Friday, July 31, 2009

Learning What Not Do To From Dean Koontz's Frankenstein

Sometimes you read a book and think, "Man, that was one of the worst things I've read in fiction in a long time. There is nothing I could learn from that book."

But you'd be wrong!

While running a campaign is not exactly the same thing as reading a book, if there are things you enjoy in the book, you should try to bring that essence to the game. If there are things you don't enjoy, you should try to avoid them.

For example, don't introduce multiple plot threads that essentially end with no help from the players.

In this book, and beware the spoilers ahead folds, Dean Koontz brings forth several elements from the previous book and ends them not with a bang, but with a whimper. For example, Werner is a biological creation whose DNA has completely rewired itself and continues to fail and transform. He is killed off stage.

Chamelon is a hunting drone that is perfectly invisible and can kill anyone. Until its destroyed by a midget.

The midget in turn was initially introduced as a potentially fearsome murderer but is instead a child like clown.

The main villain of the series? Punk'd out by some otherworldly entity that itself was introduced as some vile and vast evil that gladly gives it live to save others.

There is a saying that you don't show a gun in the first scene without using it before the last scene. Dean throws the gun out the window and ducks back quickly when it goes off and shots someone walking down the street.

When creating a build up for your players, when telling them how fierce and powerful their latest adversary is, don't have some half dead gnome walk up to it and kill it. When discussing how dire and terrible some elder god is, don't have it destroyed off stage. "Oh yeah, that big finale you were looking for? Yeah, that elder god fell into a chasm and is dead. So yeah, don't worry about it."

Now if the players can use the environment and can act quickly and can make things interesting without having to actually draw blades, and they're happy with it, perfect. Run things in a way that makes the players the heroes and rewards them for their clever thinking. Don't let the players lose the potential for earning their glory. It cheats the players and it cheats their characters. They don't spend hours pouring over tomes of new mechanics to NOT use them. Give the players the chance to be cool.