Monday, April 25, 2011

V is For Victim

One of the things I've noted about Usagi Yojimbo, is that he tends to stumble onto those in need of his help. In a game where the players are in a heroic mode, or at least concerned enough about their fellows to stop and help them out, the idea of using victims to set up the game is right in line with how things often run for the long eared samurai.

For instance, in Usagi Yojimbo The Shrouded Moon, Stan has Usagi seeing a beating in an alley as four thugs beat on one victim. Becoming involved, Usagi learns that the person being attacked isn't quite a lowly innocent. This is a pattern that often happens to Usagi as he assist someone who is not necessarily as helpless as their initial situation seems.

Game Masters can take it a step further. In older adventurers, it was almost a sight gag that if there was an attractive woman being held prisoner by the villains, that she herself was a vampire, succubus, doppelganger, or other obvious trap. This was much the same as when seeing a highly valuable treasure out in the open with no apparent guards or traps. If it was too good to be true, it was.

The only problem with handling things like this too often though, is most players get their cues from the Game Master. If the GM insist that it is a game of high fantasy and heroism and keeps slitting the player's throats through the use of victims who are actually monsters, then pretty soon, if not immediately, the players will stop helping the victims. They may not become so madden that they attack and kill everyone they meet who may be a victim, but that easy in to the game of throwing the players into a situation where they can help someone, will be gone.

When thinking about using a victim, you need to decide how the character in question has been wronged. Is the victim someone that has been murdered and needs avenging? Is the character someone who has been bested unfairly and needs justice? Is it someone that's been robbed and will suffer dire consequences if the funds are not returned, or another source of funds used to replace them?

Victims come in all shapes and sizes. The rewards for helping different individuals should be different. When helping a noble regain lost honor or a prized possession, a monetary award should suffice. When helping a peasant or harlot whose been attacked and perhaps even killed or scarred or sold into slavery, a XP story award based reward should suffice to keep the players motivated. Remember, that despite some people's enjoyment of the game and the role playing elements they can bring to it, to others it is just a game and without some type of compensation, either in gold or in intangible xp, they may not go for it.

Victims are a useful tool in the Game Master's bag and should be used when appropriate.