Temptation plots, as you might have gathered from Sunday and Monday nights’ posts, are some of my favorite plots as a player. Taking that into account, it came as a bit of a surprise to me that aside from skirting about the edges in a few Generic Villain posts, I’d never actually gotten around to writing them in the four years I’d been blogging—but I’m not sure whether that was more or less of a surprise than the fact that what incited my writing about them was a session digression in my often hot and cold D&D game, the one with the possible playstyle conflict issues. One that stood out not because it gave me something whose failure I could take apart and analyze, but because it worked.
The situation was pretty standard. Our fearless adventurers are fighting their way through what was apparently an abandoned temple last week in hopes of taking out one of the individuals standing between their goblin paladin buddy and control of the goblin tribes. Since they figure the target could leave at any time, they’ve just skipped a good opportunity to rest; the cleric’s nearly out of spells, the only reason my beguiler Lamora isn’t is because we keep fighting things that her magic doesn’t apply to well, and then we run into this creature that turns out to be a demon, magically bound to a spot in that room. Who wants to talk.
For Lamora, and for fellow original PC and fellow con artist Ormand the rogue (and probably for everyone else, or at least everyone else with the spell list), this sounds like a good idea.
The talk turns into trading questions, and in general, is a social monster’s dream. Chances to nitpick the definition of question on both sides. Opportunities to not only catch the guy in a lie, but let him be the one to relay it to the rest of the group (finally justifying my choice of 6th-level feat). A sign that unlike just about everyone we’ve run into, this guy likes his conversational partners at least somewhat amoral (good when you consider that Lamora’s sheet has her as “Chaotic… um… something non-evil?” and Ormand is definitely CN). Trying to figure out what sort of prevarication gives us the best results. Somewhere in the process, the demon makes an offer that amounts to “Go through, I won’t stop you, but I need you to promise to stay out of politics. Particularly goblin politics”, and Lamora decides the tactical approach would be to respond with “But if I don’t mess with politics, who am I going to swindle?” (She’s not looking forward to explaining it to the cleric or the paladin, but we’ll get there later.) This is met, a few lines later, with a recruitment offer, which led to the kind of temptation sequence I haven’t had since I played Tuyet. Lose the party. Come home with the demon-thing. Con the living daylights out of anything in the multiverse. I’ll be honest—she was pretty close to a yes. Or at the very least, to taking the secondary offer of “Your buddies go on ahead and do their thing, I just need you to stick around until you give me an answer.”
Several things made it work. First, the preceding conversation was fun—player and character alike were in a good mood. Two, it was a chance to work in her own strengths, doing the things she enjoyed (I’ve been going into some really interesting potential characterization going past that). Three, it was pretty clear that this demon thought she was something special—a definite look up from the average NPC, who valued warrior skills over her set of gifts, if they could even be convinced to look past the fact that she was about three or four feet shorter than most of her teammates. Last, and most important, the demon was able to downplay the price, particularly with the “you stay here and think, they go on” offer. Even when she’d made up her mind to say no, that last one seemed like a good way to make sure that, for once, the job she prioritized got done. (This is… an issue in this game.) Yeah, there were things that made it unacceptable—conning people out of their souls isn’t quite her thing, her partner in crime couldn’t come play too, the guy overreacted to her being a bit deceitful about irrelevant topics like where her hometown was (even leaving aside the veiled threats, I don’t think she’d want to work with someone who lied to her several times but insisted she never lie to him at all), that sort of thing.
But how close it came made the whole sequence exceedingly nifty.