Hello! It's Monday, and for today there is only going to be a small post. Today though, I want to talk about one of the fun ways to manipulate the PCs in your game, give them a sense of confidence that may be unfounded - or could be founded depending on the dice - but will also give your PCs that chance to feel like billy badass. In short, I want to talk about bad attempts at intimidating your PCs and how that can play out in a fun way.
Mr. Mean Man
Some villains are sure that they're bad ass. They're so sure in fact that they don't mind telling people just how bad ass they are. This is a classic problem of movie villains who reveal themselves - and perhaps even a vital weakness - just to prove to the antagonist that they're worth taking seriously. This is the kind of NPC you want to use this technique with, as it is just so fitting and fun that you can have a really good time with it.
The Trick To A Bad Attempt
The trick to a bad attempt, to make it work the way we want, is that it has to look serious and like it could be intimidating to someone else. So, for example, you can't show a video of the guy beating up a defenseless old woman, as that isn't intimidating at all. However, you show a video of a group of armed people being taken down quickly and easily...that could be intimidating. Unless the PCs know they're better than the people in the video - perhaps even able to perform the intimidating acts on their own, individually. Then it is a failed attempt and can make the PCs feel like rockstars.
Why do they feel like rockstars? Well, for one, the villain was just like "I'm scary and this is why...." before listing off an act they can all do. That's like saying you're a legendary duelist because you brush your teeth in the morning. Not that scary. The second part though is the ability to have that "you're nothing" moment afterwards, and there is very little more bad ass than taking someone's attempt to be big and scary and just shoving it in their face. Don't believe me? Watch any action movie and notice that the "bad ass" defining moment for a character is usually something exactly like that.
Play It Straight
Now, I know what I said in the beginning, but I urge you to play this straight 95% of the time when you do this. Why? Because PCs need to feel powerful on occasion, and you don't want to make your PCs think that these moments are just to try to get them to lower their guard. One, that will ruin their fun, and two, it will mean they don't lower their guard later.
My suggestion would be to leave the intentional bad intimidation to a villain smart enough to give it a shot and pull it off. Still, like most tricks based on a reversal, you need to ground it in history first. If the first time the PCs see this it is a trick, they will remember that in all other occasions. So make sure the first few times are legit.
Why Play It Crooked/
Why would you want to play it crooked in the fist place though? Honestly, it is very situational. Sometimes it is a good way of showing a villain willing to play mind games. Sometimes it is a good way of showing arrogance and a willingness to "play" with one's food. There are a lot of reasons, but the best one is because it can make encounters - and sessions - more fun.
What are your thoughts on this? Have you done it? Did it work? Sound off in the comments.