Thursday, 18 March 2010

Not so random encounters (Part IV)

Part IV – Keeping the ship in order

This post continues with the same example we looked at in “Part II – Rolling your own” – You can find the beginning of this article here.

Right…. Onwards and outwards…

You’ve had yourself a little encounter – there were bandits(s) and death and blood and merriment was had by all. But encounters (like real life) don’t just stop there¹. Later you will have to handle the aftermath of the raid. Hopefully this will be the next game session when you’ve had a chance to sort through what happened and make up any relevant detail. If not, well… umm…. Think fast!

In fact there are usually only a few specific details you need to conjure up so even if you’re doing it on the fly, you should be ok.

In the example of the bandit that pleaded the hungry family, say the heroes are suspicious and yet good hearted. They decide to take the bandit to his family and then help them. This way they get the proof that the bandit was telling the truth before they let him go and offer aid. (Heroes are relentlessly paranoid, almost to an art form)

Think. What do you need to invent here? Does the bandit have a family or are there just a group of thugs waiting back at the camp? Are the other bandits watching from cover or have they run away? I usually base the answers to these decisions on the attitude of the players (and hence, the perceived attitude of the heroes) Sometimes I like to prove their suspicions to be entirely correct – it gives them that smug satisfaction of besting the bandit – other times I’ll let him lead them to a dismal camp of half staved children – then they feel sorry for the poor guy and, what’s worse, they not have a bunch of desperate civilians to deal with – they’ve got a busy main plot to be getting on with, can they spare the time to help out?

The beauty of this kind of blatant ‘make it up as you go along’ encounter is that it can end up as a fully fledged plot in it’s own right if the heroes take the ball and run with it. And in some cases, it comes to nothing – but you’ve wasted precious little effort in setting it up, so it doesn’t matter too much.

So what if the heroes just killed the initial bandit without even asking what’s up? Then what? Well… then you have a bunch of the bandit’s friends/accomplices/family or whoever they happen to be still waiting out in the dark for the original sneak to return. What do they do next? If your heroes need a little more poking – maybe they’ll try again with second bandito? (They really want that food and Kevin was a noisy klutz anyway). Or maybe the bandits take the loss of Kevin rather badly and decide that they’ll cause trouble. Sure, they might have to be inventive, because they still don’t want a pitched fight. Cunninger still, and one of my personal favourites, Kevin’s newly widowed wife takes the whole thing terribly badly and, in a fit of frustration and grief, simply storms into the heroes camp and tries to biff the biggest hero in the face. What should be clear in this tactic is that she isn’t really a big threat; the heroes should easily be able to disarm and capture her if they want. The beauty of this is that it’s a great test of the heroes’ nature. How do they react? Again, if they do capture her – you’re back in with the whole staving family gig – or maybe you could set yourself up a heroic bandit rescue where the brother of the poor captured lass makes a bid to free her – leading to yet more hilarity and mixed moral messages.

So in essence… just keep on making stuff up till everyone is dead or you and/or your players lose interest in the idea and wander off to do something else.

So what have we learned here?² It’s all very well taking the one I’ve just shown and trying it out – but what about when you want to come up with something else?

Next post I’ll start to extract some principles from the example we’ve been looking at so that the process can be repeated for anything you can think of (and maybe even a few you can’t)

¹ Unless of course you get killed. Even real life stops at that point. Did you know – the universe itself will cease to exist if you die? (You better stay alive till I've finished this cupcake, damn you).

² Other than bandits are made entirely of gloop that is.

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