Paul and I are always saying live by the dice, die by the dice. It was never truer than during my last session. This post was going to be about giving your players more control; it was going to be about giving your players what they want. It’s going to start like that, but just like the game session it describes, it’s going to turn dark. And quickly.
I am not exactly the gold standard among DMs. I know this, most people say I’m among the best they know, but I know I’m not the best. I, most of all, want my players to have fun. I decided during this session, since they were defending a compound, they should have access to traps and preparations. So for three encounters I gave them the option of adding a trap. They really took to the idea. I gave them access to things they’d usually face. I broke the normal mold for them, I did something unexpected that their other DMs hadn’t done and they didn’t use it. The system I made took xp from the overall encounter and they decided they just didn’t need any of it. I think one of the encounters actually challenged them. I was disappointed but I was more excited about the big twist I’d planned for them. For the past few weeks, their fates have been tied to and NPC I keep bringing up called Black Claw, they just can’t seem to get away from him (completely by design) and now I decide the give them the chance to finally fight him again. And they do (almost getting beaten into the ground by his lackeys as they decided they were less important). And I even let them kill him, heart stabbing and everything! Until he got back up. The looks on their faces were the most rewarding thing. I took their hated enemy, gave him to them, and then took him right back. They responded more to that than the access to traps. With the simple words ‘Black Claw gets back up’ I planted a seed that could grow into new adventures and a whole new story line.
The session was going well. And then things went south. I killed my players with the hardest encounter AGAIN. I’m starting to wonder if I’m doing it on purpose. It was a fight against two level 6 elites (3 about their current level, well within the parameters). It seems every time I give them an encounter that’s supposed to be hard, they breeze through it, but when they get to the encounters that are hard but possible, their dice turn on them while my dice decide it’s twenty time. This is the third time this happened, and as a group, we decided it was time to scrap the campaign. They’d lost, the attack on the city was happening no matter what now, and some of them needed to die. It looked like Eberron was doomed…
Or is it?
As I told my players, Fate can’t be avoided, and I’m not one to give up.