Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Mad Dash & The Shiny Red Button

This one's for the players though Game Masters may be interested as well.

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you abandon all caution and madly sprint toward some goal with little thoughts to the repercussions even though you know it's not that sort of game and you weren't even wanting to play that kinda character? Have you ever gotten so frustrated that you hit the big red button just to try and find some way out? Or lash out wildly in the vain hope that you might happen to hit the right thing?

All of these are the sort of incidents that I like to call "The Leap For Life". It's like you're surrounded by a big old abyss and the only way out of it is to somehow find an invisible bridge that you're pretty sure exists out there. So you're circling the edge of the pit, again and again, until you get tired and frustrated and you simply leap off any old point in the hopes that your feet will touch the invisible ground.

After it's all said and done and your character lies broken on the ground, you look over to see the Game Master shaking their head and tut-tutting. Turns out that there was a trapdoor in the middle of that platform which would have taken you out of there.

The trouble is you were so focused on that pit and the invisible bridge you were sure existed out there that you just didn't see that trapdoor. Every hint that the Game Master thought they were giving you that pointed toward that trapdoor merely painted the walls darker and made the abyss stretch out longer. It turns out they kept giving you hints that you were looking in the wrong direction, they weren't giving you many tips on what were the right one.

Or, perhaps, they assumed a motive you didn't have. That trapdoor led to a nasty confrontation with an evil megalomaniac but out there, beyond the pit, was a basket full of kittens about to be drowned by orcs. It was just meant to be a hint. Some background element. But it stuck in your head. You needed to get to that basket. You needed to be a hero to the kittens! Evil megalomaniacs be damned (unless they happen to have those kittens).

I've been there. Trust me, I've been there.

A switched on Game Master (or damnably lucky one) will simply redirect you by putting that basketful of kittens at the megalomaniac's feet. All of a sudden you stop pacing the edge of the pit and dive for the trapdoor. Excellent! Plot = Motive and now they're both going the same way.

But what if the kittens were always with the megalomaniac? Or perhaps there never were any kittens and it was an entirely fabricated notion you got in your head?

Memory is a funny thing. People come to the wrong conclusions all the time.

How is your Game Master meant to figure it out then?

This is where party games work out well. Talk to your PCs about your motive and intentions and not just your actions. If you all only focus on getting over that pit and never mention why, your Game Master might simply desperately try to redirect you towards where they *think* you want to go. Sometimes it's a good idea to clearly state the intention as best you can which means you need to figure out what you and your character actually want.

Maybe your character is going all out on the Big Bad because while all the writing on the wall says that this is *the* Big Bad, the guy who's untouchable until the Third Act, and you know your character doesn't, and shouldn't, stand a chance against him, your character also can't *not* try to do something now. You're gunning for the Chelish Admiral or assaulting the Vampire Prince ... in a public area ... surrounded by guards.

The Game Master's too busy thinking up ways to not do a Total Party Kill to figure out why you're doing something so suicidal.

Time to figure out why for yourself (if you don't know already), and tell them. Tell them that your character can't stand idly by while the Big Bad has their loved one hostage. Tell them that your character is a stubborn mule and knows he'll die but, hey, it'll make a good write out. Tell them that everything seems to point to an imminent confrontation anyhow so you're just trying to find the right time. Tell them through conversations with NPCs or PCs, narrated thought processes inside your character's head, or even out of character.

Otherwise, how will they know to provide you with an alternative?

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