such won't happen? What about escape, surrender, fighting not to kill but to capture?

So far all of my play tests have been levels starting at 1 OR 5, lasting 1-3 sessions, with just a few level ups.  (Well, there was a play test that was closer to 8 sessions, but the game has changed a LOT since then, but it did help immensely.)  Right now, though, I'm writing a long, serious campaign where the players do just what you describe.  They raise an army... 

Their are a few abilities that focus specifically on escape.  I would say surrender probably turns off the "combat engine" and turns on the "world engine."  Fighting to capture an enemy and fighting to kill an enemy is the same thing, the player simply declare that they're going to capture them, not kill them.  To encourage capturing enemies, some enemies will "surrender" before they'd normally be forced to "surrender."  Other opponents might try to die, which requires an opposed roll...

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Are there dramatic issues that the combat box needs to know about? Is the combat any different between Darth Vader, the random encounter, or Darth Vader, the evil father of one of the PCs? How about Darth Vader, the loved one of one of the PCs? How about two PCs fighting for fun? To the death?

Hmm... right now, no.  I'm curious now, do you have an example?  Like "Even though that Zombie is my Mum, we've still got to kill her"  but I'm reluctant to do it, so my effectiveness is reduced?  That kind of thing?

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Would you say that a monster is invented and the combat system is turned on to deal with it because the room is dangerous, or is the room dangerous because the monter is in there? Who decides whether a character's disguise is blown, resulting in a fight? Is the decision to turn on the combat machine objective, or can one or more players decide to not to do it in some circumstances?
I'd say the room is dangerous in appearance (as the GM describes it.) In some cases the room is dangerous looking BECAUSE of a monster (Shelob's lair).  However, the conflict is that there's a very dangerous room, probably inhabited by a monster.  Failure to go *through* the room without attracting attention turns on the combat machine.  There's often a way for the characters to back out, but to do so, they are sacrificing...  I'm not sure how to ironclad this in the rules, but currently there's two things.  A purchasable ability called (what else?) Run Away! that allows the players to *leave* an area, but only from the way they came from.  There's also a spell that allows the players to do that (only one player needs either thing for the whole party to "use" it.)   

So right now, the sacrifice is motion and whatever the GM decides to do for running away (like, the monster could be prepared for them next time they come back).  If I had "reputation" as a mechanic, I might have it lower their reputation, but I don't...   Maybe I should make it so any encounter they run away from, the enemy is automatically "prepared" for them (surprise round).  Possibly also a lowered reward for beating the conflict? 

Characters have to make a roll under two circumstances.  Risk and Exposure.  Climbing (exposure) a cliff (risk) requires a roll.  Talking with another cultist or coming under scrutiney (saying the wrong words during a chant?) would be exposure, and the risk is there. 

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So the output of the combat system comes mostly in the form of fictional events both rewarding and punishing, according to the internal logic of the story? How about wounds and fatigue, do they linger? Permanent crippling? Fears and psychological costs? Vendettas and such are already intimated, but is there systemic support for those coming about, or is it all up to the GM to bring in?
Wounds and Fatigue linger until restored in a specific manner.  Permanent crippling... not specifically permanent, but fixing them comes at a higher cost.  One thing I'm abolishing is a "Healer" constantly pumping full a "Tank" with health.  Getting hurt and worse is much harder to remove than being high enough level.  Psycological ailments are probably going to be like an "effect" you either have or don't have. 

Perhaps I should have a section on "Ailments."  Certain things trigger ailments, and the GM can reference different categories of ailments to place on the player.  For example, the "ailment" of vendetta might mean somebody has placed a bounty on your head, and a bounty hunter might show up at any time. 

This reminds me of another idea I had awhile back.  It was basically a deck of notecards that had 50% of them written on with things like "a random piece of equipment breaks" or "you trip embarrasingly."  Each time a player rolled a 1, they'd flip a card. However, if somebody had, say, a vendetta placed on them, they'd take one of hte blank cards and write "vendetta" on it.  If that card came up, something would happen.  But I cut this out, cause of bulk...

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Addressing problems in creative ways is a good goal.
This is the "majority" of what I was going to do on that topic.  For GMing advice/guide, I was going to say something like "If the characters come up with a creative solution to a problem, let them do it, even if it disrupts the 'normal course of events.'  However, there is a limit to this, called "Burning Down the Docks."  I had a friend who's group figured out that the best way to break into a store was to distract the town by burning down the docks.  It's an effective strategy, but thereafter, whenever they encountered the same problem, they always burned down the docks.  So as a rule of thumb, a creative solution to a problem only works once.  If the players try it again, it's always fails to work again. Players should likewise be aware of this rule." 

I tend to place a lot of trust in GMs, not because I've had good GMs (80% weren't), but I've yet to encounter a system that "fixes" bad GMing...  I should probably address this.

@ sound
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Also, for some genres your definition of social conflict will not work.
Hmm... While writing it, I knew there was some contexts where the line was blurred.  I think the thing is what happens is the social encounters segue into combat.  Lets say the samurai insults another ronin... now they're in combat.   Another context that was blurred was, lets say they're a prisoner of a wizard, and pissing off the wizard will result in being turned to stone... that's not "combat."   I'm not sure I need to worry about this though?

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I mean with the XP/Treasure system you outlined, the only way to get treasure is to fight. You can get XPs from both fighting and social conflict, but you can only get treasure from fighting.

Well, ideally I'll work out the kinks so either avenue is equal. 

The comment about my stats and stuff is appreciated, but I'd like to finish my game sooner or later, and if I gut the combat system now, I might as well start over, heh.

Thanks for all the comments guys, I have a LOT of thinking to do, and these last few posts are definitely at the root of my problem.  More feedback is always appreciated. Smiley



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Eero Tuovinen
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« Reply #35 on: November 07, 2008, 12:16:57 AM »

RE: dramatic elements, your zombie example is the sort of thing I was thinking of. Psychological and purely dramatic elements that influence events - certainly not necessary (not using such in my current fantasy adventure campaign, for example), but if the design confesses to an existence of a story structure it is trying to work with, there's little reason not to give the hero a major boost when he's trying to save the love of his life. (Nobody interpret this as a necessarily narrativist technique, either - could easily do gamism where this sort of thing is on the table.)

For what it's worth, I'd say that your system sounds quite different from TSoY (aside from having a focused and aesthetically pleasing build with modular crunch), perhaps much closer to the aforementioned Runeslayers - and this from the guy who has all motivation to convince somebody else to start writing stuff for TSoY Wink

Regardless, I think we'd all benefit from taking a look at an overview design document at this point. With no intent to impunge on your powers of explanation, we'll get only so much from spot questions and your own impression of what your game does. An experienced eye will see so much more by looking at mechanics and how they hang together; I've lost count of how many games I've looked into and seen that the actually written material is doing something interesting but completely different from the words the designer uses to explain himself - he's bringing old fights into the discussion and using terminology that misleads us all about the real focus of the game. For instance, what you're painting for me here is a picture of an alluring gamist game with strong texture and internal value placed on interesting fiction, but I can't say for sure whether this is the case, really - and J and others are advocating for a story-focused drama game, so perhaps that's what you're doing. It's a conundrum of communication best resolved by looking at the facts of what your game does - perhaps it's doing what you want and it'll tell us what that is, or perhaps we'll tell you what we're seeing and you can tell us that that's actually not what you were trying to do.

No haste with this, mind you - we'll still be here in January, for instance. Take your time, I imagine that it'll take some time to gather your materials in a major fantasy adventure design like this. Lots of materials floating around from different design eras, with a constant churn - from what you've said, I intimate that you've approached this design largely by playing and adding things in layers, which often results in a design that requires a very critical eye in later stages to cut all the chaff successfully before the final push for a completely rounded product.
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soundmasterj
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Must... resist... urge to talk GNS...


« Reply #36 on: November 07, 2008, 01:54:36 AM »

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I tend to place a lot of trust in GMs, not because I've had good GMs (80% weren't), but I've yet to encounter a system that "fixes" bad GMing...  I should probably address this. Quote
failure to go *through* the room without attracting attention turns on the combat machine. 
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Jona
David C
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Posts: 262

lost in the woods...


« Reply #37 on: November 07, 2008, 11:36:23 AM »

Part of my logic behind thinking players will try social before combat is two reasons.  1) Resource expenditure. Every type of "character combat path" a player takes involves resource expenditure.  A character can easily blow their whole day's worth of resources, leaving them vulnerable and weakened.  2) "efficiency"  If there's no greater reward for going into combat, and it *does* take more time and emphasis, won't it be preferred to try and "skip" every battle possible? 

I still have treasure, but it's effects on character efficiency are weak.  When first starting, some money is useful in getting all your preferred equipment (Plate mail instead of leather).  However, magic items are only rewarded at milestones (which does not matter how they are reached.) Magic items are, in a way, priceless, and the only way to get a different magic item from a "merchant" is to trade him one with the same "rarity" (1 star - 5 stars.)  Plus money, because they're merchants after all.  My goal with this was actually to make it so that players that used their money as "flavor" would be better rewarded.

So lets take a look at a progress of the Mad Wizard campaign.

Blacksmith - talk to him, players may kill him and get his stuff, this stops this route, however.  If you ask the right questions, you might find out helpful information... You might be able to convince him to give you "plate mail" or something else to aid you in your quest... 
Award XP, Motion, and Treasure (from talking) or XP and Treasure (from combat)

Travel Through Orc Country
The players get separated, they can reunite by blowing a horn (but as the GM explains, this might result in orcs finding them.) Or, they can use their wits and noncombat skills to reunite silently. 
Award XP, Motion and Plot from either. (Orcs use inferior bone implements that are heavy and worthless.) Also, if they fight the orcs, they're told that the orc leader is planning to raid a village (plot.)  If they don't find the orcs, they find *evidence* that the orc leader is planning to raid a village.

Arrive at the Mad Wizard's Tower.
An animated carpet "trap" sits in the entree way.  They  can use their wits and noncombat skills to avoid the "trap" or they can stumble on it, going into combat (it activates and they fight it.)
Award XP and Motion

A lone golem patrols the hallway back and forth...  The can use their wits and noncombat skills to sneak around it, block it off... (many possible solutions to this that I can think of.)  Or they can attack it.
Award XP and motion.

They are halted by the butler. (Like a miniboss) They can talk to the butler and convince him that the mad wizard has stepped over the line, but you don't want to hurt him.  The butler gives you his pocket watch, which gets you through the barrier to the Wizard's chamber.  Or you can kill him, and get his pocket watch.
Award XP, Loot and Motion.

The mad wizard. They can talk to him, or they can kill him.  Killing him gives them *his* stuff.  Not killing him means the blacksmith gives them treasure (or extra treasure, anyways), as well as the whole town throwing a party.  (The meta reason for this is, the town *likes* the wizard, since he spends a lot of time fighting orcs and keeping them busy). 
Award XP, Loot and Motion.


Now, then and again, there might be a combat encounter the players are forced into, like if the mad wizard was only "killable."  Likewise, however, there might be a social encounter the players are forced into, like talking to the crowned prince (where attacking him would be guaranteed death, either from being outmatched, or becoming wanted criminals.)
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