“If I can lead a man to accept even the smallest of evils, the tiniest of moral compromises, then all I have to do to lead them to their utter ruin is to induce them to accept greater and more formidable exceptions to their moral code. By subtle nuance I can take a man from a white lie to embracing murder.” – Kardigazz Drak
There is an unfortunate tendency in the world of entertainment to rush things. Much of what passes for casual distraction has become more and more reliant on fulfilling the audience’s hunger for instant satisfaction. The days of setting up a nuanced plot are not yet over, though. And nowhere is this more satisfying than in the realm of Dungeons & Dragons.
It can be frustrating as the Game Master to have a scathingly brilliant idea that has to wait before being revealed. I would argue that nothing is more anxiety-ridden than having a notion only to watch the players in the game repeatedly veer wildly off course just when the plot is about to bite them in the ass. All is not lost, however. Any GM worth their salt will know that given enough time these same players will not only fall headlong into the GM’s carefully laid plan. Or more exquisitely, they will themselves set up the perfect plot twist all by themselves. All the GM has to do is pay attention to what the players forget and take advantage of the plot holes and problems they neglect.
Which brings us to the topic of this week’s upcoming game. As I sat musing over possible plot twists to complicate my player’s lives, I was struck with evil inspiration. Here was a long-neglected loose thread that the players had long ago ignored to the point of glossing over the event so thoroughly as to never give it a second thought. They had made a snap judgement and settled into life believing that there would be no complications or consequences.
They will of course realize during the next game that they were wrong. Woefully wrong. They have provided the perfect plan by which their entire game world can come crashing down, and all I had to do was provide the trigger for them to pull. I am so excited I can hardly stand it! Game Masters agonize over how to introduce into their game a properly befuddling moral crisis and I have an entire gaming group that came up with it all by themselves.
How it all plays out will be the stuff of legends. Why? Because it is entirely up to the players to solve this problem. Although I have a number of ways it can be resolved “successfully”, there is no role for any non-player characters in this dilemma. Sometimes a Game Master has to let the players settle for themselves how they are going to get out of the mess they made.