Players! Don’t poke the dragon vs DMs! So your Players are wanted in fifteen fiefdoms
Welcome back you hard-core, role-playing sonovagun. This week in Ready To Role, we’re talking about repercussions. D&D is basically an interactive storybook. You choose your hero, the DM presents you with a scenario, and you choose your actions which steer the plot. Of course, in a world where you can do anything at all, sometimes things get a little…complicated.
Players! Don’t poke the dragon
There’s a running joke out there in the world of D&D, which has led to several other memes. It went from something like this:
And ends with this:
We all know that these kind of shenanigans are what make D&D great. We also know that, in reality, there should be some serious repercussions to making snoo-snoo with a gargantuan reptile. But that Natural 20 still stands, amiright?
It’s fun to occasionally pull off something completely silly. For some Players/Characters, it’s what the game is all about. But can you imagine waking in a dragon’s lair the next morning to the stench of its morning-breath weapon? You better stealth check the hell out of there before you’re having awkward conversation as the kobolds bring coffee and bagels.
Here we have a prime example of a repercussion. That ancient beast isn’t going to be slightly peeved but forget you exist. It wants payback for being treated like a one-night-stand piece of meat. You and your party are no longer dragon hunters, you’re dragon hunted.
With a beast of such ancient intelligence, with legendary resistances to spare and blindsight before we even get to their ability to fly and crush small buildings in a single bound….you be screwed. Imagine that you’re running out of the goblin caves, twenty of the little green blighters hot on your heels, and as you hit sunlight, your gigantic dragon-ex is stood right there. In the immediate instance, your goblin problem is solved as they scream and run away. But now you have a very awkward conversation to have with a beast that can incinerate your whole party.
The lesson, my friends, is to be careful. While seducing a dragon can be funny, if I was your DM, I’d be having way more fun afterward.
In my most recent game, my PCs were taking down their undead pirate BBEG on his ship, The Howling Doom. One of the PCs, who shall remain nameless, decided to head into the pirate’s cabin to retrieve the book of necromancy the BBEG had been using. This, however, was in the middle of a fight with a pretty powerful lich who kept raising his crew back to life on his turn, as well as making his own attacks. The PC also decided, to stop anyone following him into the cabin, to set a fire in the doorway with an explosive liquid that he had a bottle of (I call it Carmen’s Liquid, AoE 5ft, 3d6 fire damage, if you’re interested). Now…repercussions.
The fire started to spread around the ship each round, seriously reducing the fighting space for his companions, and making everything infinitely harder. Also, because he then couldn’t get back out of the cabin without taking damage, he wasted three rounds trying to break through the haunted ship’s rotten wall to escape himself. This hampered the fight, reducing his team by one combatant in a fight where every person was needed, and the book was useless until the BBEG was dead anyway. Then, because the ship was on fire, the PCs had to evacuate, barely killing the BBEG, but lost every coin of gold in his hold plus an essential plot artefact which another player really needed to retrieve for all of their sakes. He’s very lucky that my rolls didn’t spread the fire to their own ship too, but it was close.
That, my friends, is what is known as a cluster-f*ck. Now, sometimes you Players might make a decision, in the heat of the moment, which goes badly. Such is the luck of the roll. But, also, this wasn’t the result of a Nat 1, but a conscious decision to set the ship they were standing alight.
In the long run, they won, but they lost their macguffin, their riches, and almost their lives. Also, their ship is damaged to the point that they need a new one. That money would have come in reeeeaaaalllly handy about now.
Repercussions. Do not set your ship on fire. Do not do the horizontal cha-cha with the dragon.
DMs! So your Players are wanted in fifteen fiefdoms
Sometimes things just go wrong. This can be because situations get out of control in the fantasy worlds we love so much. Other times, despite your best efforts, your Players are just plain nuts. This leads to them poking the wrong person with something sharp or a shitty Charisma check leading to all kinds of misunderstandings. In these situations, your Players can get a little more attention from the constabulary than they might like. Unless you want your game to devolve into a courtroom drama, you need to sort this out.
There are a few ways of dealing with this.
The first option requires no effort at all, since you just have to ignore the fact that the city guard exists at all. That option, however, is rubbish.
The second, you have your Players try to explain themselves or the city guard takes them in. You now have a slightly different kind of dungeon for your Players to escape from. Not everyone can blow on a moth and have a giant eagle rescue them, so they’re in for some adventure.
Once they’re out (if they make it) someone will eventually notice. No doubt the city will send some bounty hunters out to bring them in/finish them off. That’s a nice little random encounter. Especially since the options to pay, talk or fight their way out can lead to some fun interactions. Personally, I like to have the bounty hunters come back time and again, often at inopportune times, until the Players fix the problem.
The third option is the Dirty Dozen option. Your Players have done bad things, but the leader of the city/town/guards sees potential in them. If they can defeat the darker danger lingering blah-blah-blah they will be given a reprieve. If they don’t do it, they’ll be dead anyway, and it will save the Sarge getting his new hanging rope all dirty.
Of course, you might have a group of Evil aligned players. It can be done, and it can be done well. In this case, being nasty is in their genetic make-up. Whatever they get up to, they’ll meet with resistance. So, have a team of adventurers come after them. Just like a BBEG in a good-aligned campaign, this team of adventurers can be your evil players’ nemeses and come back time and again. Also, think about how villains in cartoons would get away with things. The local police were always idiots, the Heroes would turn up to stop the evil, but the Villains would have some perfectly executed escape plan so that they could come back next week. Encourage your players to think about getaways just as much as the rest of the plan, and they’re scot-free!
I’m now obsessed with the idea of running an Evil-only campaign…*runs off to do research*
Thanks for reading, Gamers. Next time we’ll be talking about Players! Appreciate your DM vs DMs! Enforcing gaming etiquette.
Craig Hallam is an uber-geek and author of Speculative Fiction from Yorkshire, UK
Find him at www.facebook.com/craighallamauthor or on twitter @craighallam84