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#1: Ten Ways to Torment Meddling Heroes without Ending Their Pathetic Lives

Dosoga

Retired User
Right. And if 100 orcs in a 10 x 10 foot room is "Fantasy Role Playing Cliche #1", then "NPC Betrays PC" is "Fantasy Role Playing Cliche #2".

This idea was stale as early as 1976 or 1977.
Wow! Come on, OG... I would bet that half the players reading RPG.Net weren't born in 1976 (no slight on you or them, just the facts). An old plot doesn't mean it's not a good plot - as long as it's not overused. I am more concerned about PC betrayal myself, as it tends to affect long-term players and PCs dynamics.

I always like seeing advice for junior (or even not so junior) GMs which might make them reconsider how to play villains.

...any GM who uses "Hurt the PCs with their background" or "betrayal" should be forced to clean Jabba the Hutt's toilet.
See, that's all based on the system. Being a GURPS adept, I feel that any PC who selects the "Dependent" disadvantage deserves to see them threatened, whereas one who decribes his dependents in his background but is not inclined to pick the disadvantage clearly states that he doesn't want his PC's relatives to be part of the story. And some PCs like the cliches...
 

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
See, that's all based on the system. Being a GURPS adept, I feel that any PC who selects the "Dependent" disadvantage deserves to see them threatened, whereas one who decribes his dependents in his background but is not inclined to pick the disadvantage clearly states that he doesn't want his PC's relatives to be part of the story.
Okay, I grant you this point completely; you are 100% correct.

Any PC who gets points for a dependent has absolutely no call to complain if those dependents are used against that PC.
 

Old Geezer

Active member
Banned
Wow! Come on, OG... I would bet that half the players reading RPG.Net weren't born in 1976 (no slight on you or them, just the facts). An old plot doesn't mean it's not a good plot - as long as it's not overused. I am more concerned about PC betrayal myself, as it tends to affect long-term players and PCs dynamics.

I always like seeing advice for junior (or even not so junior) GMs which might make them reconsider how to play villains.
Well, okay, how about "Don't make EVERY DAMN NPC a traitor".

Even Knights of the Dinner Table parodies this -- if a NPC has a name, they're going to betray you.

Betrayal should be a SURPRISE, not "oh, it's about time".

I'm serious; I've seen a LOT of GMs who literally have EVERY NPC with any influence at all out to betray the PCs.

It really does build that situation where the PCs simply kill every NPC who isn't a shopkeeper.

I wish this were an exaggeration.
 

Owesome

Social Justice Warmonger
Validated User
Article said:
But, what about their grandmother, their father, or their girlfriend? What about any of their loved ones?
There's a trope in Superhero comics known as "Women in Refridgerators," named after an occasion where the hero in a book had a girlfriend introduced a whole three issues before she was dismembered and left in a fridge for the hero to find. The trope kind of points out the idea that female supporting characters often get used just for adding The Drama to the male heroes' lives- and while we *are* talking about NPCs, who are by definition *not* PCs, I would like to urge the DM going down this road to add some depth to the portrayl of the kidnapped NPC- best case scenario, you'll get a better adventure out of it and motivate the player to actually care about the NPC more.

Sure, we all know this already, but thought I'd say it anyways...
 

Strange Visitor

Grumpy Grognard
Validated User
Now that that's out of the way please keep in mind these things are meant to be cruel and painful. As a means to drive the characters into a frenzy over the villain if the palyer associates all the bad things happening to his character with the GM then he's playing the "Players VS. GM" game. Which, admittedly, can be equally the fault of the GM as the player.
The problem is that the GM intrinsically has an enormous information advantage over the players in this sort of situation, so the legitimacy of these sort of tactics and the proper response to them is always in question; I've rarely found players who _don't_ have problems with this sort of thing unless they've already given specific license to do so (in the form of things like Hero Dependents for example).

The fact is, many if not most PCs have the tools to deal with straightforward attacks on their person, and as such the players feel like they can handle that; many have little way to deal with indirect assaults on their interests, and it can easily feel that rather than making them more want to take down the villain, that it was worse for them to deal with them in the first place than to leave them alone.

Or put another way, some of these are incredibly perilous tools to use at best.
 

Parfait

Retired User
In my experience, when players put the effort into making background stories, they love it when they are used (and sometimes abused). But as the general consensus seems to go, too much abuse will lead to lame stories and no one wants that.

However, if you wish to abuse the PC through their backstory, I find that if you do it tactfully, you can get an even more positive response than you would have gotten a negative response if you had done it poorly.

As an example, I had a PC in a game I GMed who was a duke's son who had had a falling out with his father over the circumstances of his mother's illness and ultimate death. In play, the PCs eventually ended up back in the duchy where the son was forced to confront his father about their relationship. Weeeellll... that didn't work out quite as planned. Before the PC could garner any closure on this rift between himself and his father, the father was brutally murdered.

The result was very positive because, first of all, the son didn't hate the father, they simply couldn't see eye-to-eye on a very important topic (as established in the backstory), and secondly, the son was now robbed of his absolution as well as his parent. The PC's typical dandy demeanor was dropped and the fire burned in him to hunt down his father's killer (which is, of course, what I wanted). And of course, at the end of the day, the son had to grow to be a man and deal with the loss of his other parent and take control of the duchy.

This was not an isolated incident either. I find that I get the best out of my group when I lead a charge directly into their characters' pasts.
 

Paul DuPont

Chronic RPG Creator
Validated User
Wow, lots of controversy over this article. If nothing else, that would indicate that it was a good article that really made people think. As for the article, I liked it a lot. Many of the tools mentioned are things that I would rarely want to use unless the setting was directly in theme with it (which was the point of the article: getting away from boring same-old).
In essence, I think the controversy really surrounds the aspect of theme. Many games (and their players) take for granted that good things will happen to the characters most of the time. Chalenges, sure, but with rewards. Inumerable RPG's give constant rewards to their players for difficulties. This is therefor a basic premise for inumerable players. Perhaps it is assumed even by those of us who also play 'untraditional' games.

As for me, I really like the artsy aspects of role playing though, and in this light, I don't care as much about those metagame rewards, I care about having a fun story when there is room for it to happen. So, as long as the plot, characters and plot elements fit the genre of story I am expecting, then truer is better. Vilains should be vilainous, in every way, that way they are trully hated, trully chalenging and trully satisfying to defeat should the story lead to that end. It might be nice to see more players play true heroes... no not the smug, self important, false-humility paladins I see everywhere, but actually noble characters. With faults? Sure! Faults that they overcome to demonstrate their deep nobility of character. (ahh, keep dreaming...)

As a final note: I noticed all the disclaimers in the article, they were blatant and I think the author composed it well. I would actually have enjoyed more examples of how to create those vilainous plot twists rather than have the article bogged down with repeated warnings. Good job and thanks for the article!
 

Dosoga

Retired User
I'm serious; I've seen a LOT of GMs who literally have EVERY NPC with any influence at all out to betray the PCs.

It really does build that situation where the PCs simply kill every NPC who isn't a shopkeeper.

I wish this were an exaggeration.
Too true. Some GMs become very predictable. In one campaign, I had a powerful villain use polymorph to fool the PCs in thinking one of their old allies had returned to assist them. He then used possession to control one of the PCs and have him murder someone they had just captured. (Convoluted? Yes, but the PCs were powerful enough by then to take him head on, so he tried a certain degree of subtility).

They first thought they had been betrayed by one of their own (the PC), then picked up something was odd and thought they had been betrayed by the NPC, and finally figured out that maybe this was not their old ally.

So in the end, I guess I unwittingly played on players' assumptions about betrayal as the logical motive, which delayed them from doing some more serious invetigation work.
 

Wolfgar

Registered User
Validated User
Betrayal should be a SURPRISE, not "oh, it's about time".

I'm serious; I've seen a LOT of GMs who literally have EVERY NPC with any influence at all out to betray the PCs.

It really does build that situation where the PCs simply kill every NPC who isn't a shopkeeper.

I wish this were an exaggeration.
Yeah, it's just bad GMing if the shopkeepers aren't screwing them over too.
 
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