Monday, August 12, 2019

Matching the Narrative to the Sacrifice

I was watching an episode of The Dragon Prince on Netflix. In the episode the main characters face a problem, and to solve it one of the characters immediately makes a sacrifice that worked. I'm not giving specifics of that to avoid spoilers, but it reminded me of an event in a large (like 150+ players, 12+ GMs) game I was the head GM for a while back.

It was an L5R game, and in that game there was a monster that had increased damage resistance depending on the Glory of the person fighting him. The more famous and well known you were, the harder it was to hurt. To the point that a lot of the day 1 PCs could only do 1 wound in an attack because they were so well known that the monster just ignored all their damage dice.

The point of this monster was to be a challenge to the Day 1 PCs, but that wouldn't be as dangerous to newer players in the scene. Even better, it'd give a chance to really propel a new player into the spotlight since they could really do damage. Unfortunately that aspect never played out, but the being a threat to  the Day 1 PCs worked fine. But then the story took a turn.

One of the players got to thinking that somehow this was something of a personal plot. The monster was linked to him somehow. The player in particular had one of the servers most popular characters, and was in a lot of scenes, so there was a growing relationship there but not that focused. And so the character came to the conclusion that while he lived, the monster couldn't die. And so, while fighting this monster he sacrificed his life (literally committing suicide) to "remove the monster's protection.)

What shocked me as the head GM is that the GM running the monster ran with it. He let it happen. His answer to me at the time was "if he's going to sacrifice something that big and important to him, it should work." At the time my view point was "if he wants to do something that is specifically not the solution then it is tragic but he's the one jumping to extreme solutions with no research."

It's a view I never questioned. So imagine my surprise when I watched that episode of Dragon Prince today and found myself re-debating the question.

Is it better for the game to take the sacrifice and have it be meaningful? To change the narrative to match the sacrifice and let it work? Or is it better to stick to what you've established - even if the PCs haven't figured it out yet - and have the sacrifice be noble but futile in this situation?

As always, it depends on what kind of game you are running...but right now I think I'm leaning the way the GM at the time ran that scene. If someone is willing to make a worthwhile sacrifice, and a real sacrifice at that not like some hit points or an item they could care less about, but a significant sacrifice...why shouldn't it work unless it has been specifically stated to work on some other principle openly to the table already?

The PCs, by definition of being PCs, are special. They are the 4-6 (on average) people the world is revolving around because they are the hero of that story. So why shouldn't fate twist to give them a hand when they are paying the price?

I'm not sure it is something I would do every game. But it feels to me like the 'right' answer for the way I want my games to be played.

How about you?

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