Impractical Applications: Really Not Anyone’s Scene

I talked earlier this week about what not to do in order to get a scene you don’t like to end. It’s something I’ve had recent experience with; in my Saturday D&D game, we had what I’m pretty sure was one of those scenes: our charming mixed-bag PCs attempting to determine from a captured member of the invasion force we’d kept off our boat whether there actually was supposed to be an invasion and how much the forces we were trying to avoid were involved. (The answer to the latter question was yes. This contributed to how long everything took.)

So there we were. Interrogation by suggestion spell, the guy we were talking to didn’t know much but knew enough, and then one player showed up forty minutes late and ended up rehashing most of what we’d already covered, and somewhere between that and the part where he started trying to verify in unnecessary degrees of detail that the girl the enemy was after was, in fact, the one we were guarding (the rest of the group having drawn this conclusion from much less information and moved on to other important things), things started going wrong. I can’t truly speak for the rest of the group, but I think it was safe to say that while the two players below were the most visible cases, everyone was getting frustrated; more, at least part of the problem was the fact that, this being a conspiracy-heavy game, the core of the group was more concerned with getting all possible answers out of the guy than short-term enjoyment, and the GM—good, but new, and a little oblivious sometimes, not to mention distracted from trying to keep track of five players—probably mistook at least some of that for interest in/enjoyment of the scene. That being said, it went downhill from there.

First was the dwarf’s player. This is pretty logical; you’ve got three people in varying degrees of mechanically talky, one person who tends to accidentally sabotage his mechanically talky skills—and then you’ve got the “Charisma and Wisdom? What are those?” dwarf, who has occasionally been known to keep himself out of trouble by declaring himself a weapon at the local temple so as to not be separated from his axes, and whose player makes no bones about being in it for the combat. The character wasn’t interested, the player was bored, so he wandered off to challenge one of our other new NPCs to a duel. This, admittedly, didn’t last too long, aside from the occasional “Yeah, you guys are still at it” and a good deal of handwaving; I think this was the sensible choice, though I was somewhat disappointed in the way it ended up being resolved, as I sincerely doubt the other character was good enough never to have gotten hit at all.

Then we had the cleric. We’d acquired a couple of enemy corpses because we didn’t have time to loot them (three cheers for bags of holding), so he had prepared speak with dead, and by golly, he was going to use it. Which was fine, except that every now and then he’d start going “Hey, we should start thinking about what questions we’re going to ask the dead guys.” In the middle of the interrogation. At which his character was present. Usually while one of us was trying to formulate a question. It can’t have been two and a half hours into the game when we hit the third or fourth repetition of “Can we please finish questioning this guy first?”

Not helping matters was an incident somewhere near the middle. Austrenk, my spellthief, subscribes to the Skyrim alchemy school of magical analysis; if she can’t figure out what a spell effect is by any other means, she’ll steal it and see what it does to her. (I think at this point she’s actually stolen a larger number of inconvenient magical effects than she has of beneficial ones.) This one made her extremely bored with the whole questioning procedure and desperately in need of Doing Something. Which was all right, I was getting frustrated anyway and we had two people left to carry on the investigation, except that her idea of thing to do was go provide our primary new NPC with weapons training, and for whatever reason the guy didn’t trust me to play across the overenthusiasm myself, so he just made the character kind of incompetent at the training. And despite the fact that the character had told her fellows “There’s an enchantment on this guy, I’m going to steal it, let me know if I start acting weird,” the cleric decides to intercede in this on the NPC’s behalf, which only resulted in more of the apparent incompetence being played up, which… yeah.

We were there about three and a half hours. At least two and a half of that was spent dealing with this one NPC. Honestly, we all screwed up. The dwarf’s player should probably have just asked if there was any way we could speed it up; the cleric’s player should have played one scene at the time; and the rest of us should really have admitted that we wanted to get on with it too and asked if there was any way we could just bypass the detaily bits and get the gist of our results so we could move on to determining we’d been played again and trying to explain to the new NPCs why we needed not to go where we were going. But hey—we’ve all learned, and we’ll know for next time.


  1. Sean Holland says:

    I hate it when things circle like that, all the gears of the campaign spinning and not engaging at all.

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