Ain’t No Party Like an Infighting Party

One of my fears happened last night…I only had three players for a game that was designed for 5-6 players.  They even screwed up and let the kobold watch get away which warned all the kobolds inside their lair know they were under attack.  This made the two easy Level 2 encounters combine into a hard Level 4 encounter as they were in one room instead of two and in defensive positions.  But they managed it even though they were horribly outnumbered and outmatched.

Unfortunately, it took so long since there were only three of them that it was too late to do the last encounter.  And they were beat.  Thankfully, they were able to find the potion hidden in Siwos’s private room that granted them the benefits of an extended rest (seriously, I didn’t make that part up just to help them.  It was in the adventure I wrote).  So we’re going to get together today to finish up before we move the game to a friend’s house that is cat-free so we can fill out the party.

Something interesting I didn’t anticipate happened though.  My roommate is playing a Drow Assassin.  S is playing an Elf Barbarian (laugh if you want, she has INSANE mobility).  They spent the entire encounter bickering between one another.  It was hilarious, and it managed to bring back some of that previous edition feel.  At least for me.  It’s possible that it just may have been my group I played with when I was younger, but there was a lot of party infighting in the old days.  Lots of passed notes and secret rolls so that not all the players knew what was going on.  Sure, when the monsters came around, we stopped fighting each other and focused on whatever was attacking us, but we still worked alone as much as we did as a team.  My last campaign, I never bothered with secret notes because anytime I did, they reported it to the others.  They got along famously and there were no problems between characters.  And frankly, it was boring.

Buddy cop movies are fun because the two cops never get along properly.  Ensemble casts on TV series are the same way.  Each character has their own motivations and they act accordingly.  They never get along 100% of the time, and that interplay between them is what makes you want to watch the show.  Would you want to watch a movie or TV series about a group of people who get along all the time and always agree with each other?  Hell no!  You’d be bored senseless.  Jayne doesn’t get along with Simon.  Everyone distrusts River.  Shawn and Gus are horrible to each other.  Spike spent five seasons trying to get all of Buffy’s Scooby Gang killed.  Are Veronica Mars and Weevil working together this week or at each other’s figurative throats?  Are Spike and Angel working together this week or at each other’s literal throats?  You’d need a flowchart to understand all the interpersonal relationships on Galactica, and can you name one companion of The Doctor who ever, ever stayed put when she was told to?

So what’s the difference between this sort of interaction and a party falling to in-fighting and PvP combat?  When the chips are down, they have each other’s backs.  Even if their motives are less than pure (Spike only wanted to stop the world from ending because it was like an unlimited buffet of fun torturing people), they were still able to work together and overcome the bigger threat to everyone.  That’s the difference.  I’m fairly certain that, at some point, the Elf Barbarian and Drow Assassin are going to come to blows.  But I do know that it’s not going to happen when they’re in the middle of fighting the big bad black dragon I’ve got waiting for them under the kobold’s lair.

Also, here’s a little freebie for you.  In case you were wondering what that monster is on the side, let me explain.  The party of three consisted of the two aforementioned strikers and a controller – a Human Mage with a very blaster-strong build.  I knew they were going to get hurt badly without a leader, so I gave them a little friend.  With the help of a few people on the Wizards of the Coast D&D Forums, I was able to get this to its current form and I can say it works pretty well.  It kept everyone on their feet, but didn’t unbalance the game in the PC’s favor.  Feel free to use it in your games as well.

Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 7:50 PM  Leave a Comment  
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