Perceived Inconsequentiality (Part 1)
rating: +1+x

A bit of background. I DM three weekly games, two monthly games, and a yearly 24 hour game. In my Wednesday Night game about two months ago, which is an Evil-aligned campaign set in the Forgotten Realms, my players travelled to Baldur's Gate from their base of operations in Dragonspear Castle and proceeded to go on a murderous rampage. The plan was to frame Lord Dagalt Neverember of Neverwinter for this crime so they could overthrow him and take over Neverwinter for themselves. It was a rather successful evening, and there was lots of bloodshed and tears, but the players had forgotten two crucial pieces of the mission.

  1. They forgot to hide their faces.
    • After the session, they tried to convince me that "it would be obvious they would wear their masks because they just would." Yeah, that sort of shit doesn't fly with me.
  2. They forgot to plant important evidence.
    • This is something they completely forgot about. Oh well.

In total, they murdered between them about a hundred or so innocents, burned down almost all of the lower district, killed thirteen guards and a guard captain, and even killed the Duke's son! However, there were witnesses, there always are when parties do things like this.

Last week, however, they discovered that they obviously screwed something up. Lord Neverember was not implicated in the hiring of mercenaries to slaughter innocent civilians in Baldur's Gate. City officials from both towns and Waterdeep formed an ad-hoc security force and went on the hunt for the party. These poor bastards were caught with their figurative pants around their ankles. There were no arrests, only swift and brutal Justice brought down by a Paladin of Tyr, four other Paladins, seven Clerics, three Rangers, and about twenty or so 2nd level Guards.

Two of my six players became immensely pissed off at me, saying that I laid an unfair encounter on the party and called me a cheater. I had to explain it as thoroughly as possible:

There are no actions which have no consequences. If you steal one copper coin from a beggar's purse, he will go hungry. If you take the life of an innocent, people will notice. If you commit an atrocity, people will start looking for vengeance.

You killed guards. You murdered the Duke's child. You pillaged and burned an entire sector of the city. Of course the fires of justice are going to rain down upon you.

These two players walked permanently from my table and are not welcome back because they couldn't handle the fact that their actions hold no inconsequentiality.

An example which has no resolution so far is from the Runes of Havok series.

Spoiler Alert:
Very Minor spoilers regarding the first half of Runes of Havok: Season 1.

During the first few episodes involving the character Kuznets, the character hulked out and demolished an entire exhibit and more of the museum in the city of Serel because there was a set of bones in a cage which he assumed were the remains of his father [the player's sudden idea, in fact, but more on that later]. It was a pretty damned awesome moment in the podcast, because Fox had taken time to create a special sound effect for the howl. The character also found out that there was another of his kind working in a tavern on the northern side of town. He goes there, and finds that she is the one he's betrothed to [again, player's sudden idea, but more on that later]. They travel north and bury his father's remains near a temple.

A few episodes later, when the character Sticks was arrested, Kuznets decided it would be a great idea to steal an item of great importance to Sticksfrom Sticks! First of all, no. In my campaigns, even in the Evil-aligned one, PCs do not steal from other fucking PCs! It breaks trust, but not between characters. No, because the characters may not even notice. No, this kind of action breaks the trust of the players!

And he continues to commit these actions that should have dire consequences which haven't shown yet, and those elements [important elements, nonetheless] have been forgotten by the player. I'm just waiting for city officials of Serel to send a kill-squad out after Kuznets, or for Sticks to break out of his monastery and forcefully steal his master's trinket back.

Speaking of Perceived Inconsequentiality, I said I would get to the player's "sudden ideas." This isn't against any player, specifically, but as a general criticism1.

I've run story-driven campaigns throughout my career, and have, in at least every campaign, had one player try to interject with some kind of weird story element that was pulled so quickly out of his or her ass that it still had corn attached to it. It's one thing to establish early on that you have a secret you're hiding from the other players. For example:

Alex had a secret mission for her Paladin that involved finding and executing a certain necromancer in the name of vengeance. She approved this through me in the pre-planning phase of her character, didn't reveal any information to the other players, and played it out properly. She would often ask of people, "Excuse me, do you know of any wizards around here who are practicing the dark arts?"

This type of hold-out is fine, because it's pre-established with DM [me], didn't interrupt the story that I had written out for the campaign, gave me something to write in as a side quest, and gave the other players something to wonder about. What's not fine is when a character flat-out hijacks a part of the DM's story. Pardon the slight repeat of information, but I want to keep it relevant.

Kuznets walks into a museum that just so happens to have an exhibit on the enslavement of Shanm't. He sees a set of what appears to be bones in a cage. He then announces that they're the remains of his father, without asking. Those remains may very well have been a plaster replica, as it is somewhat difficult to discern between the two without medical training. It also seemed as if Fox had a different direction the situation was supposed to go.

Same with the Viktorya thing. She seemed to be established as a two-dimensional NPC who serves a function and is never considered to be vital to the story. Having known Fox for as long as I have, I can tell when he's throwing in a non-essential, but it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to conclude as such.

Games are meant to have fun with. However, that means every person involved should be having fun including the DM, GM, or whatever. If the DM spends as much time as Fox does writing a campaign session, somewhere around 25+ hours a week, and someone takes a part of his story away from him, that's going to stress your DM out immensely! Not only has he written something that usually involves everyone, but is balanced in the story because that's what a DM does. Now he has to counteract these interjections with things that balance the story back out, thus making it less fun/more work for the DM and takes away from the other PCs.

In short, don't hijack the story. It's kind of a dick thing to do. Always think about the consequences before you act. Not doing so and believing that you're immune to consequences will cause entertaining things to happen, like getting arrested or killed for fucking up a city. Having revealed to you that your betrothed is the servant of an evil deity. And so on.

In the next part, I will discuss what type of player is at a higher risk of Perceived Inconsequentiality, and how to stop thinking you're a god.


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License