“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”
“Why, what did she tell you?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”
— The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy.
Most of the time, as a GM (Game master) the information I give my players is important. The degree of importance varies.
If I tell someone that a Giant is watching them – that’s relevant information. How important it actually is depends on context. If the player is flying rapidly across the sky it’s a lot less important to the player than if their character has just killed a few other giants and is currently looting the giant’s treasure chest. If I say the giant is seventeen feet tall with black skin and a lot of tattoos – that’s interesting. If a player wants to know the Giant’s name and what he had for breakfast, well… that’s up to the player to ask! (If you have players who want lots of detail, then you need to be prepared or able to make a lot of stuff up on the spur of the moment.)
Much of what we can and do provide is of interest and some is very important. Of course, I’m not going to tell them what is very important and what isn’t… often figuring that out for themselves is part of the adventure.
My 3.5 Dungeons and Dragons group got together on Saturday to continue their “Expedition to the Demonweb Pits”. Since it had been nearly six months since we’d gotten together I gave a general summary of what had happened during the last gaming session:
The party had travelled to the city of Zelatar (capital of the Demon prince Graz’zt) in the Abyss to meet an agent of Orcus who had information for them concerning what Lolth was planning. They had obtained a merchant charter to enter the city safely – as the law of the city states that even mortal merchants are protected from violence while in the city unless they commit a crime such as assault, fraud, etc. I reminded them that they had been taunted a number of times, and stopped by guards, but the charter (and their behaviour) had kept them out of trouble. They had eventually met the agent, gained what they expected and were seeking a way out of the Abyss and back to the city of Sigil (on another plane), so they had paid for an augury (or foretelling) to guide them.
I’d prepared a printed sheet for the players that stated why they’d gone to Zelatar, what they’d obtained and a copy of the augury. I handed these out. They started to talk about the detail of the foretelling and what to do next.
I had also previously decided to start with an unscripted encounter that could be amusing to most of the group and would then link to something planned later. I didn’t get the reaction I’d expected…
I told them that a huge giant was watching them. The giant pointed at the Barbarian in the group and asked if he “could give him a hand”…
“I think I’d like the right hand” The giant drew a knife with a blade about five feet long. “Will you cut it off or shall I?”
Barbarian Player: “I rage!”
I called for initiative, and thankfully for the Barbarian (and probably everyone else – one dwarf, three humans and two elves – in a city of 18,000 demons), two of the other players thought quickly and reacted before anything else happened…
“I throw myself at him and try and hold him down!”
“I cast web on him!”
They both beat the Barbarian on initiative and successfully pinned him down and talked sense into him.
Then we had a bit of “didn’t you pay attention?”, “what were you thinking?” from the players and myself.
We got past this, they fought a few creatures and eventually got a ferry on the river Styx that took them back to Sigil. They reported to the different people that they had been dealing with, rested and after a few days of game time, they re-entered Lolth’s demonweb with the aim of disrupting the planned council of demon lords. Overall, we got through quite a bit of the adventure, and we only have one or two more sessions to finish the whole thing.
I need a very large sheet of cardboard now, so I can draw up the floor plan (for miniatures) of one the final encounter chambers!
I updated my “Campaign Diary” on Sunday (which I’ve been meaning to do for months), and updated the one on the blog to bring it completely up to date.
I’m just trying to remember which one the Barbarian is…