Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Various Perils of Power

In Berserk 16, Guts manages to acheive some victories and taste defeat.
But how does that effect your game?
I'll mention NPC motivations again. Here, the entity that Guts has been battling, a semi-elf demonic child, has only one friend and puts herself in danger time and time again to save that friend. This is a fact that does not go unnoticed by Guts who puts this knowledge to good use.
This is a bit of tit for tat though. Players often have friends, family, and other contacts that the Game Master can weave plots around, often by having something horrible happen to those individuals to drag the players into the new session. Turn about is fair play.
If the Necromancer King is reknown for his love of a captured princess, rescuing her before launching the all out assault may make the Necromancer King more prone to seek up close and personal revenge, forsaking guards and other protection that the players would have to spend precious resources on. It doesn't have to be something so obvious as that, but if the NPCs have things they care about and are willing to sacrifice for, it acts as a good lead for the players to follow.
There is a brief pause in the action as we see the old Skull Knight, an ally of sorts to Guts who moves through the battlefield collecting his own trophies. If possible, think about doing some sort of interlude for the players so they have an idea of the wider scope of the world. It doesn't necessarily have to involve something they're directly involved in at that exact moment nor does it have to be something they know about, but it should be painting a larger picture for the players to understand some of the other factors going on in the campaign.
Lastly, Guts is wounded from his fight. Badly wounded. In comics, it's fairly common to see a super hero take out someone near or above his power level and then at a weakened state, get taken out. Sometimes, as with Batman and Bane's first encounter, it's by an adversary who is normally equal to the character.
Othertimes... not so much. In this case, Guts encounters what would be spoiled nobles playing at being knights who have two individuals with talent with them. Were he at full strength, he'd be able to blast through them. However, as weak and wounded as he is, they manage to score a victory.
This isn't necessarily important, but it does showcase that if players aren't able to marshal their resources, they may face the shame of being defeated by entities much weaker than they are. Sometimes however, that might be a good thing. For example, it can lead to the introduction of new characters that can act as new sources of information. Or in some cases, if the party has been split up or players have suffered character death, it can even act as a pool for new characters to emerge from.
Keep the overall scope of the campaign moving even as you continue to challenge those players, especially those that waste vital resources.