Impractical Applications (It Has to Be….)

I talked earlier this week about the twin lures of “It has to be you, and it has to be now” as the key to getting players going on your plotlines. All in all, my GMs have been pretty good at this, though there have been a few times that something went sideways and the situation couldn’t support it.

One of my GMs discovered that for my group—or at least, for me, and I’m pretty good at dragging other people along when I’m motivated—one of the best sources of “It has to be you” is “Because everyone else is too shortsighted/too stuck in the assumptions of a different viewpoint/too focused on another goal to apply common sense to the situation.” My best guess is that it blends an interest in problem solving with a certain joy in feeling superior. The first time he saw this work on me was a career spy facepalming her way through someone else’s civil war (“Honestly, people, has anyone but me considered how the tributaries are going to react to this?”); apparently the effect impressed him, because he managed to pull similar save-these-people-from-their-senseless-conflicts things twice in one game. The caveat to this, though, is that they couldn’t all be irredeemably shortsighted; it worked a lot better if there was someone present with some level of sense or sympathy whom we could identify with and want to brave the ignoramuses for the sake of—or if dealing with the conflict was the means to another end.

On the other hand, we’ve had times when it had to be us because nobody else had figured out there was a problem (this, as Ursula Vernon has lampshaded a few times in her Dragonbreath books, is particularly effective when child characters are dealing with something that most of the local adults wouldn’t believe and those few who would are already in on, as it effectively eliminates said adults from the list of possible problem-solvers)–which worked up until the point where we appeared to be completely outclassed with no way of figuring out why our last cunning plan had failed, and we started wondering if it even could be us. Or we’ve had cases of definitely being in a position to solve a problem, but not entirely sure why it needed to be us (usually because it seemed a bit easy) or why it needed to be now (my game, for instance, was pretty good at problems but occasionally had issues with urgency, so instead of “Oh crud we need to do something where do we even start?” it would turn into, “Hey, I’ve got a plan that addresses this one and might help with this other one, these guys probably aren’t going to affect us for a while, shall we?”) Then there’s “It has to be us, it has to be now, but so apparently does and is pretty much everything else, so these people can wait their turn, blast it.”

Either way, we get it done. But we get it done a lot better when we know why it has to be us.

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