Saturday, June 13, 2009

There's No Wrong Answer

And no right one, either.

This great post over at Standard Hirelings about improv and good DMing, as well as recent events in my Labyrinth Lord game, inspired this post. Yeah, I know what it's like on the picture-side of the DM's screen. Every choice is fraught with peril and possibility. Even the most innocuous options seem pregnant with possibilities. And to make things worse, sometimes the things you assume are harmless are not. Every door is a potential deathtrap, and every NPC is a potential polymorphed villain.

So yeah, I can understand the hesitation, the deep thought, and I'll never speak against caution. On the other hand, I cannot be emphatic enough when I say there is no right answer. The game isn't a test (unless some NPC has set something like that up, and even then...). There's never one right answer I'm looking for. Some locks only have one key, yes, but there's almost always some other way to get past the door if you look hard and long enough.

I had a friend who went on to study physics in college. He loved puzzle-dungeons that reminded me very much of the old Infocom, text-based “adventure” games, like Zork. Every one of his puzzles had a right answer. We kinda enjoyed playing with each other and kinda didn't. Beyond the way the game would grind to a halt when we were stopped by another of his puzzles, I found his insistence on there being a right answer annoying. I was always looking for ways to slice through his Gordian knots and flood out his Augean stables.

So if I'm GMing a roleplaying game and you want to slay the dragon and rescue the princess, great. If you want to cut a deal with the dragon where you split the reward for rescuing the princess, that's cool too. And if you want to steal the princess, convince the dragon it was the king's men who were the thieves so the dragon burns down half the kingdom and keeps everyone too busy to stop you from sacrificing the princess in order to summon and command Nyarlathotep, well, ok, that's a bit extreme, but sure, why the heck not?

Photo credits: Big C Harvey, clairit.

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