Righteous Role Playing [The Forge #5]

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A recent community survey on the role playing elements of Expedition has shown that 62% of you would welcome more robust role playing as part of your Quests. This installment of The Forge hopes to give you ways to do that, whether you are an author writing a quest or a group of players playing a pre-written quest. Authors, you can use these to outline/plan quests. Players can use these on the fly. 

Four common things that provide grist for role playing are Backstory, Complications, Consequences, and detailing Description. 

Backstory

Unrevealed backstory is often used to hint tantalizingly at greater revelations. When used appropriately (as a tease) it retains that element of mystery keeps us watching movies and reading books, for there is suspense not only in the unresolved future, but the tension of events already past. As you are playing a quest, adventurers can role play and help create the backstory. 

You may object, "What if we create a backstory that the quest later contradicts?"

It doesn't matter so much if during the unfolding of the quest we're told the backstory really isn't what we thought it was. After all, Luke Skywalker found out the narrative given him about Vader by Obi-Wan wasn't accurate. There are lies we sometimes tell ourselves, too. 

  1. Why is the villain doing what they're doing? (Stealing X, Attacking Y, etc.)
  2. Why are the adventurers getting involved?
  3. What does this quest mean to each adventurer as an individual? 

Notice that #2 and #3 may seem the same, but they often are not. The adventurers may be getting involved to stop the Lich's undead army from conquering the realm, but for different reasons. One might fear for what will happen to his wife and children in the city under seige. Another may know the magecraft he practices will be outlawed should the Lich take power. The mobster in the group may only want the Lich kept at bay out of selfish financial interest (you can't sell drugs to the undead). 

Some other elements you can use to craft the backstory:

  1. What type of relationship do the adventurers have with the victims or characters in the story? 
  2. What type of history/relationship do they have with the Antagonist (Enemy)?
  3. How does the Antagonist feel about the adventurers (if they know of they even exist)? Do they hold them in contempt? Secretly fear them? Have crossed paths (and swords/spells) with them in the past?

All of the above questions will probably be answered/role played in the opening phase of the quest. Here are some likely to come up in the middle and end phases of a quest:

  1. How do the characters in the story feel about the adventurers' actions. If we find out later the quest tells us those things, it's okay.  Maybe our adventurers' initial impression was wrong.
  2. What do characters do about the adventurers actions.

Complications

Complications are the challenges or conflicts the heroes must overcome to succeed.  They may also be things that happen to the Antagonists or their minions that make things funny, more interesting, or easier for the adventurers.  

  1. What happens that makes the quest or part of it unexpectedly difficult? For the adventurers? For the Villains?
  2. During Combat? Outside of Combat?

Here are some examples of complications:

  • The henchmen of the Bandit Captain have fled with the contents of the Royal Treasury. Perhaps one of their wagons has broken down, allowing the adventurers to attempt a Sneak check to attack with surprise while they try to repair the broken axle.  This is a complication for the villains a one or two person party can inject to make a quest easier. 
  • As the battle against the Dark Wizard grows more desperate for the adventurers, they opt to introduce a complication against the Wizard...the battle is happening in the Wizard's chamber, with magical Loot all around. A Notice check allows them to grab some Loot to use in the final stages of the battle. 

Consequences

At the end of the adventure we're probably given a surface level explanation of what we've done (defeated the Lich, saved the realm, etc.), but what does it really mean? This is a great place for players to help craft the story and tack on a more personalized ending to the quest. 

  1. How do people feel about the outcome or adventurers?
  2. If they were victorious, there may be a very important but involved. Ex. We defeated the army of the Dark Wizard, but we did a lot of property damage that the citizens of the Kingdom aren't too happy about. We may have to lay low for awhile. 
  3. What were the moral consequences of everyone's actions? Ex. Those guards we killed when we could have snuck by had families to feed. Maybe one of their relatives has sworn vengeance against us. 

Descriptions

Quests provide the body of a story, but there is almost always room for you to dress that body in some interesting clothing. The locations and individuals may not always be described or named. The party can do this collectively. We recommend such role-playing have some limits, for the sake of not extending quest length too long:

  • One sentence is probably good. 
  • Anything longer than a short paragraph may "break' something coming later in the story or take too much time. 

Examples: We enter the Copse of Candlelight and are told "the profusion of fireflies makes it difficult strike a target or find one's way."

A player wishes to add some further ambiance...

"The fireflies are attracted to their reflection off the polished armor and steel of our armaments. They gather around us like iridescent halos and out spirits are lifted."

Maybe the party thinks the description is appropriate enough to warrant the player raising their Persona by 1 as a reward for the role playing.

We hope we've given you some ways to enhance and deepen your enjoyment, social interactions, and role playing!  Happy Questing!

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Have an idea for the next Quest Crafter or feedback on how we can make it more useful to you? Email us at Authors@Fabricate.io or leave a comment below.