Murphy's Tip

Anything thing that can go wrong will go wrong, or at least it should.

This is a rule I try to DM by. The key reason for this is that this is how we tell stories most of the time. The players may prepare a wonderful plan, but if nothing unexpected happens, where is the intrigue, the suspense?

The thing to keep in mind with this, however, is balance. Your players have a limited amount of goodwill. When they have prepared properly and get good rolls, let them have some things. The point of this is not to try to frustrate your players' every action, but to add layers of conflict. The way to do this is not to let a single roll take the whole plan down. If a player's disguise slips or is less convincing than it ought to be, it ought to arouse suspicion, maybe cause a person to stop the player and ask for id or something, but this causes a situation that the player must be careful and clever in dealing with. If their disguise isn't quite as good as it needs to be, the alarms shouldn't be going off and all the guards start attacking.

No no no. Let bad rolls stimulate interesting conflicts that require clever resolution. If the player's response is good, you can even let them continue without rolling. Players actually want to be resisted, because this is apart of the fundamental process of the emergent narrative that D&D creates. The awesome stories that we tell to each other around the table don't happen unless things don't go as expected.

This tip is also fundamentally additive. Why would the Goblins simply kill the halfling bard? That is what the player would expect. Why not have the goblins knock her out and prepare her as a bride for their king? Then the player has to figure out how to get out of that mess and the rest of the party could even mount a rescue. Murphey's Tip ought to drive the action forward within the session and between sessions. Whole new adventures can kick off from creatively dealing with player failure. Even player success ought to be treated as fair game. Did the player's successfully help a revolution? What happens when the oppressed become as bad as their oppressors? Did they kill the evil wizard? Are there other rivals to the wizard that might try to take over his territory now?

Let your imagination channel cause and effect into something unexpected, and you will have great stories to tell.


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