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Session 24: A failure of resolve

January 13, 2011

Last week’s session was *awesome*.  This week’s session… well…

As a DM, you make plans, you consider options, try to predict where a player might go and what they might do.  For me, an absolutely vital part of Olde Schoole Playe is the presentation of options.  There should never be one path, one predetermined outcome, never a dead end.  BUT it is important to remember that it is a perfectly valid option for players to ignore, skip over, or just not notice all of those options and find themselves in a situation that you either didn’t predict, or had hoped to avoid.
And that’s what happened this session.  I scattered a few escape hatches around, along with intimations of impending doom, and yet, the characters marched blithely forward and found the inevitable awaiting them with open jaws.  Here is the cliff’s notes version:

The PCs have been acting in the employ of a powerful wizard who wishes, more than anything, for them to retrieve an ancient and very dangerous artifact from deep within the Buried Castle of Thrax.  Recently, they discovered incontrovertible evidence that this wizard murdered a close ally of theirs.  Wishing to prevent ANOTHER villain from acquiring the item (actually, a set of 9 books), and deciding that the best course of action was to scatter the books in a number of places so that nobody could use it (sort of an opposite of your standard “assemble the mighty Rod of Kings!” quest, which I dig), the PCs got the items, and then brought them back to the surface.  Where the Wizard was waiting for them.  Now, as I said, they knew he was up to no good, and I had scattered both hints that he was monitoring their progress as well as potential means of avoiding the very dead end that they suddenly found themselves in, but they didn’t pick up on either.  So, wizard demands the books, they refuse and begin to run away. And all Hell breaks loose.

Which was, honestly, kind of kick-ass.  I mean, one fireball nearly killed all of them AND YET the PCs managed to employ a last minute, desperate distraction and delay tactic that allowed two of them to escape with their lives and several of the book volumes while the wizard murdered their comrade.

Here’s the weird thing, though.  My players seemed to have a great time, even though everything went badly for them.  Me?  I don’t know why exactly, but I feel really conflicted about the session.  Two things bother me, really–  First, I’m in totally uncharted water here.  I had allowed myself to believe that what happened couldn’t happen, that they’d either take one of the escape hatches I had set up for them,  or make one of their own.  They didn’t, and that should be totally cool, but I suddenly have no idea what the next few sessions are going to be like.  But here’s the thing that really bothers me–  Remember when I said that the wizard “murdered” the character who stayed behind to distract and delay?  That’s what SHOULD have happened, but painfully, shamefully, I didn’t go through with it.  Instead, the wizard polymorphed the character when he should have delivered a killing blow.  I feel like I should just turn my Olde Schoole Cred Card in right now.

A few days later, the players are still strategizing over email about how to deal with their particular problem.  In other words, nobody gives a shit about this “failure” but me.  The game goes on, they’re still having fun, and the only reason I stopped having fun is because I let some preconception about how the game should have gone, and how I should have reacted to a particular situation, bog me down.  That’s bullshit.

This game is about adaptability, about a story going in unexpected directions and becoming unexpectedly epic.  The lesson is that I just need to let it happen.

Next time though?  The mofo dies.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. mbeacom permalink
    April 7, 2011 10:23 pm

    Don’t beat yourself up. As long as your group is engaged and looking forward to the next session, you’re doing it right. Don’t get me wrong, I dig the concept of old school, but caring about adherence to some perceived style of game, old school or otherwise, regardless of what it means for the fun of the group is not good in any type of game.

    But yeah, take him out next time. ;)

  2. May 19, 2011 4:52 pm

    You know, you’re absolutely right, as I soon discovered.


  1. The Birth of a Macguffin « The Dungeon of Thrax

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