Game Story: Cleric Tossing

Game story time.

In the 1990s I ran a heavily-houseruled 2e D&D game. It wasn’t unusual for us to play haphazardly (coming up with a story for the character of whoever showed up, regardless of how much sense that made), and to play after a long day of people working, and to play until the sun came up.

In other words, we often played while punchy. Silliness could creep in.

In an example I remember well, I was running a game with just two players and three total characters – a wizard, a cleric, and a a paladin. They got stuck in an area with many small floating islands over a bottomless void, and needed to cross many, many chasms. After they used every spell, plan, and resource they could think of, they were still two chasms short. And we were all tired, And it was 7am, having played allllll night.

So the paladin’s player suggested she tie a rope to the cleric, swing him around her head with her 18/00 Strength (for those of you who don’t remember percentile Strength scores, that was really good – but not superhuman), throw him 120 feet over both remaining chasms, have him grab onto the far side, and then she and the wizard would jump into the void trailing the rope and climb up to him.

This was clearly a stupid plan. Throwing a fully armed and armored human 120 feet is not a reasonable feat of Strength, even for someone very strong. The world record for a 16 lb. hammer throw is only 284 feet, and that’s less than 10% of the weight and a record set by someone trained in using a well-balanced throwing item. I didn’t care. I wanted to go to sleep. So did the players. We all agreed this was reasonable, and it worked, and we ended the game session

And then we woke up, and thought about what allowing that bit of Looney Toons logic into the game meant.

When that group was next together, with additional friends, the story got told. A lot. And we all agreed it was sillier than we wanted that campaign to be.

The player who had the wizard suggested that maybe the pocket dimension they’d been escaping had been affecting their minds, and that even the characters knew that wasn’t ACTUALLY how the party had escaped. That was just the mass hallucination they had all shared.

This solved everything, and was adopted as campaign canon. The characters all remembered what we had played out, so we could reference it and talk about the rest of that game session before we got too goofy and should have stopped, but within the continuity of the world it was accepted as a hallucination. We decided not to play when that tired anymore, and the players didn’t feel like the game had become too silly for their tastes.

I try to keep this in mind whenever I am running a playing a game. Some games ARE that silly, all the time, and that’s fine if everyone is having fun. But adding something much sillier than the game’s norm into a campaign can make people unhappy, and generally it’s worth finding a ay to firewall that event from mainstream game continuity.

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About okcstephens

Owen K.C. Stephens Owen Kirker Clifford Stephens is the Starfinder Design Lead for Paizo Publishing, the Freeport and Pathfinder RPG developer for Green Ronin, a developer for Rite Publishing, and the publisher and lead genius of Rogue Genius Games. Owen has written game material for numerous other companies, including Wizards of the Coast, Kobold Press, White Wolf, Steve Jackson Games and Upper Deck. He also consults, freelances, and in the off season, sleeps.

Posted on April 15, 2016, in Adventure Design, Musings, Retrospective, Silliness and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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