Good Players

There are signs you have a good player at your table. I came across one a few weeks ago. A player was ill and his character was turned to stone in his absence. Petrification aside, that’s nothing remarkable. What is remarkable is that my player thought this was a great time for role playing. The first thing he did was make an endurance check to avoid being chipped as the party hauled his stony ass back to a library.

Since then I’ve been talking with Stone Boy about what should happen to his character. See, the party is currently trapped within an extradimensional ship with no way of escaping except through bloody combat. Since the only defender is currently nothing more than a place for pigeons to shit, they have a vested interest in fixing this. The major problem is that no one knows the Cure Affliction ritual and they aren’t exactly in a place where they can look it up. My players opted to try and fix it on their own. I’ve given them a skill challenge wherein each character has to make a single check. The difficulty was hard, I gave the players roughly a 70% chance of failure. If everyone succeeded, the party tank would be restored to life with no ill effects. That wasn’t enough, though. I needed a way to make failure interesting.

One of the core elements of the Spirit of the Century and Dresden Files games is that the dice should only come out when the outcome 1) matters and 2) all of the outcomes are interesting. Basically, it’s saying that a good story has interesting failures that help advance the story. I had my work cut out for me. How can I get the party adventuring again without having them succeed?

The answer came in the form of graded success. For every failure during the skill challenge, the party’s defender had something taken away from him. The first to go was his beloved magical axe (which had recently been revealed as a sentient artifact). If someone in the party failed, the sentient artifact would sacrifice itself to make the ritual work. After that things got even more interesting.

See, my campaign has never featured a warforged I love the idea of them, sentient magic robots with souls! What’s not to love? I spoke with Stone Boy and got approval to turn his character into a warforged if multiple people failed their skill checks. The upside is I let him keep certain dragonborn qualities but took those away as further grades of failure.

In the end, Grint lost his axe and he was turned into a warforged, could use either Dragon Breath or Warforged Resolve once per encounter and still counted as a dragonborn for the purposes of meeting prerequisites. The great thing is that his player LOVED it. Grint has had a fundamental personality shift since the transformation that has been a blast to see in play.

I need to turn people into stone more often…

About PK

PK Sullivan is a game designer and writer living in Chicago.
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