I don't do AD&D, so I wasn't sure how much damage a single strike would deal (nor am i familiar with other combat systems). Though the only killing blows up the intelligence is a good idea. Go to Comment
Even with communication, whether by spell or translator, there are lots of possibilities for conflict. Yesterday I have read an article on the Smithsonian site called "Sleeping with cannibals". Even while it was possible to talk with that tribe, the Korowai of New Guinee, their beliefs in witch-men impersonating loved ones, or that white people where ghosts, made the trip quite dangerous.
The Korowai also belief that their main god forbids contact with the white men. Seeing how many tribes suffer after first contact, might this be a smart move of a canny shaman? Go to Comment
I do not think it _should_ be difficult at all, depending on the situation, unless your intent as a GM is to add a war to the game. If that is your intent, then I think it should happen off-camera with NPCs at fault, rather then have your PC's do what you want them to do.
It really should be situational and depend on the nature of the explorers and the other people.
There are examples of this in the south pacific - there were tribes that were very non-confrontational, and others that were quite bloodthirsty.
Frankly, it seems you are trying to force an outcome that involves combat, and to my mind, not a very nice one. I agree with Dossta - first contact should be a opportunity to use skills other then combat, since you can only first contact once, but you can fight anybody. Go to Comment
I'm not convinced that a first encounter must always involve combat. Here are several reasons why:
In SciFi/Fantasy, you often have access to either a universal translator or to a "speak languages" spell. Communication is suddenly very possible. Expect your players to use this to their advantage.
Second, if you have a relatively small group of people making contact (say the PCs and few others), they can do lots of things to mitigate their "threat level". What about leaving obvious gifts -- food, jewelry, clothing -- on the ground as a peace offering? Or how about sending in a single, unarmed diplomat to appear as non-threatening as possible?
You can also play with the power balance. Have the tribe discover the party after a shipwreck, or have the PCs happen across a village that has been decimated with illness. Sure, the two groups may find each other still threatening, but there are lots of reasons NOT to throw the first punch in these cases.
So while I agree that combat certainly COULD happen in a first contact situation, I don't believe that it necessarily should. Instead, I would use the occasion to let the group flex their roleplaying muscles. If they come up with a plan -- peace offerings, magic, body language, etc -- to avoid combat, then the GM should at least try to roll with it, instead of automatically letting the whole thing go down in flames. Go to Comment
Yes, it should be possible to avoid combat. But it should be very difficult. Even with communication, you still have to account for if the other people view how your translating as evil ("a demon is in their metal case. They must be evil. Die!" or "it is unnatural for people to be able to speak my language without learning it. It must be devil magic. Die!). Even gifts could be taken as an insult (especially if you offer petty trinkets that both parties know are worthless). And a single, unarmed diplomat could appear weak, and easy prey. Yes, they are all ways too avoid combat, but they should not be taken as instant, automatic best buddy devices. Both parties must want to be friendly for lack of combat. All that helps, but if they think that you're a devil's spawn and must die, there's not much you can do about it. Go to Comment
I am not trying to force any outcome. I am simply saying that first encounters are not easy to do peacefully. If the PCs do something brilliant to get peace, then let them get peace. If they don't bother doing anything special, or do something that is simply a pathetic effort toward peace, then give them combat. History is littered with failed attempts at such first encounters (before europeans wrote books on the subject, as I wrote in the article) Go to Comment