High Risk, High Reward.
Often in a game, taking a risk your character would take, even if not the optimal decision, can be the most wonderful driver of the story players can experience. I am not talking about stealing from every merchant, murdering hobos, punching the king in the face, or insulting nobles because it's funny. That usually falls squarely in "problem player" territory and isn't much fun for team-play games.
I am talking about something your character would do that might be risky, but it makes sense in the game world that they would go for it. High-risk, high-reward circumstances have a considerable payoff either way. If you pull it off, you get the McGuffin driving the story beats to extreme heroism. Fail, and you have a chance to fail forward and move the story somewhere no one expected and open unlikely opportunities for extreme heroism of a different variety.
I am lucky to see this play out from time to time because the folks playing in my games are pretty awesome creative people, and some like to push the envelope a little far at times. Yes, it is sophisticated play, but even beginner story-share-ers can pull this off.
The first thing to consider is - is this what my character really would risk? Are they motivated to do this thing? Doing it for the lulz in a funny one-shot or a game with a gonzo tone is one thing, but when sharing a serious story, you want to make sure it makes sense narratively and is true to what the character would do. And no, this isn't an excuse to pull the "it's what my character would do." move that every DM and player universally hates. The difference is narrative, honesty, and, to my next point - consent.
Next, try and obtain consent. Either break the fourth wall and have the conversation at the table. "Listen, friends, I want to do this thing, but it could get us all in trouble. Is everyone cool with it?" This goes a long way; getting buy-in is essential for everyone's fun and investing in everyone at the table. One could also take the less passive roleplay approach and, in character, sort out the details.
Imagine a player's character looking at the group, gaining consent. "I am going to do this thing, ok?" and everyone nods yes. Win or lose, things are about to get awesome.
Double-check once you are true to your character and it's not falling into problem player territory. Suppose you feel good about it and have the table's consent. It's safe to do the thing, sit back, and watch the collective storytelling hit the next level.
Thunder Buddies PBP. Some may have figured out this squad prompted the theme of this week's newsletter. Over the last few weeks, the rogue decided to try and lift an item from a colossal baddie. I told the player she had about a 5% chance (I rarely telegraph this, obviously) of doing this, and it's a party wipe situation if it doesn't work unless something flips those odds. She didn't pull it off.
Faced with a TPK event, the player's character offered themselves to be taken to save the rest of the team. The baddies agreed, and everyone survived (barely) to face another day. We are now rescuing the player character mode, whipping up everyone's emotions, and it is about as max engagement as I can ever hope for in a game.
Everyone wish the Thunder Buddies luck this week; they will need it.
Pact Mules. I am writing out of order here because I want to feature another table that frequently makes sub-optimal decisions but in a different way. This group is in a jarring circumstance. They think they are on a multiplanar reality show to get to the bottom of a maddening dungeon.
It isn't easy on them, and each one reacts to it a bit differently. , The players have some epic moments that include: saving the ranger from his madness with clever use of magic and compassion, wrangling a rogue artificer back to their senses, exorcising a ghost out of the cheese-loving wizard, and more. It isn't all epic either; let us say the team is careful when listening to things on the other side of a closed door.
Wise Witches of Rashemen PBP. The team finds themselves sneaking up on some wild ritual in the mystic forests of Rashemen. A gnarly tree, demons, and cultists abound. Some quick thinking and a little magic distracted some devilish folk to wander off, and the party got the jump on the remaining cultists. With nearly everyone out of the way, we reveal why this simple tree is causing all these problems.
Ghosts of Spelljammer PBP. The party fought off some pirates and celebrated on their spelljamming ship. All had much ale after they drove them to flee! This week, a fantastic sight is before them - a city built upon an asteroid. "The Rock" is one of my favorite city settings, so I am excited to show the team around this week. I hear the layered pasta at the Laughing Beholder is pretty good.
Wednesday Afternoon Mad Mage. Yes! a new entry on our game entries this week. Some of our friends from the Monday family table join us on Wednesday afternoons to hit the mega-popular mondo gonzo, the multiplanar game show that is the Dungeon of the Mad Mage. Excited to bring this table through an absolute joy of a campaign, and I expect many laughs and battles ahead of us!
Wednesday Evening Mad Mage. Here is another example of high-risk, high reward. I don't want to spoil what could be ahead for others, but I want to point out that the Bard of the group had a fantastic walking-dead-Esque idea last week that got them past some serious trouble and on to the next level. Oh, and what a next level it is. The party is hitting my tied for the favorite level of the entire dungeon, and they find themselves face to face with some mind-bending enemies. We also have a sixth player joining us this week. Welcome to the show!
Thursday Ghosts of Spelljammer. On the hunt for the now infamous kobold wizard, the party finds themselves in an underground location on the Rock of Bral. The party got to use their gift of gab and blade as they made their way to a secret hideout to face a system-threatening foe. With a double-cross, we resume after a pretty intense cliffhanger this week!
Laughing Head Insurance Company. The LHIC welcomed a new party member to the table this week, and I must say it went swimmingly. The autognome is quickly rising the ranks of one of my favorite character types to watch play out and tonight was no exception. Although I must say, the lizard chieftain wrestling was pretty hard to top. The team finds themselves in a mysterious temple with some tricky traps and demonic foes.
On Friday, I hosted a private event for a team of co-workers that finally got to square off against a dragon. We have been playing together each month since the beginning of the year! Always a joy to bring these folks together for a fun time.
Frozen Few. Things are getting spicy in the frozen north. The party's more aggressive members restrained themselves when faced with a challenging ancient white dragon and let their pacifist Canibal cleric (yes, I just said that) talk Arvy down and parlay for a while. The healing hands of the monk went a long way to help, along with some gold. We learned a lot about our cleric and monk - with some next-level roleplay over the last few sessions, we stand at the precipice of Auril's Abode itself. I also got to use the line "The cold never bothered me anyway" this week for the first and only (not guaranteed) time.
Adventure in courage, friends, and take a risk this week; it might turn out pretty awesome. Or not. Maybe don't take advice from your DM, who likes seeing player characters get in trouble.