Death is Always an Option
As a matter of fact, not only is the death of PCs an option, it’s the one I look forward to each time I run the game. Sadly, it sometimes just isn’t very likely. Even more sadly, tomorrow’s Mage game is looking to be one of those times as it seems as though my players will actually spend some time gathering information. It’s been a while since they’ve done anything remotely resembling research, which I have to admit isn’t entirely their fault. Sometimes fans get hit, and things need to be sanitized. When that happens sooner is generally better than later.
For example, on their way back from dealing with the “crazy homeless guy” who was actually a former police officer that was about to change into a Werewolf for the very first time*, the Mages and Werewolves stumbled upon a nun that was possessed by a demon. This is the kind of thing you typically want to fix as quickly as possible. you want to take care of it even more quickly when you realize that the demon is Sangre Santo:
Sangre Santo is not much fun at parties. He does enjoy making deals though!
My co-GM and I made sure that there was at least one way to come out of the encounter unscathed. We also allowed for the possibility that they would figure out other ways to come out of this OK, though we could only think of the one, and we were reasonably certain they wouldn’t avail themselves of it.
As you may have already guessed – they didn’t.
Death was very much an option during this encounter. In fact Sangre Santo made it quite clear that he might kill them all quite by accident if he wasn’t careful! The sad truth is that this is one of those cases where simply killing them didn’t make sense. Quite frankly, that would have been way too passe for Sangre Santo. He didn’t want to kill them, he wanted to corrupt them. If he had to knock each and every one of them unconscious and then play “Let’s Make A Deal” with the first one to wake up over and over again until someone broke down and decided which one of their friends should be killed, so be it. After all, being an abyssal entity means that Sangre Santo has too much time on his hands. While this made a TPK unlikely, it did make it quite possible that one of the characters would be forced to sentence another one to death in order for the majority of them to live. Since it is unlikely that any player would make this choice, a successful “RESOLVE + COMPOSURE” roll would have been needed to not give in. The corrupted PC would have suffered some Morality loss and a possible derangement, the other PCs would be shocked and horrified (well, the ones that weren’t the dead one anyway), and my co-GM and I would have congratulated each other on a job well done.
Of course, failing that Sangre Santo would have eventually gotten bored again and just killed them all in the hopes that more entertainment would arrive soon.
The PCs actually caught a break here. It was down to final health points for several of the characters, and the big guy himself. Aenaiyah pulled a Hail Mary and managed to sever the connection between Sangre Santo and the mortal plane just before he managed to kill her.
This entertained him so much that he later sent her a gift!
Sangre Santo is nothing if not appreciative of a good time.
It’s important for death to be a very real threat in the campaign. The possibility of character death creates a sense of urgency and tension. The specter of death makes it clear to the players that the choices they make for their characters are important. The trick is that too much death, senseless death, and unavoidable death cause the same problems that no fear of death causes. If the players know that their characters are going to die anyway it takes away that very sense of urgency and tension – they are going to die no matter what they do!
Death needs to always be on the table, but it should always make sense, always be meaningful, and always be avoidable. If it isn’t it becomes cheapened. It becomes a certainty instead of a risk. Once the outcome is certain it just isn’t much of a game anymore.
*Let the record clearly state that the Mages and Werewolves actually opted to help this guy! (Let it also clearly state that previously the Gaurdian of the Veil handed him a fresh bottle of whiskey and pointed him toward the nearest subway tunnel.)
Posted on September 9, 2011, in Gaming, Mage Awakening, MtAw, RPG, Werewolf Forsaken, White Wolf, WoD, World of Darkness, WtF and tagged GM advice, GM Tips, Mage the Awakening, MtAw, nWoD, rpg, werewolf the forsaken, WoD, world of darkness. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.
That was an amazing session. I know Aenaiyah was all cut up (figuratively and literally) over what was happening. She felt like it was her fault the fight got started since Sangre tried to use her as a negotiating tool and she decided to pop a few seconds (and rounds upon rounds of combat) into the future so he needed to grab someone else to negotiate with. I was certainly ready to offer quite a bit to save the cabal and the pack if need be.
Thank *god* the werewolves finally busted that thing’s corpus up.
Also, it added a very nifty spell to my “I can do things!” repertoire—when you’re a “smart” rather than a “strong” character with “passive” powers, sometimes it feels like you’re staring at a brick wall you need to break down with a needle. Most of my passes are Hail Marys. In fact, all of them may be. Death Kitty is a much better fighter.
As for the “gift” . . . I assume there are lots and lots and lots of strings attached. Lots and lots and lots of strings. Especially since I know what it is, but not exactly what it does.
You know… there’s a very simple way you can find out precisely what your gift does.
That was my “Walking Triage” session. Every turn I was healing as many people as possible so they wouldn’t bleed to death… it was interesting to say the least. Our most stupid moment ever had to be deciding most of us would walk outside to talk after Sangre Santo said he wouldn’t hurt us unless we left the church.
That’s also the session that earned you Aenaiyah’s “Seal of Approval” since you saved everyone’s a$$es. Don’t blow it by making clandestine deals behind our back or anything 😛
Sangre didn’t say he’d hurt us if we left the church. He basically spelled out that if we didn’t attack him, he wouldn’t attack us while we were negotiating. There was a bit about it being the people in the church with him, or some such. In any case, it *was* vague enough that most of us didn’t realize leaving the church meant we were leaving negotiations, and we were therefore fair game when we re-entered the church.
Its hilarious you mentioned “clandestine deals” and 24hrs later Vicki made sure my previous deals came back to bite us on the ass.
*Deep breath* “DAMNIT IT, ARROW, YOU BLOODY GIT!”
To be precise: Sangre said that he would not hurt you if you stayed in the church, as long as you didn’t attack him.
Once you left the church all bets were off. Sangre’s Momma didn’t raise no fools!
Well, remember, this interpretation of events is from the same character who gave you NEW YORK IS GOING TO BLOW UP IN 48-72 HOURS IF WE CAN’T PLUG THE PARADOX HOLE IN THE BASEMENT!
Which is why, really, no one should take anything Aenaiyah says seriously.
The trick is the players know she didn’t tell the truth about the paradox hole but the characters don’t. The day that comes out, it’ll be really interesting because Niels could have avoided rending his soul.
It isn’t so much that she “didn’t tell the truth” as that she misinterpreted and overreacted a bit. They would have blown up, but in reality they had about a month to plug that hole, or to find a way to make the nummy extra-potent mana safe(TM) to use.
If they hadn’t… well lets just say that I planned for that particular contingency!
The last bit of the blog isn’t entirely accurate. When we first ran into Officer Brewer, thinking he was just a homeless guy, not an undercover police officer how had had lunacy induced on him as he was experiencing symptoms of his First Change as a werewolf, the Guardian of the Veil proposed killing him (specifically burning him to death) so he couldn’t talk about the events with the Promethean. He later — much later — said it was a joke, but only after Shannon (werewolf) made it very clear that such a suggestion was horrific.
The other mages agreed burning him was a bad idea but it took a little debate before killing him was entirely off the table (the werewolves saying “no” nudged things in the right direction). Then the Guardian said, “hey, I was joking.” (Too little, too late to be entirely convincing).
Then Guardian poured booze on him to make anyone encountering him think he was drunk, handed him the rest of the bottle and pointed him toward the exit. Shannon said, “That’s it?” because to her mind (a) that wasn’t enough in comparison to the poor sod being kidnapped by a Promethean and (b) it didn’t adequately address the security issue.
The other mages said, “Not our problem” and left (to be fair, the mind mage was absent so he couldn’t adjust Brewer’s memories as Shannon suggested), which is why the werewolves found a homeless shelter that would take him. Shannon smooth talked her way into convincing the admitting person that she was a good Samaritan who was genuinely concerned for the guy (thereby giving her an excuse to check in on him and see what, if anything, he’d say later so they could nip it in the bud) but, understandably, didn’t want to take a homeless guy home with her. It’s because she kept tabs on him that they later discovered he was an undercover officer, not a homeless guy, and an emerging werewolf. Otherwise, it’s extremely likely that he might have experienced his First Change on the streets of Manhattan instead on a secluded compound way out on the North Fork of Long Island.
Now the mages DID help in getting Brewer to Long Island but initially,they washed their hands of him.
Oh I was accurate. He did in fact hand him a bottle of whiskey and point him toward the nearest subway tunnel. I just knew I could count on you to detail the earlier versions of the plan.
See, I wonder what the heck I was doing during most of this discussion, because all I remember was “I’m going to dump him reeking of booze into a sewer” and “You can’t do that! I’m taking him to a homeless shelter.” It was only later I found out that the very first plan was to torch the poor slob.
The burning him discussion was brief, to be fair. I think it Aenaiyah was silent because her player was in the bathroom or some such. Being an Acanthus doesn’t make her omniscient when her player is absent. 😉
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