Ok, so one of the inspirations I plan to use for discussions on this blog will be games I’m running or playing in. Currently, I’m running a 4E campaign at Heroic Tier. It’s interesting because until I started running this game about 5 months ago, I had never met any of the players at the table. Some of them knew each other, and had gamed together, but they were all new to me.
What this means is that I go into the game having no idea what the interpersonal relationships look like or even who’s a jerk and who’s not, if at all. I have to say, it’s been a real blast as I get to know these people, these adult gamers, through their PCs. It takes some time to differentiate a person whom I’ve never met, from the PC they are attempting to role play. Who is it that I’m getting to know really? Is it the salesman across the table, or is it the Dwarven Battlemind leaping into the fray? The lines are blurry and it’s something I didn’t realize would be such a deep experience.
So, we’re 5 months into the campaign and the PCs have just popped level 5. Personalities have definitely started to develop, both as people lose their reticence with the new DM (me) and each other. They’re getting to know their characters, their abilities and what I will and won’t tolerate at the game table. What this mean, I’m finding out, is that now is the time for them to start pushing boundaries. The months of gaming we ‘ve shared has been enough for them to get comfortable with me and with the group. That’s fantastic. It means there’s a feeling of safety and acceptance that leads to more adventurous role play and more strategic combat. It also means that people know each other well enough to get openly frustrated with each other, or to know someones buttons and be able to push them. The politeness of the first few sessions is starting to wane.
So recently, I’ve been witness to a bit more table “grump” as I call it. This occurs when one persons expectations collide with anothers. For this example, we have a player who really wants to negotiate with a dragon. Things are RP’ing quite nicely and its looking like the party will avoid the combat (barely). However, one player would like nothing more than to be the reason this particular dragon stops breathing. So, naturally, he torpedoes the diplomacy by acting intimidating. Basically, the dragon can negotiate against type and live, or he can fight. As the one RP’ing the dragon, I don’t feel right about giving the group a free pass. I feel like the dragon would quickly lose interest in the negotiations as soon as its perspective is clearly being disrespected.
So they fight. They kill the dragon. This is D&D afterall, right?
A few words were said, goodnaturedly, about the fact that perhaps if they succeeded with the negotiations, the dragon could have been employed to guard the keep and the party would have ended up having a new base of operations in the mountains. Based on the storyline, this was emminently plausible. Now they just had a big dead lizard. It was even discussed that the EXP reward would have been similar, regardless of how the scenario played out, so long as it was successful.
Ultimately, I feel like the antagonizing player was ok with how it went. The combat was fun, there was lots of good action and I think the group enjoyed the evening. Unfortunately, without group discussion, one player dictated the parties actions. Is this a problem? Maybe, maybe not. I just want to make sure that I’m aware of it so it doesn’t eventually BECOME a problem.
It will be interesting to see how situations like this play out in the future. I’ll be more likely to design such encounters sooner rather than later so I can probe the group for some more data points. I’ll definitely let come back with the info. Hopefully it can lead to some sort of resolution.