At my game recently, I’ve tried something completely new: I forced myself to include good-aligned creatures in the adventure mix.
Now if you’ve played role-playing games at all, you’ve no doubt realized that the game often doesn’t involve much role-playing at all.
Nope. Instead it’s about killing things and taking their stuff. Yes, it’s an overused phrase, but it’s overused because it’s easy to fall in that rut.
Far too often, wandering encounters are simply a “bag of hit points” waiting to be emptied.
In my latest campaign, I decided to change that. I wanted to use all those cool creatures that fill up the monster books, but they just don’t get any use.
Why not? Because they, like the adventurers, are good guys, and pitting them against one another doesn’t make sense in the same way it’s always silly that superheroes fight with one another. Why do superheroes fight? Because the writer wants to see what happens.
In an RPG, that kind of experience makes even less sense. Some characters would be opposed to such a battle. Just the same, some players would be opposed to such a fight.
So what’s a GM to do?
First off, I made a promise to myself: At least half of the “wandering encounters” would include a creature or person that wouldn’t necessarily fight the characters.
- Sometimes they would talk.
- Sometimes they would offer help.
- Sometimes they would just be there, hardly paying attention to the adventurers.
But most importantly, I made them exist, and that helps flesh out the world I’ve been constructing. It also forces the players to do a little roleplaying. They didn’t have to kill. They didn’t have to run. They didn’t have to watch their backs. They just had to talk.
So what kind of things can you do with all those good creatures? Here are some ideas:
- Use a good creature to establish a retreat point. If the characters get back there, they’re safe.
- Use a good creature to provide limited support, such as healing, power boosts or curse removal.
- Use a good creature to offer back story. Let them explain histories and relationships that the players haven’t realized.
- Use a good creature to warn the adventurers. Perhaps they need to know about getting supplies, a trap or even that what lies ahead is too tough for them.
- Use the good creature to show the adventurers what to do. Maybe they spot the creature activating a magic device, appropriately dealing with a clever opponent, or offering their service to a powerful patron.
- Use a good creature as a sentry. If the players are trusting enough, they can take a break, recover from their wounds and even leave some of their stuff with the good creature.
- Use a good creature to assign some temporary abilities. Maybe the adventurers need to be able to breathe water, shrink or grow some wings. Maybe the good creature can do that.
- Use a good creature to provide some transport. Not all creatures are the same size. Maybe it can give the players a ride on it’s back. Maybe they can open an inter-dimensional gate.
- Use a good creature to show the players there’s more to the world. Sometimes, things have nothing to do with the players, and a good guy just doing his daily activities is enough to show them that.
- Use a good creature to fill a role. Maybe the adventurers lack a healer or someone who can bypass a lock. The good creature can, and he sticks with them to fulfill that role.
- Use a good creature as cannon fodder. Let the good creature join the group in combat, but have it fall early. This gives the adventurers a sense of their foes powers and adds a heap of drama to the game.
Now these are only a few ideas, and there’s plenty more you can do.
But the best thing of all is that it gets your players talking in character …and not fighting. They can save that for the bad guys.