What fools these mortals be…

On Role Playing:

(First off, a disclaimer for those in the game who will read this and will need a disclaimer: The character view sections of this post are from the point of view of a lawful evil character… So if he refers to you as an idiot or comments on your screeching, don't take it personally… Ok?)

Something I noticed long ago is that good role playing has absolutely nothing to do with 'levels' or the quality of your 'stats'… Last night was a good example of this…

For the purposes of fitting Raeshlavik into the game and the game system, he worked out to be a 4th level character to the rest of the groups 8th. This is due, in part, to what he is and the stats that he gets because of this.

Well, after some gross game adjustment last night on Scale's part, wherein he had an NPC that was traveling with the party kill everyone in their sleep… Ok, I need to clarify this I see…

Ok, first off Scales has 'played' AD&D for a long time, but is new at the GMing thing. When the game was first set up a couple of months ago, Scales had asked everyone to create characters and two players, rather than create something new, opted to play a pre-existing character…

Rule number one: don't let people play a pre-papered character in your game. It's ok if they use the concept, but have them re-create it within the bounds of your setting.

Ok, so being as one of these two characters comes complete with heaps of pre-existing stuff (epic level intelligent soul-sucking weapons, vast cosmic powers, spelljammers full of riches, artifact-like familiars, etc) Scales has to ramp up the rest of the party with similar… So before anyone has even seen the game world, they are running around with the equivalent of epic level characters. This causes an eventual problem…

They can't be challenged…

See, most gamers deep down want a challenge from the game; to surmount an epic evil, to correct some injustice, or perhaps cause the afore mentioned problems… They may not know this, but they do. Otherwise, why play? Oh, sure, there are the players who are only there for the ego stroking, but most still want a challenge.

Where you get a problem is not that the players playing the uber-characters want to avoid the challenge, it's that they really like the character; the persona if you will, and want to portray that being in game.

Ok, so Scales being new to all of this makes that boo-boo and has to rectify it, but goes about it the wrong way…

Rule numbers two and three: Don't kill the players without a fight. Don't take away things you've given them without it being their idea.

Scales, now having a bunch of 8th level characters with another 10 levels of toys, has no choice but to create epic-level encounters and in doing this gets the party contractually obligated to an ancient dragon. Things quickly work out that the party's inexperience with the world and swollen heads from their stats and gear, get them onto a collision course with said dragon which will end up with everyone being quite toasty and very dead… So he has an NPC thief kill them all in their sleep (as thieves do), steal all of their toys (as thieves do), and by way of a relic level item, brings them all back to life (which is something thieves never do as the dead don't hunt you down, but…).

I say them because I hadn't brought myself into the game yet.

Ok, cue the whining and discontent of a room full of players for breaking rules two and three… Fortunately everyone is pretty experienced, and I have a feeling they knew it was coming, so the whining didn't last but 10-15 minutes.

Whew… So after all of this everyone eventually sucks it up and gets on with the game as normal, albeit very high level, noobs.

One of the players (the one with the epic level weapons, the artifact-like familiar, and a spelljammer full of riches) still hasn't come to grips with loosing all of it's toys and, due to the fact that the swords are supposed to return to it, steadfastly refuses to move from the spot…

Sooo, it's decided that with the money the party has accumulated (and the spelljammer full of riches) that they will build an inn here in the middle of the forest, on a trade road between Waterdeep and the towns to the west. The druid in the party sets about wood shaping while the mage and the monk return to Waterdeep to buy supplies.

Time passes, money is spent, and rule number four is broken: Don't give anything to the characters that they themselves haven't bought.

The inn, now a gargantuan facility that is nearly a small town unto itself with it's own hirelings, magical amenities, and other such silliness, is finally open for business…

Cue Ravik…

The familiar of the Druid sees me approaching from the north and reports that something huge, black, and nasty is approaching. As all of the players are familiar with Ravik and the fact that the GM has asked me now, twice, what I'm doing, they almost all react accordingly based on their player knowledge of me.

So, I naturally use that to my advantage…

The druid runs to get Lyon's half-fiend character, Malagar, who is the proclaimed bouncer for this little group and tells him about the evil, horrible creature approaching from the north. He, in turn, takes off to encounter me before I actually get to the Inn to protect it and everyone and the druid follows. When they get to me (I knew they were coming from miles off thanks to a great listen check) I'm laying down between the two most evil looking trees I could find looking regal and contemplative… And mostly harmless. (The trees are added to the description to add to the “evil” flag that I want to wave…)

The druid roleplays well and upon seeing me, a unicorn, figures that I'm a spirit of the forest, a 'good guy', and bows to me. I in turn mention that it's so nice to see that some of the old race still know their place which is groveling before me. (Again, reinforcing the 'evil' while in fact only demonstrating my ego.)

The half-fiend who has never seen anything like me other than horses is taken aback by the fact that I spoke. The druid, kneeling there on the floor before me, agape, looks like she's been hit with a big hammer. I turn to Malagar content to completely ignore the elf now that it has demonstrated it's subservience.

“Greetings brother” I rumble at Malagar, “Perhaps you could inform me as to why these mortals have defiled my forest with their construction?” (I use brother here as he is also an immortal creature… It's not my fault if that is misconstrued.)

During this the Druid has run back to the Inn to get the Paladin in gear with tales of the “evil unicorn” coming to get them and the fact that I referred to Malagar as 'brother'…

Malagar stammers a bit, but manages to squeak out that they are there because the leader of their group, a paladin, has lost all of it's magic weapons and is waiting for their return. I smile inwardly at this information and ask him who else is there, and am told about the rest of the party… I quickly dismiss Malagar as an idiot for disclosing unit strength, position, and weaknesses to an unknown assailant. “Fine… Very well then, I shall have to go see about this myself I suppose, and deal with it as I deem necessary.” and I rise to my feet and begin heading for the Inn. (I say the word deal with as much evil, dripping, nastiness as I can, again driving the “evil” point with everything I have.)

I have now deduced that the fiend is obviously trying to mend his ways if he comes at the beck and call of a druid, which means he's probably not fully trusted and that he is obviously the lackey for several others. That they've all been stripped of their magical items by a thief, and that they are busy with the ins and outs of an Inn while none have any merchant skills with which to do this… So, a whole troupe of 'babes in the woods' who are ripe for the picking have landed in my lap as it were.

I have a cunning plan…

I saunter towards the Inn and Malagar does exactly as i figured he would: He flies back, getting there long before me, and being completely buffaloed by my act tells the paladin “The lord of the underdark tells me he can get me out of this one, but he's pretty sure you're fucked.” and that I'm way evil and am going to eat everyone…

Upon my arrival at the Inn the Paladin is running for a weapon, any weapon while the druid runs around likewise trying to help. The mage and the monk have heard nothing about this so far as they are elsewhere on the 'property'. I walk though the back door, which the elf left open and look around the main room of the establishment. Malagar watches me and decides to follow when I turn and leave the way I came in.

Once I'm out back the paladin (now with sword) starts ranting about “the evil monster” and how she will “strike me down”… Getting the attention of the mage and the monk and stirring the druid into a complete tizzy.

The druid snares me with vines around my hooves (vines!? Am I supposed to eat my way free?) as I head nonchalantly towards the barn and the paladin romps about waving her toy sword and screeching while Malagar looks confused. Finally I turn my head and speak to the paladin once the look of confusion as to why I've not broken my bonds flickers across her face.

“I do so hope this is not how you treat all of your potential customers… For if it is, you are surely doomed to a life of poverty.”

More jaws drop and confusion runs rampant. The paladin's sword droops as she looks to the fiend, “You said it was evil!”

Malagar, looking more confused than the rest, “But, but… It said it was going to 'See about the Inn' and 'Deal with it'.”

I, looking dejected and quite put out, “Yes, I wanted to see this Inn and, as it is a grand establishment I suppose I can deal with it being here in the middle of my forest as you've done nothing to harm anything.”

All eyes look to Malagar.

I continue with something about always having my intents mistaken because of my *sniffle* coloration and how I was always being persecuted because everyone thinks black unicorns are evil.

At this I'm informed that I am welcome to stay; which means I am invited in and can now wreak some real havoc. Though the paladin (knowing Ravik) isn't completely convinced and I have to give my word that I will not harm anyone as long as I stay. I do so, as *I* won't be harming anyone…

I'm asked if I would like to stay in the stable, which prompts me to change my shape and assume my human guise, much to the continued shock of the party, and ask to be shown a room…

Thus ends the evening's gaming. If they can convince me they have a goal that furthers my interests, I'll join up with them. If they demonstrate that they can be useful followers, I'll use them… Otherwise I'll have them kill each other off and get my forest back.

It's good to be me.

Anyways, as I mentioned *way* up there at the beginning, levels mean nothing. Ravik is 4th level to the party's 8+, yet I have successfully sowed some hate and discontent, a little chaos, and a good dose of mistrust… It's all in how you use what you have available. 🙂

KraftwerkHeimcomputer (Edit)