How deadly are games meant to be?

As a GM, if you had a vast Threat pool, would you be inclined to spend as much Threat as possible to cause as much damage as possible? I.e. to make sure that the attack is deadly, and that as many Stresses are reduced to inflict at least one Injury (or two, for the first successful attack)?

I had a situation come up in my campaign… we were running the Rescue at Xerxes IV from the core rulebook, and I (due to complications and everything) had amassed close to 20 threat. The easiest, and quickest way to ‘dump’ a lot of that threat during the final stages was for me to use the threat to increase the complication range for the extended tasks to recover plant samples and everything else.

At one point, due to complications rolled with those expanded complication ranges, I was only paying 2 threat per roll after they bought off complications they received. You don’t have to make it ‘deadly’ in order to utilize threat. The players had a blast, and each time one player rolled to recover plants and rolled a complication, they gave me threat to avoid being poisoned.

That being said, once they reached a point where it was one to two players against a local carnivorous creature, I had to spend threat in order to keep from killing one player. (First mission, didn’t want to kill the players. That Panther would have killed the player with 2 hits.)

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Interesting. I wasn’t aware that increases in the Complication Range required usage of Threats.

Yes, it’s 1 point of threat per increase. For example, to increase it to the max (16-20) requires 4 points of threat. Also, you can use threat in order to increase the difficulty by increasing target numbers, so you spend a good number of threat by increasing the target number and the complication range.

I’m looking at pages 83 and 279 and can’t seem to find this ruling.

Page 291 of the core book has the ‘Create Problem’ mechanic, of increasing the difficulty.

Off the top of my head, I honestly can’t remember if it was a rule in one of the books for increasing the complication range with threat, or something I saw in a recorded/broadcasted fan show of another group playing. It’s possible the rule may be somewhere in Command, Alpha, or Beta sourcebooks under an optional rule tag.

The way I use it, is I spend one threat per point of increased complication, up to the maximum complication range of 5. (Starts at a range of 1 at 20.)

I prefer to Create Complications with my threat. I ran a session where they were investigating a K class starbase that had been found crashed in the Alpha Quadrant, 150 years after it went missing in the Beta Quadrant.

There were Nausicaans looting the place, and I spent Threat to Create the Complication that they had set up a Transport Inhibitor. Later, when they encountered the PCs, I spent more threat to boost the Transportation Inhibitor to include a communication jammer.

I like adding Complications because it gives the PCs more to do, as the Security Officer was having a good time holding the Nausicaans at bay, and the Scientist and Engineers got to run around over-riding or cancelling out the other Inhibitor waves so they could deal with the people.

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Yes, spending 2 to create a complication also works. There were a few points in my sessions where the Security Officer leaned over one of the other characters trying to route power, and asked him to see if he could find the station logs. Since I didn’t have anything prepared for that or felt like making something up, I spent 2 threat to say that part of the computer core was offline due to damage.

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Easy answer: as Deadly as you want them to be. Typically, I use it to create disadvantages - increase difficulties, increase complication range, create situational nuisances as described above by S Siron.

I mean, TOS was in some ways a “space horror” show, with characters dieing in almost every episode, although usually they were nameless extras there was still death.

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I would do that but not because I have an excess of threat.

I don’t view GM’ing as a Me vs Players thing. If I was playing in a game like that I think I’d hate it.

I’ve ended some games with threat left over. But if the players had fun and the game wasn’t a cake-walk then it’s all good.

Threat is there for me to make the game challenging if it needs a boost. It’s there to make a game more cinematic - making a plot point happen legally by spending threat.

I want the possibility of death in games (games can be boring without it) but not by deliberately trying to kill a pc. Bad dice rolls or bad choices are a different matter. I would spend threat to deliberately kill an npc if it was a plot point.


Ahh, Red Shirts - the unsung plot armor for Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Too bad Gold Shirts didn’t become a thing in TNG.:grin:

A week ago after Starship combat one of my players “complained”: O good, we nearly died.
And told another Player told him, that he expects the GM to do his best to kill them and that it is a thrilling experience to came out on top, if it was really dangerous.

And ■■■■ yeah, I nearly killed them.

One of the ideologies that I personally see as a complete disservice to RPGs is the continued “evolution” to remove death as a consequence, failing forward and not just being 100% thwarted. I’ve got two views on this:

  • GM perspective: as long as the stories are compelling and my players are having a good time, it’s all good;

  • Player perspective: I find the current “evolution” boring and pointless. It’s why I rarely am a player anymore, it’s not fun for me. I need death, actual failure, and defeat (multiple times) to enjoy myself and feel like when I do succeed that it’s meaningful and satisfying. Otherwise in game success and advancement feels like getting a participation trophy for just showing up. But that’s me, YMMV.

As always, the ‘deadliness’ (is that a proper english word?!) depends on how the game is played and not entirely on the system. Of course, the system can support it more or less the way it is designed, but it’s the GM throwing threats at the players and setting the pace of the game – and the players reacting on and off the table.

On our gaming table, a short round of feedback is part of our tradition. Regardless what we play, a dice cup will be handed from player to player (GM finishing the round, most of the time) and they who hold the cup will have the floor to talk.

During the feedback-round a fortnight ago, about a game of D&D I GM’ed, I asked whether they were bored, because the encounters/fights were so easy that night and even way easier than I had expected them to be. I got the following feedback (paraphrased): “You don’t need to confront us with hard or even deadly encounters. It can be cool to just easily overcome obstacles. Easy encounters do not bore me, instead, I don’t need to worry about my character and the complex interactions with the other PC and NPC. So don’t worry about too easy encounters, worry about not killing my character, for playing them is the fun I personally draw out of playing.”

I think it heavily depends on the players (including GM):

  1. how hard/deadly the game should be, and
  2. how hard/deadly the game actually is.

One method to think about this would be to look at Ron Edward’s GNS Theory. I can only encourage every GM to read this to understand why for one player, the system has to be deadly to be fun to play and why for another it simply must not be deadly for the same reason.

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i see the player characters as main characters and we play TOS (my favorite era), in the original the main characters always make it out. i do not want to see any of them die, face heavy challenges sure, that is what is fun for me. i have never liked games where there was massive player die off.

One idea, is that maybe half of your players “main” characters get assigned to whatever task is the current “episode”, and the other half have secondary characters they play that are also assigned, or pulled from the general crew roster, that could at least make it easier to handle player death for half the characters if it was going to happen.

Since a year ago I am chewing on the Idea, to creat a engine Problem on a starship, that has to be repaird really fast and one of the charakters has to “go in and fix it”.
With the consequenz, that the Charakter wo go in to solve the engineering problem, will die of raditation poisening.
They get the Information by the Ships Doctor, that the only thing he can do is to make the last hours painless.
In other Game Systems I would not bring up such a scenario, but with them playing Starfleet Officers, there is an itching in the back of my brain, to throw that onto one of my groups.

And I have to admit, both my characters have the values to volunter for such a mission, I am not shure how I myself would handle such a scenario as a player.

Yes, plot armor was strong in TOS, it’s why “red shirts” never lived, someone had to pay for their invulnerability. Snark aside, I don’t believe decent GMs, seasoned or not, wants to see player characters die, unless their running the original D&D Tomb of Horrors or other similarly deadly one shot scenario. However, all GMs should also be ready to let player characters die based on their own decisions and, if it happens, poor dice rolling. That’s not being a bad GM, it’s being impartial to the events playing out in the story the group creates.


I don’t have the rulebook in front of me but I distinctly remember that there was a Threat cap equal to 2 threat per player. Is that not the case?