Friday, September 15, 2017

Why are we fighting?

While there are plenty of gamers who just enjoy attacking and killing everything on sight, I feel like there are some of us out there who prefer a little more nuance in our encounters when it comes to potential threats. Now, don't get me wrong, I loves me some good old fashioned dungeon crawling. But I also like a game that really puts me in the head of my character, thinking and reacting as they would think and react. And let's face it, for a lot of games, fighting is the first, second and third answer when it comes to encounters.

In order to try and bring a little more believability and a greater sense of verisimilitude, I first think of the goals and intent of those involved in order to create a less predictable situation. When I'm creating a scenario, I just ask myself one simple question.....

What's the Goal here?

Every potential conflict is unique in its own way, which includes the decision to fight, not to fight, or the best way to handle the situation. As a GM, knowing the goals of the protagonists as well as the antagonists helps me to create a more immersive and believable conflict.

For example, the party is traveling on foot through a remote canyon, when suddenly, a massive sabretooth tiger lands on the ground in front of them. Now, for the hack & slash crowd, a big bag of EXP just landed before them and it's time to kill the beast.

But in the scenario I ran, it does not immediately attack. Instead, it paces back and forth, its tail swishing behind it. This gave the party a minute to think about the situation and the best way to handle it.

So why is the tiger just pacing and growling? In this conflict, the tiger is protecting its pride and some young cubs that are nearby. The Goal of the tiger is to persuade the party to get out of the immediate area. It's simply protecting its own. Had the party just charged in and attacked the tiger, they would immediately be met with several more, and a simple single-creature encounter could turn into a TPK in no time.

By giving the tiger a goal and knowing its intent, I hope I was able to provide a more believable conflict, where the best option for the group is to just find another way through the canyon. Maybe they back away and look for another route. Or maybe they just cross the river in the canyon and get enough distance from the tiger to neutralize the threat.

The Goal is just as important for the PC's as it is the NPC's. Why was the party traveling through the canyon? Where are they headed? Can they afford to lose 1 or 2 people to a sabretooth tiger right now?

In this scenario, the party isn't immediately attacked, which should cause them to wonder why. It should also hint that there is an option besides fighting the tiger and possibly all of its friends.

Knowing Before the Battle is Half the Battle

I've always felt that knowing as much information as possible as the GM with regards to motives and intent makes running my games much easier. Sure, it's easy to just plop a monster down in front of the PC's and start swinging swords, but I have found that I have much more fun, and I'm told I'm a better GM, when I put just a little bit of thought into goals and motives for even straightforward things like a wilderness encounter. In addition to making the encounters more interesting and dynamic, I think this approach also helps me to describe the setting in greater detail and make it feel more like a 'real' place. I'm curious to know if anyone else finds determining the goals of NPC's and creatures before the encounter an effective way to make the game more fun and interesting.