Friday, April 20, 2012

Good vs. Good; a Follow-Up (Continued)

In my last post I detailed the main action points of our last high-level game. The whole party is around 14th level now and loaded for bear. Finally, I can start letting my imagination run away with me - er them. MWAHAHAHAAHA!

Really though, the point of these posts is to show how to make for an interesting game even when the main antagonists share ethical and moral alignments, or even have the same overall goals.

After drubbing the Guardian, the players made their way to the Sanctuary; an immense cloud island; more fortress than monastery. At the entrance they were met by the seneschal of the place, with a small flock of silver dragons perched above, just in case...

The obligatory introductions were made, and the characters plead their case; they needed access to the legendary saint who lived within. The seneschal politely invited them in, informed them that he would take it up with the other guardians of the place and let them know what was decided.

After a brief rest (conveniently close to the donation box at the entryway to the chapel, ahem!) the seneschal returned to inform them that they would be allowed visitation - after performing the obligatory tests. Groans and eye-rolling: 'Drat these paladins!'

The Test of Honesty

The first test was a good RP opportunity; the Test of Honesty. All you are doing is sending someone into the garden for an 'interview'.  Tea and cookies will be supplied. After warning my players that Discern Lies and Zone of Truth will be active and that anyone who so much as clears their throat will be considered present and will be required to answer, the party selected the least, shall we say, morally reprehensible characters for the interview.

The first question "Do you consider yourself to be a 'good' person, and if so, why?" nearly stumped the entrants. Hints from the peanut gallery quickly filled the room with kibbitzers, so they ALL had their turn. Overall, they were fairly honest in their answers (which was the main point of the question anyway; the group's overall alignment had been puzzled out already).

With all the players securely in the trap, I moved on to the next question; "What is the most evil thing you have ever done?" Not even evil, necessarily, but most evil. There was a hush. Here was a tricky spot. One PC had - knowingly or not - deliberately stated a Wish earlier in the campaign such that two characters (himself and one other PC) were saved from a certain and nigh-permanent death while two others were left to hang.

Granted, that Wish was the result of a rather clever ploy on the part of a demon whose specific purpose was to drive a wedge between party members, but still. It worked! (patting myself on the back here for the sweet DM roleplay of a high intelligence foe!)

Oh, then there was the matter of the Orgy. Perhaps a little back-story is necessary for that one.

A while back, the party had run afoul of a high level dwarven cleric of a long-forgotten, evil god. As it turned out the cleric had something the party wanted, and like most villains, was extremely difficult to pin down. After a lengthy bout of research and planning the group discovered that this fellow liked to visit a particular town from time to time and was prone to polygamy. The less morally strident members of the party decided to throw an 'orgy' as a trap.

They did their job too well. They hired musicians, cooks, servants, and an entire brothel. Staging the event in a Magnificent Mansion and charging a high door fee, they circulated rumors and invitations amongst those who could afford it. It worked; the evil priest came along with two of his concubines and -

Did I mention that this evil priest was a vampire? I should probably mention that now.

What followed was a horrifying debacle as the midget vampire and his soul-sucking minions devoured the greater part of the party's attendants (and all of the brothel workers) using their charm and energy drain abilities during the course of the night. Dozens of folks died the long death, and the participating players escaped by a hair's breadth, leaving them with local authorities to deal with, some extremely upset members of the local organized crime ring (brothels ain't cheap!) and a lot of irate ex-customers. I can't say it did much for their local reputation either.

Anyway, this came up during the course of the interview. There was much uncomfortable silence and squirming as the tale was extracted from them. I have to give them credit, though; they finally came out with the truth, and that was the point of the test, after all.

The Test of Judgement

The next test was for a single player, in this case the party cleric. The idea was to present the player with a judicial decision to make. Long story short, the player did well. There was no clear answer to the dilemma, so anything short of a wholly black-and-white condemnation at least proved (to the inhabitants of the Sanctuary) that there was a sense of nuance to the player's sense of justice. Nuff said.

The Test of Courage

After so much time spent talking, I knew everyone would be brewing for a fight, so I arranged one. The part would spend 24 hours 'in the chute' so to speak. Somewhere in the multiverse, a pious cleric of Bahamut would make a dying cry for aid in his/her cause, or use a Summons bead from a Necklace of Prayer Beads. 'The chute' was the method used to answer it.

The players would not know who was calling nor where they were headed; it was a blind drop into an unknown conflict. The point would be to emerge from that conflict victorious (and hopefully alive).  In this case I dropped them into the lair of the Shadow Dragons in Rappan Athuk (Room 9A-7, if you own that worthy module).

It was a bit touch and go at first, with the dragons dropping two breath weapons on the party at first and making hit and run attacks, but eventually the party won out. There was also loot, which is always appreciated.

While this was not technically an encounter against a good foe, the idea of proving your worth to a potential ally is a heroic trope with a fine tradition. The added element of the unknown forced the party to be on their toes, since the fight could start at any point in a 24 hour period and the enemy was unknown.


I think I did fairly well with the staging and pace of this little adventure. Starting with a fight and ending with a fight, with a reasonable amount of quick-thinking and fast-talking in the middle. Loot was had, friends were made, and at least one of my players got a little public shame; good stuff!

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