Planning by the Negatives July 06, 2015 11:00 2 Comments

I run a weekly Tephra game, and I've had a number of players say that the way I run games is unlike anybody else. That's not necessarily a boast. My games tend to be extremely political and I aim to have a high sense of realism while keeping a large cast of NPCs. My games will regularly go 3-4 sessions without combat, leveling is slow, and treasure is next to non-existent.

Last week, I had a customer complain: "I'm tired of losing. Can't we just win for once!?"

I thought this statement was funny. From my vantage point, they had just done a phenomenal job! In that session, I had planned for:

(1) The local nobleman to die of poisoning.
(2) The adventurers to be chased out of the mansion by a king-appointed private detective.
(3) For the butler that had been helping them to be hung for treason.

At the end of the day, they saved the local nobleman, they convinced the private detective that they were in the right, and they managed to chase the noble's advisor that had been slowly poisoning him out of the city. It was a hugely successful adventure... if you compare it to the disaster I had planned for them.

I don't plan good things. I plan my sagas to be like Game of Thrones episodes, where everything bad is going to happen and all the great characters are eventually going to die off in some horrible way. It's up to the players to prevent the bad things from happening, and they often do. But when you're accustomed to great victories, tons of treasure, and happily-ever-after, even the best of my sessions tend to be let-downs.

But take heart! During the next session, I had the surviving nobleman provide them with coin and supplies in exchange for saving him, and now they have a powerful ally in the fight to come. See, I'm not all bad, right?