Archive for November, 2010

Tactics and Preparedness

The best tool I have found as a DM is what my baseball coach used to call a ‘soft hands’ approach, which meant moving your hand back as you caught the ball, yielding to its approach to make the catch smoother and less painful.  Likewise, as a DM, I find it best to give the plot some leeway for the players.  If I give they select an option that I didn’t expect, I’m not going to plot-hammer them back into place, I am going to let them run with it.

Recently, my players were exploring the Underdark, and after making a friend in a drow NPC, they were offered a chance to return to the surface by his father, the archmage of the city of Fenzybyl.  I had assumed that my players rampant distrust and hatred of drow would compel them to examine this deal in greater detail, to find out why this powerful (and evil) man wanted them gone so bad.

Instead, they agreed (even with the price tag of a Geas enforced favor to be named at a later date) without hesitation.  Hmmm…now, many DM’s would have had something go wrong to prevent this from occuring, or reveal part of the plot to keep them from running away from it.  But not me.

No, I let them return the surface (via the Astral Plane), and Pinic the Archmage succeeded at his ploy.  What exactly he was planning is anyone’s guess.  I can think of a number of reasons for getting rid of the players in this fashion.  Their could have been removed because they would have gotten involved in something nefarious that he was planning.  Also, a couple of travellers who were there and are suddenly gone make for convenient scapegoats.  Hell, you could blame them for almost anything bad that happened, say, right around the time they vanished.  But I digress…

When this happens, I don’t recommend vengeance on the players.  But there is a debt to a certain piper, and he is relentless in his demand for his payment.  And when the players have to pay this karmic debt, make it sting.  You put a lot of work into your plot, and if they don’t look at it close enough, then they should be reminded to look a little closer.

Did I lose a massive amount of plot work from the planned Underdark excursions?  Yes.  But, this is the time to take a step back and look at things objectively.  Most of my plots will still be useable, and if I can’t get them into this game, I’ll have the notebook till doomsday, and I can always use them later.

And while the price the PC’s pay will be steep, I’m going to make sure that I examine it objectively, and make DAMN sure that I don’t give them more than they (and the story) deserves.  And if I take a perverse joy in putting the (justifiable) screws to them?  Well, I’m only human.


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Sorry everyone.  Due to weddings, funerals, birthdays, illnesses, and hospitilizations, my game has been spotty for several weeks now.  Even as we speak I labor under some terrible illness.  Also breathing down my neck is the threat of NaNoWriMo, which I agreed to compete in.  (But not to say.  It sounds too anime.)

Since I haven’t updated this in quite a while, I offer the following tidbit of background information for the campaign whores out there.  (You know who you are)  Nursery rhymes of Valt!

Nursery Rhymes of Valt

The ancient lich with a face of bone,
he plays his ribs like a xylophone,
he’ll steal away another if one of his breaks.
What scary music that dead man makes.

Thickery knickery knack
I have a kobold in a sack.
Give it a swing, give it a thwack
now we’ve a pudding in our sack.

Isn’t it hot
in an ogre’s pot?
Stewing with carrots
or whatever he’s got.
He loves to eat children,
and they say he’s a villain.
But he’s just hungry a lot.

Each of the above three rhymes are silly little ditties that are all about monsters that children may have to fear.  They are usually used to take some of the fear away, by making the monster the object of ridicule.  Occasionally the first one is sung by bards to warn each other of the possibility of an actual lich in the vicinity.

A man from the Islands loves to drink gin
and a man from the Empire is a paladin.
An man from Cadram has a towel on his head
and a man from Jheira would be better off dead.
A man from Shotan eats seaweed and rice.
A man from the sea has a beard filled with lice.
A Fassetian man is dark and tall,
and a man with no eyes is no man at all.

Note that in the one above, children from the Jade Islands replace the second line with ‘A Numbraran man does one in’.  This is a racist little song that reminds children to be wary for those possessed by Silduggis.

Tiny Tansee, what a nancy.
Can’t even fight an orc.
He got wounded in the war,
when he bit down on a fork.

Sellie the belly was seldom seen,
without his friends all decked in green.
But when the fashions changed to white,
Sellie ran away in fright.

Glister the blister, but we call him Gus.
He’s a nasty black canker all filled with pus.
Take you care, when the other shoe drops,
or Glister the Blister just might go pop.

All three of these are little rhymes which were originally intended to taunt a public figure of the time.  (General Tancer of Numbrar, a noted coward; Selice Hewarsh, a wizard known for consorting with orcs, and Glistus Maxin, a Numbraran officer of Fassetian origin, known for his temper, respectively.)  These little songs are common throughout the world, although some catch on and become popular children’s ditties long after everyone has forgotten who they were about.

One little goblin makes me laugh,
ten little goblins can cause a scrap.
A hundred goblins make me cry.
A thousand goblins means time to die.

A single giant is more than enough
A pair of ogres are very tough.
Three green hags will cause me trouble.
If you have four ettins, you’ll soon see double.
You must run away if the ghouls number five,
if you fight six shadows you won’t be alive.
Against seven trolls you’ll always lose.
Eight hobgoblins must be given their dues.
If you have nine orcs, then you won’t be the winner.
If you have ten rabbits, then you have dinner.

The last two nursery rhymes are counting rhymes.  The first teaches the children the higher base values in a base ten counting system, while the second rhyme is a more traditional one to ten version.  Note that rabbits are lumped in with monsters like orcs and trolls in the second rhyme.  As an animal associated with the Silduggan deities, rabbits are thought to be an ill omen.

Well, that’s all I have for today.  Hopefully once I am through writing at the end of the month I can get back to this blog and provide some more serious updates.

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