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I've played in a few campaigns over the decades where the DM made every session a nail-biting near-death experience.  Over time the players can become fatigued and demoralized as their cherished characters nearly die again and again.

Nihilism can set in or sometimes players will skip a week purely to catch a breather from the action.

 

It's important to let the characters (and their players) catch their breath, feel heroic or simply experience how powerful they've become over the course of a campaign.  It's like a palate cleanser.  It resets the taste buds for the next delicious adventure.

 

When I was taking my Saturday table through War for the Crown I started to sense the players getting a little haggard from having to hide from and escape the city guard again and again.  So when one character went to meet his contact at midnight on a re-supply errand I gave him a little booster.

 

Darran Redbeard - Dwarven explosives expert and military veteran with over a 100 years of experience under his belt - blows his Streetwise roll - badly.

 

A handful of street toughs with rusty gear and patched, misfit armor approach him.

 

Thug 1:  Hey, there, little fella.  That's a nice axe.

Darran:  Yeah?

Thug 1:  Hand it over - along with your coin purse and those metal egg things you got (grenades) and we won't have to cut you.

Darran:  I see...

<More thugs step out of the shadows - It's at least 4 to 1 now>

<Player 2 - Oh, Jesus... ~begins laughing~  They don't know they're trying to mug The Punisher.>

Darran:  Here, take the money.  <holds out his coin purse>

 

First thug eats a round from Darran's exploding punch gauntlet (Think 8 gauge shotgun round expended each time a punch lands).  His bowels perfume the sidewalk - dead instantly.

Next goon runs up and shanks Darran.  Right into his enchanted chain shirt.  Zero damage.

Darran ignores this guy and throws his highest damage explosive into the two guys hanging back and preparing to shoot him with with short bows.

A thunderous retort shakes the alley as they are blown to chunks.

 

Darran:  This is the part where you run.

Shanky runs for his life.  He doesn't make it.

 

And when it was over the player who was concerned his explosives expert wasn't quite as powerful as the other characters on the team was grinning ear to ear.  The stress of hiding from the guards and shadowy assassins was forgotten.

He was John F'ing Wick.  He was Baba Yaga.

 

 

Darran Redbeard.jpg

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Oh absolutely.  this matters. For me I tended to keep combats to every other, or every third run, to space things out.  in between is shopping, investigation, RP, research, or reconnaissance for the next combat. Surprise combats do happen, but they are usually consequences  of player actions, so it's understood to be an anomaly. Though my Campaigns were more travelogue, than intrigue and criminality.

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