Monday, June 3, 2013

Make their lives Hell

For starters, let me just say that I still can't get last night's Game of Thrones end scene out of my head.  It pervaded my dreams.  Not sure what made it so disturbing.  After all, I've seen most of Quentin Tarantino's films.  And yet, I have to admit I lost sleep over it - and the sleep I didn't lose kind of freaked me out a little bit.  I don't want to spoil anything, so that's the end of that, but God damn!  Ok, now I'm done.

Last Saturday, I cautioned the players that before reaching 5th level, they would each have to pay 4,000 in gold, services, trade, etc.  As expected, protests were voiced.  "What about all the monster killing we do in the dungeons?"  And, "How come we've never had to pay a mentor for training before?"  To the former, I answered, "Even several minutes a day embroiled in combat doesn't allow one to learn new martial disciplines."  And to the latter, I said, "Because at 5th level your characters are reaching a new tier or power and capabilities.  You've plateaued.  Now, it's time for your characters to break that plateau by paying for expert training.  (I'm probably writing it better than I explained it, actually.)

Well, even though they still had a little ways to go before reaching 5th level, they didn't have the gold.  I patiently, silently waited for their bellyaching to end before explaining the treasure-laded hook for that evening's adventure.  Finally, things settled down and the business of exploring began.

This Saturday (just a few days ago), we had a new guy play.  Before going on my vacation I was asked and agreed to teach an Intro to Roleplaying workshop for the local Geek Meetup group.  Long story short, it went well.  I got a chance to further playtest Liberation of the Demon Slayer, and even got a new player out of the two night workshop.

Being a noob, the new guy (who played a warrior) didn't have any preconceived nonsense or bullshit sense of entitlement.  Sadly, towards the session's conclusion, his character was dismembered by a spell.  An arm and both legs magically cut off and sent flying across the room.  Still alive, he clutched his sword +1 of regeneration.

After the battle, the limbs were gathered up, and thoughts turned towards healing.  Unfortunately, the cleric didn't have the spiritual juice to restore the warrior.  The Elf tried to use a mend spell, but ended up critically failing and causing his own leg to be severed.  Appealing to his deity, the lawful cleric asked for guidance.  "You must sacrifice your hand."  P'tah, the pseudo-Egyptian God of Order replied.

Well, the cleric, Orron, didn't like that answer.  In the meantime, the party's Elf, Tirrynel asked the Dungeon Crawl Classics version of T'sathoggua for help.  T'sathoggua spoke to the Elf, telling him to sacrifice the cleric to him.  Being chaotic (and without both his legs), Tirrynel, decided the Toad God was making sense.  He whispered a quick plan of attack, "Sacrifice the cleric."  to his Dwarf character (everyone but the new guy was running two characters), and some inter-party aggression began.

For whatever reason, I couldn't suppress my laughter.  This is the first time in however many sessions (20 or so?) that PCs came to blows.  It all seemed inevitable while, at the same time, being eminently avoidable.  Regardless of whether it was warranted, laugh I did.  Infectious laughter, and Tirrynel's player joined in - or perhaps I had joined in with his infectious laughter.

Orron was driven out, running rather than fighting or doing anything to stop the presumed ass-kicking-to-come.  He still did not accept that giving up his hand in exchange for re-attaching 4 limbs (3 for the warrior and 1 for the Elf) was a fair trade.  Nearly getting impregnated by a burrowing worm's pre-fertilized eggs, the cleric managed to find his way out of the dungeon.

That's all we had time for.  Normally, we stop between 11:30pm - midnight.  That session didn't end until 12:30am because of the heightened dramatic tension which we all wanted resolved.  Plus, this was new territory - we were curious to see what would happen next.

As of now, I don't know the cleric's future.  I haven't received anything from the player, and just sent a text asking him about what he wants to do.  The cleric might decide to go off on his own, come crawling back to the party, or seek revenge.  Time will tell.

Incidentally, this was the first or possibly second time the adventurers came up against an enemy with anti-magic.  That, a dismembering wizard, and a few 2 HD humans running around with laser pistols really gave the party a run for its money.  I'll talk about the old school module "Beneath the Ruins" I ran after next Saturday; not sure if it will conclude by then, but we'll be real close if not finished.

So, what do you think?  After he tries and fails, should a cleric be expected to sacrifice a valuable magic item, body part, or considerable amount of gold in order to work miracles?  How about the magic-user?  How do you handle in-party fighting?  What would you plan for next time regarding the current situation - anything specific... would you wait to hear from the cleric's player?  What about stepping in to arbitrate or negotiate things even though no one has asked you to?

The title of this blog post is, "Make their lives Hell" for a reason.  I feel it's the Dungeon Master's job to provide challenges - that means coming up with and unleashing tricky situations, formidable opponents, and mysterious encounters upon the PCs every week.  Some of which has unexpected consequences.  Things occasionally get crazy.  That's part of the old school renaissance, the non-standardization of gaming which allows, in one game, individuals doused in giant pink psionic snail slime to repel magical fire; while, in another game, giant pink psionic snails don't exist!

Also, I should note, that it's not all hellish.  DMs have two faces (or is it three?), the one doling out awesome loot and making the adventurers look all heroic by narrating the bloody defeat of their long-suffering enemies.

Comments welcome!


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