Are your players laughing too much? Do you wish that sometimes you could just get them to stop reveling over their latest exploits? We can fix that, but it will take a commitment from you to withhold your sympathies from those sycophantic rule-hawks for a bit. Pull up a chair, grab a drink and hold your digital screen just a little closer…we’re going into the mindset of a player…
Players, like anyone else, are products of their environment. Where & how they grew up, what went on during their week before they arrived at gaming, ands personal peculiarities are all 100% out of your control (unless you can lock them up in a closet). I say this because you need to take the advice with the proverbial grain of salt; messing with players’ heads may have some unforeseen results. I will not be held responsible for bloody noses or bad tempers.
[The first rule of RPG Fight Club is…. We’re not LARPing! This is serious, mom!]
Think about your current gaming party- are you able to clearly distinguish the players as the good guys and the NPC villains as the baddies? If you answered yes, then you’ve come to the right place. The first step is admitting there is a problem. Black and white moral choices are so pre-millennium. Today’s best ‘good guy’ parties should do good deeds, save the world etc. but in the process be liable to be blamed for everything. Having to justify their actions (just a dash, mind you- you don’t want to spoil the flavor) will both solidify your players’ involvement in the shared world, and leave them open for your well-timed barb that many monsters are able to justify their actions too.
[Heck, Kanye West asked for millions…]
In an article I wrote for High Level Games, I mentioned the fact that often times, NPC’s are treated like second-class citizens. In the real world, this has consequences. People that are oppressed eventually get fed up with it. What this looks like historically is: slaves become emancipated, colonies become independent, and Facebook friends become “unfriended”. Your NPC’s can be a part of this revolution tradition. Back stabbing, gossiping, theft and deliberate deception are just a few of the symptoms of our human condition that can be transferred to your world.
[Think: What Would Putin Do?]
Your party has a reputation. There are ripples of effects for each of the powerful artifacts gained, monsters cleared out, and taverns emptied of booze. These should not be ignored, nor should your players’ actions towards those “others” living in your shared world. The people in the town that was destroyed- do they form a lynch mob to remove the party, or spread rumors about the bad luck the players bring? If your players go through NPC’s like so much cotton candy after a merry-go-round marathon, have that well dry up. And make it stark.
[You know nothing, John Snow]
Get your players second-guessing their tendencies. Asking them innocuous questions such as “where are you standing when you say this?” or “who is pushing open the door?” will bait the trap for players to expect the worst every time you open your mouth. If they keep killing off plot hooks before you have a chance to use them, have the plot hooks’ identity concealed. Reveal upon death that… it was someone they wish they hadn’t killed (or for the less nefarious- someone that they normally wouldn’t kill). Players second-guessing themselves are a DM’s opiate. Watching them squirm while trying to hide your smirk will get you through several requisite haggling sessions about what is and isn’t allowed according to the rules.
In short, DM’s you must take the world players expect and turn it upside down. That moral grey area is your house. Invite the players in to stay a while…at least until their laughing dies down.
Dustinopolis, Devourer of Cheese (@devourcheese) writes blogs for the perennially classy HighLevelGames.ca . He changes his underwear daily.