The End Of The Beginning Of The End

The last few hours of January 2012 tick away, and with it goes our monthly theme: The Beginning Of The End. We spent most of our efforts this month working on a post-apocalyptic mini-setting called 3GATE, and we didn’t produce much beyond that. I thought I’d sneak one more in under the wire.

Take a look at the theme: The Beginning Of The End. We have two concepts that we’re trying to mash together: The Beginning and The End. Worse than that, they actively oppose each other like the parts of any worthwhile oxymoron.

But bringing opposites together makes for a great story and a great game.

I remember reading somewhere that it takes one idea to make a book but two ideas to make a good book. This holds true for games as well. If you put all your effort into a single plotline, your players may end up bored with limited choices. If you have two plotlines that lead in different directions and your players invest in those choices, then you have the beginnings of doubt and tension which can help build some really cool in-game scenes.

Mashing ideas together has been on my mind since I edited the forthcoming module The Tribute. In it the PCs need to prioritize the rescue of captives and defeating a magical assault on the town, and hopefully have the time to do both or innocent NPCs get hurt. The choice of paths and the consequences of that choice came up as something the players loved in early playtests.

The Tribute effectively contains two complete adventures running simultaneously – the PCs focus on one adventure and let the initial conditions of the other deteriorate. The players must choose between two ideas, and the tension of leaving the other path untrod shows through constant reminders to the characters, making them doubt their choice. That one device adds a delicious tension to the adventure. It’s a beautiful thing, and I highly recommend either playtesting it or picking up a copy when it’s available. Or both, if you’re so inclined.

What’s the point? Give your players juicy choices with consequences and generally you’ll have happier players. The best way to set up a juicy choice is to provide two conflicting ideas and let the players debate the best course of action in character. Better yet, give them several ideas with deadlines to worry about, as the title of this article suggests.

I’ve done this to great effect in past games. The next trick involves working out how to get your players to bite on the ideas you dangle in front of them, but that’s a post for a different day.

Now let’s all raise a glass to The End of The Beginning of The End.

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