Character interactions have been one of the more complex parts of the game for me. Those of you who have DMed, have likely struggled with this at least early on in your experience. With D&D and other similar table top games, it is easy to get caught up in pushing into the next encounter, dungeon or story point. Allowing the flow of the game to control the pace can cause players to lose interest because they are not allowed to be as invested.
While pushing from one town to the next and any peril or encounter that may come with the journey is probably the way new players expect the game to go, players and Dungeon Masters with more experience might feel this pace gets repetitive. If you only allow your players to use their combat abilities they miss more than half of who their character is. Compare D&D to video games like the Mass Effect series, most of your characters growth is combat based, while a small portion is for social interaction in these games. D&D on the other hand allows for most of ones abilities and traits to impact how they interact with party members and Non-Player Characters (NPCs).
Part of crafting a great story for the characters to play is creating different ways for this story to play out. If you create multiple paths to your epic conclusion how do they discover these multiple ways? Interact with NPCs! Whether those NPCs are encountered on the road, in a fort, in a city or a plethora of other locations they could hold new information or alternatives that the characters can explore or proceed with.
Be prepared for the unexpected when interactions occur. In almost every one of the D&D episodes we have had the players have made a choice that I did not expect. As the DM I don’t mind these moments at all, as a matter of fact, I hope for them. They challenge me to stay creative on the fly and role play a bit more myself from the NPC perspective.
Take this past session, while we did have a number of guests, the story continued. We are playing through the “Tomb of Annihilation” that Wizards of the Coast published last year. When the characters arrive at Camp Vengeance they are supposed to be commanded to either take the injured back to Port Nyanzaru or take a contingent of the Order on a patrol, just as Mara Hill suggested. If they do not they are to be arrested and tried for negligence of duty during a military crisis.
Now, if I had forced the decision in the moment one of those three outcomes may have quickly come into play. Instead I gave them time! The characters then talk out their options, despite not knowing what happens to the entire group if they say no, and come up with a third option: heal all the sick and wounded. This is not what I expected to happen. However, it created good dialogue between the Player Characters as well as some of the NPCs, which made it all the more fun for the players, and myself, and hopefully you the audience!
Most people I talked to about D&D love it because they love storytelling. Allowing every person at the table to contribute to that story makes it more rich, unexpected and enjoyable for anyone involved whether at the table or spectating. Creativity from the group enhances the game play. So don’t be afraid to sit back and let your players do whatever they want! What’s the worse that could happen? They roll a natural one and fall to their death? I guess that is pretty bad, but then they get to make a new character!
In this session we pick up after the encounter with the Zombie T-rex and an angry Goblin King. While the Crusaders are victorious, Diane appears to be killed and is floating down the river, though Alex and Bryce do not know this. The remaining Crusaders decide to continue with their mission and deliver Undril Silvertusk to Camp Vengeance as asked.
They arrive at the camp shortly after dark, and are suspiciously engaged by Commander Mara Hill, the Camp’s Commanding Officer. After being let through the gate they encounter Wandsa Maxitoff, a Tiefling Sorcerer who is being held captive and her companion Jeska Daughter of Jones a Cloud Dwarf Barbarian (also Amy’s new character). Mara quickly reveals that she has a prejudice against magic wielders and that is why Wandsa has been taken prisoner. They are offered, however, a deal. If they undertake a mission for the Order of the Shield Wandsa will be set free to assist with the mission and let go afterward.
As a sign of goodwill Mara releases Wandsa and has Bryce, Alex, Jeska and Wandsa led back to a relatively luxurious place to spend the night. The Crusaders and their new friends, however do not turn in, they spend their time talking about their options for escape or cooperation. They land on the idea of healing all the sick and wounded to earn the goodwill of the camp. As part of their plan Bryce is sent to distract, or seduce Mara, which he succeeds with at least the former, if not the latter.
We left the Crusaders having healed the camp and disappearing back to their cabin and with a flash to Diane who we find dead on the shores of the Soshenstar, only to have the spirit of Gimpy the Three-legged Berserking Wolf inhabit the corpse, bringing Diane back to life!