Encounters in RPGs

This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series Understanding RPGs

It’s about 3:30am local time and my bladder has woken me up. And while I was rising to consciousness I was doing some thinking. So I drained the lizard and now I’m posting this while pondering a question, how do you handle encounters in a role playing guide?

Now the way I see it there are two basic methods you can use. The first is peacefully, the second is violently. But who decides?

You do want your players to have a say in how they handle their meeting another party, but you really don’t want them forcing your hand. Now being a sort of mutant war game most typical RPGs are sort of slanted towards violent encounters. Note the inclusion of what are known as combat mechanics, as if one is supposed to do battle instead of having a nice chat. For many of us the assumption seems to be that we have to have our characters fight instead of socializing as we would do in real life. The fact that one is sort of separated from matters such as real life makes a difference. But that just means that guide and player really do need to keep matters in mind and not just jump to a conclusion.

So the way I see it is, the guide needs to be careful in how he presents a situation and at least try a little socializing instead of only sword play and shield bashing. To make this simple, role playing is about playing a role, not always a series of fights. So my advice to all you RPG guides out there is, at least make an attempt to say “hello.”And should your players insist on being rude try reacting much as you would in real life, making a verbal protest or simply acting in an unexpected manner.

Though at this moment I’m sort of hesitating on how to explain matters because I’m not really all that sure how. I have a good idea of how I would do it, but convincing you to is giving me a headache. Maybe this would work…

…you as the guide tell your players that they have met a party of kobolds. Now I rather expect that you’re thinking of D&D kobolds and so are expecting a fight, but that’s not necessarily the case. This party of kobolds may actually be janitorial staff who’s job it is to keep an area tidied up, much as it would be in old Germany. So you open with, “The kobolds you just met are looking you over and the oldest one wants to know, ‘Do you walk around in public grungy like that?'”

That can surprise people, and you can hope your players will want to know what the heck he’s going on about. Now should the party attack anyway, have the kobolds flee in panic screaming for help. When the law shows up maybe hopefully the players will get the hint, or you could have some members of the rapidly gathering crowd turn out to be competent souls themselves able and willing to intervene of the kobolds’ behalf. Maybe when the party’s mage gets petrified while others in the crowd are yelling at the rest of the gang to drop their weapons and act sensibly  the party is going to be stop being hostile. Though hopefully by this time your players have gotten it through their heads that you do not always handle things as the typical RPG seems to want you to do.

And how do you handle peaceful encounters? What mechanics do you see using? I mean, some people are not going to be comfortable role playing some matters. We’d like to have some sort of fair basis for negotiation and persuasion. So that ogre stevedore has a STEEP of 55 in persuasion –using Dangerous Journeys nomenclature– and you’ve decided the difficulty rating for his attempt is “difficult” meaning it’s divided by two. In other words a 27% chance of succeeding. Now his roll is a 17, meaning he succeeds. Now how would you persuade the party into accepting this. Sounds  to me like you need to establish certain matters before this sort of thing pop up, like maybe making certain that your players know that things sort of work a certain way as their characters go through life.

As you can see I have stuff to think about so I’m asking you this question, how would you handle it?

Series Navigation<< Been ThinkingNoticing Things in an RPG >>

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