Storytime – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Go with the Flow

Storytime again!  This time, I was in the DM chair at the game, sticking the players in the middle of the City of the Dead.  Just a wee bit of background so you can understand what’s going on.  In the world the players were in, there was a massive war which left millions dead just a century ago, and one of the biggest battles took place at what became the City of the Dead after a massive magical explosion.  Ghosts, ghouls, zombies, vampires, and all other sorts of undead creatures roamed the city after the battle, trapped by a barrier around the city which prevented anything undead from escaping.   There were three major powers in the city, each of them holding an artifact that the players needed to defeat the Big Bad.  They were onto the second of the three, a master vampire who longed to return to a world with life as so few people went to the city anymore due to the dangers (and most died quickly as they were pretty much the only food source for the undead creatures there).

After giving my Warlock the social encounter she’d been wanting for so long, letting her chat at a nice dinner party for the players hosted by the vampire, I threw in a skill challenge.  First, a Bluff check to get the vampire talking about himself, then Insight to figure out what he desired, and finally a Diplomacy check to convince him for a deal.   Get him a way out of the city by midnight the next night and he’d hand over the artifact.  Don’t, and he will kill them all.  I honestly wasn’t sure what the players would do, but I didn’t expect them to manage it because they didn’t have any items, powers, or rituals that I was aware of.

Flashback to the previous session when they went through a necromancer lich’s tower of traps and looted the crap out of the place.  I was rather surprised when they decided the components to one of the traps – a pair of cabinets that teleported objects between the two – would make a great item to haul around.  They had the strength, so I decided to go with it then completely forgot about it just like I thought they would.

But no, one of them decided to haul one cabinet outside the barrier and bring the other one to Count von Count (I can’t remember the guy’s name, but I do remember his At-Will move power was to shift 8 squares to simulate a master vampire’s insane speed).  I was at a loss.  A major component of the City of the Dead is that there’s no way out for the undead.  It makes creatures like vampires that much more dangerous because they can turn you into undead themselves, trapping you in the city forever.  But due to their good rolls during a planned social encounter, they got an option and they came up with an awesome plan, and I didn’t want to take that away from them.  So I did what any good DM does in those sorts of situations.

“Okay, we’re going to take a quick break while I get some water and smoke a cigarette.”

Having bought myself some time, I started weighing the options.  Make it work and let them be successful, or let it fail and feel like I’ve cheated them (as well as losing a great combat encounter).  I ran over what vision I had for the world from that point on, I ran through what happened at the dinner, I ran through what I knew about both the vampire and the necromancer (why would he stay in the city if he had the cabinets?)  On the balcony, I could hear them talking quietly and I could barely make out their discussions that I’d never let them get away with it.  Well then, that’s all I needed to hear…

I sat back down and set up the board.  The vampire sends a flunkie through first and it works, so he walks through himself.  He cackles madly…after a hundred years, he’s now free to roam the world again!  Mwahahahahaha!  Oh, kill them.

So I managed to let them succeed (shocking them in the process), but I didn’t lose my combat encounter because the megalomaniac vampire wouldn’t uphold his deals.  And why wouldn’t the necromancer lich have used the cabinets to get out?  Because he was friggin’ insane!  The guy lived in a city consisting mostly of undead monsters with limited reasoning abilities, but still built a tower full of traps and riddles a hoard of zombies would’ve been able to just walk right through (taking massive losses along the way but who cares because they’re zombies).  The moral of the story?  Don’t be afraid to take a break to think things through, and don’t be afraid to go off the rails every once in a while.  You might be pleased with the results.

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Published in: on January 7, 2011 at 6:00 AM  Leave a Comment  
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