Tuesday, August 28, 2012

No Plan Survives Contact with the Players

Saturday night, we officially kicked off the b/x / LL game I'm running, as both players were present.

The player characters:
Euphrates - elf - race-as-class - 2nd level
Lenny the Elf - uh, elf- race-as-class - 1st level

For Lenny's player this was the first time he had played a tabletop rpg in about 20 or so years. I decided to give them something that would be challenging, offer opportunites for roleplaying and combat, gold, and fame depending on what motivated them.

I spend a lot of time reading blogs about being a good GM. Definitions vary of course, but I am a big fan of the concept of player agency. I want my players to have meaningful choices to make and these should impact the game at some level (i.e. consequences) - and that means that scenarios don't have pre-ordained conclusions, that players can miss/skip whole piles of stuff I prepare (and I don't force them to end up there, or suddenly change the location of a particular encounter so that players have to go through it), etc.

Of course, this means things will happen that you aren't prepared for; you'll have to wing it. That seemed a little intimidating at first, but, I do the same thing all the time in my solo games, so it's really not that bad. 

Part of me, the part that doesn't want to be put on the spot during a game, still couldn't help but think "But surely  you can anticipate what the players will do!" Sure. To a degree. But how many possible responses are there to a given situation?

The correct answer is: Always one more than you thought of!

And the first session reinforced that idea in spades:

  • PCs hired to escort a holy relic from city temple to remote monastery.
  • Caravan ambushed by bandits (of course).
  • Temple cleric on journey is in fact a priest serving Chaos. He hired the bandits. 
  • Said cleric intended to deliver relic to his master who will use it as a way to gain favor with their god and entice it to this world. 
  • The cleric was to race off with the wagon bearing the relic during the ambush. But Lenny had already jumped on the wagon to get a better line of sight on the onslaught of bandits. (I had not counted on that)
  • Euprhates jumped on the wagon too and she tried to race of with it (ostensibly to protect the relic, but later on I wasn't so sure. Definitely didn't see that coming.)
  • When the bandit leader dropped down from a tree limb (expecting to only have to deal with the merchant per my original time line), Lenny cleaved him in half.
  • PCs defeated the cleric and learned his plan thanks to a charm spell by Euphrates
  • The players decided they like the idea of unleashing the "God of Chaos" on the world and wanted in. (Say what now? You want to open a portal for this entity you know nothing of, but that is promised to bring down the world as you know it? Now, you know that this, this and this can happen right? You do? Ok then.)
Maybe you would have anticipated the final bullet point. I did not and I'm even more excited to see where the story goes now.

Unfortunately, this weekend is Dragon*Con and so we're not playing. But we're planning on the weekend after. Which gives me a little less than two weeks to come up with the next scene/situation.


  1. Apparently, there was no reason for you to change the original expression for your post's title.

  2. I remember many years ago running a quick "training game" for beginner players where I let them find a magic sword that kept whispering to the Dwarf who picked it up, "I'm really good against Elves, try me on the Elf" . . . so, of course the Dwarf did, hacking his fellow party member to pieces (the sword was right about being good against Elves) . . . which started the whole party fighting against each other except for one guy . . . who picked up the sword who was really good against Elves.

    -- Jeff

    1. Hello Jeff,

      Great story! I think my players are cut from a similar cloth as that Dwarf.