Saturday, July 11, 2009

The other side of the Screen: A Player's Loss

Tim at Gothridge Manor talks about experiencing the loss of his magery during a GURPS campaign I ran.

RPGS are supposed to be deadly. Without the risk, the challenge is meaningless. However not all risks involve the death of the characters. By 1990 I began to try different consequences for really bad mistakes made by players. I read enough real history by now to know that the consequences for misfortune isn't always death.

The incident with Tim's Mage occurred during the all mage campaign where everybody played a Mage using GURPS Magic. The idea of the campaign was to flesh out the background of magic in the Majestic Wilderlands.

Most of the guys I play with are very good gamers. Either they are great roleplayers or are expert in the rules. As far as rules goes Dwayne is the best of all us. Every advantage that was available in GURPS Magic was exploited. By this point in the campaign the characters and players were very competent. It has gotten to the point where a little arrogance was creeping in.

One thing I established early on is that the Magic Wilderlands the clerics are the preeminent users of magic. Due to historical circumstances the last thousand years has seen the rise of independent traditions of magic. The existence of the clerics and the churches is one of the main reason that mages have not taken over. When the Tim and Dwayne assassinated the Baron they found out why.

The Baron was a Tharian Horselord, High Chief of his clan. The Tharians in the Majestic Wilderlands believes in the gods however they don't worship them directly. Instead they venerate the Lars. The Lars is a spirit assembly of the clan's ancestors. The ceremonies and shrines are maintained by Mystics who have powers similar to clerics of other religions.

During the assassination, the clan realized that they were under magic assault. The Mystics swung into action. Dwayne got away but Tim was not so lucky. Tim was sent to the spirit realm to stand before the Lars. His speech to them was arrogant. It's tone was "Go ahead and kill me. I know I am morally superior to all of you.". In some ways he was right. City-State was a cesspool of hypocritical politicians that effected everything including the Mage's Guild the players were part of.

It was then I figured out that stripping away his magery and letting him live would be a far better way to go. So say the players were shocked as an understatement. When I pronounced sentence there was an audible gasp in the room. It got the feeling that afterwards none of the players felt safe.

The campaign afterward veered in a new and interesting direction. The political and social consequences of the assassination still had to be dealt with. Tim needed to find his Magery again. Plus the other issues they been working on were still out there (like a Dragon in Warwick).

Ultimately the lost of Tim's Magery split the four person party. Dwayne and Tim became steadily more radical in their belief in the Independence of mages. To the point where they abandoned the Guild of Arcane Lore in City-State and established a new conclave in Dearthwood. The other two players, Dave and Jesse, decided to remain loyal to the Overlord. They stayed in the Guild of Arcane Lore and used it as a power base to rise in the Overlord's court.

The ramifications of Tim's loss of magery continues to this day. If you were to play in the Majestic Wilderlands one of the conflicts you will find are between the mages of the Guild of Arcane Lore and the mages that follow Jeremy and Barton, Tim and Dwayne's characters.

For you reading this, my best advice on using this post is fourfold. Death need not be the end, consequences can have unintended effects, allow your players to have a lasting effect on your setting, and record what you player do so you can use it as part of the background of the next background. Even if they are an entirely different group your campaign will be all the richer for it.


rologutwein said...

I couldn't agree more. This is a philosophy I've grown into over the years- it helped me build up my own Star Wars campaign and now I have a difficult time running things any other way.

Gothridge Manor said...

That's why Rob's campaign world is so great. I've had a definate influnce on it with different characters. Some are obvious affects and other are background changers. Many times before creating a character I will ask Rob what part of his world would he like to flesh out more then I make a charater in that part of the culture.

I know I attribute a lot of the way I DM from Rob's style. Our styles mesh well. I appreciate as a player my DM is not going to take it easy on me. I don't want favors or fudge rolls. I want to earn it and work through the consquences.