Sunday, July 31, 2011

Going to the Bench

There’s a thing I’ve always wanted to do, but never really succeeded at: developing a “bench” for an adventuring team. The idea is likely based on some of the superhero stories I watched and read as a kid. When the Justice League needs to go underwater, they make sure they get Aquaman involved. (OK - I hate Aquaman more than I hate Hal Jordan) If the Avengers are going to go into the Neutral Zone, they probably call the Fantastic Four to come along. If you’re playing Warcraft, and you need a tank for an instance, someone logs off their main warlock and comes back on as a Warrior Tank. So why don’t we do that in pen and paper RPGs?
Well, because we invest so much time and love into our characters. Also because GMs are hesitant to write missions that require certain character types for fear of annoying their players. Few of us have as much time to play as we would like. To spend time getting a less powerful character up to a mid range just so you can have a bench seems like a waste of precious gaming time.
But as a GM you can do it. Here’s what I mean: Let’s assume that your party is strongly established in some city, but they’ve moved into that realm where their missions are quite often world saving type things that have them wandering the globe. What happens in their home town while they’re off defeating a demonic invasion in a distant desert? Well, someone must step up, or their home town will be a ruin when they return.
Here’s what I think we all need to do - Establish an NPC party of adventurers who handle the small stuff when your PCs are away. Here’s why I think this is fun (but remember - I’m a role-player, and not a gold farmer): So your main party of PCs goes off and saves the world from demonic invasion by slaughtering hundreds of demons wholesale and then invading the pits of hell to destroy the gate opening device, barely escaping with their lives. They return home to find that their home town is having a parade in honor of a team half as powerful as they are, because that mid-powered team just captured an orcish warlord and drove off his men. Of course, they’re thinking - “Hey - demons are a lot tougher than orcs!) “And we killed them. Those guys just chased them all over the region where they’ll continue to cause little troubles.” But the issue is, that the demons and that battle were on the other side of the world. The orcs were here. The locals only know or care about the local orcs, even if the demons would have enslaved the world.
If you’ve been reading this blog you have likely seen that I love to torture my players. Making them the saviors of the world, but then have to take a back seat to some local group of pansies - ah, pure GM bliss. You can build anything you want off this. Maybe the moderates worship the PCs, but nobody really gets it. Maybe the PCs have to clean up the NPCs’ messes, but the NPCs’ keep getting the glory. Maybe they have to team up. Maybe they start working for different political parties and will clash, but can’t outright kill each other in the streets.
Drama! It can be wonderful!

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