Storytelling Technique: “You are now X…”

Allo, everyone.  I’m the GM for my D&D group and I enjoy using different storytelling styles and techniques.  I’ve had this particular one rattling around in my head for about a year and finally got the chance to use it over the weekend.  I’ll share the general idea followed by how I did it in this instance.

HOW TO DO IT

The idea is to get a major shock out of the players by introducing a villian thought defeated or the power behind major events in the campaign without involving the PCs.  Essentially think of it as a vignette.

First, decide how you want to introduce the shock element.  Perhaps you want the reveal to be a defeated adventuring party being brought before some tribunal being headed by the aforementioned defeated villian.  Maybe the characters finally get to see who is really running the slaving operation in the country by having contractors deliver fresh ‘goods’ to the villian.  Don’t worry if you have to stage it a bit; this is meant to be dramatic.  It isn’t going to directly affect your PCs, anyway, so feel free to play a bit dirty.

Next, make a party that would be working with the villian in question or trying to take it down.  Flesh the characters out with a general group dynamic and basic group backstory that works into your vignette.  Share this info with the players about a week in advance to give them a chance to be familiar with the material.

On the day of the vignette, hand your players the characters you sent them earlier in the week, with some modifications if necessary.

-If the party you created is trying to take the villian down, wreck them up before handing the sheets over:  spend dailies, willpower, etc.  Fill the players in on what has been going on to mess the characters up, then drop them into mid-combat with a mob that is wiping the floor with them.  One by one, the party will fall.  Before the final blows are struck, have the mob called off by the villian as she makes a dramatic entrance to finish the job herself.

-If the party you created is working for the villian, simply drop the characters into a job for the villian.  Be sure to have the villian in question in question just go by ‘boss’ or somesuch until the end of the vignette.  Have a minor encounter with some guards on the way to deliver some ill-gotten goods, or even have the characters perform the job in question.  Once the characters make the delivery, have the villian receive the delivery directly through a dramatic reveal; possibly even killing said agents to leave no witnesses.

HOW IT WORKED FOR ME

In my campaign, the characters had just reached level 11 and helped rout an army led by a vampire.  I created a party of 17-20th level characters and sent them to my players:

-Sung, doppelganger artifacer and party leader; Glutha Eyepoke, goblin sorceress; Dak Minerift, dwarf barbarian; Claskl Clawsnap, kobald cleric; and OSx, warforged fighter.

The group had been on the job of eliminating Vampire Vassels and tracking down the Vampire Lord that had created them.  The group’s hunt led them through leagues of war-torn territory until they finally tracked down the Vampire Lord…

I handed out all of the wrecked character sheets (except Sung) and had gave a brief prologue of Sung’s thoughts…

“We’ve planned this for months.  Every angle, every detail, every contingency.  We had this bastard cold.  So why can I not figure out why this is happening?!”

I then revealed the battle layout of a badly outmatched party facing a Vampire Lord, a few death knights, and a mess of zombies.  The party played for a couple of rounds, and characters started to fall.

After the first character was taken down, Sung, (controlled by me), started reading a modified scroll of Teleport to get everyone out.  In the same round, everyone save Sung and OSx had died.  Just as the spell was about to complete, a death knight “interrupted” the spell and caused it to misfire, instead severing OSx’s head and teleporting it away to… someplace.

After that occured, the Vampire Lord finally spoke:  “Ah ha ha ha!  Did you really think you could storm Castle Ravenloft and live?!  I, Strahd von Zarovich, have repeatedly destroyed those far greater than you.  However, seeing as I am now lacking in Vassels to run my kingdom, perhaps you’ll do…”  Fade to black.

Jaws hit the floor.  It was awesome.

Keep on designing, yo!

Phil

[tags]Gming,Dungeons and Dragons,Game Mastering,D&D,Role Playing Games,rpg,rpgs,Storytelling Techniques[/tags]

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