CCT Journal 11: Buy In

We’ve ventured into the second module of the adventure path, “Seven Days to the Grave.”

One of the complaints people have had about Curse of the Crimson Throne in the message boards and such is that it depends pretty heavily on the players developing an attachment to the city of Korvosa and actually wanting to save it. There isn’t that much outside motivation for the players to stay on the rails if they aren’t committed to being big damn heroes for the city.

Partly this complaint comes about through poor GMing and laziness on the part of the players. The job of the entire group when coming to the table at a roleplaying game is to forge a social contract which defines the expectations of the game. If this game is about saving the city of Korvosa from destruction the players need to know that and agree to that from the outset and FIND motivation for their characters. It isn’t hard. Your character probably has family or friends in the city. You’ve lived there your whole life, is it so far-fetched for you to have a bit of civic pride?

But even for a group who failed at their basic responsibility to forge a little buy-in before the campaign began should have no trouble if they make it to the second module. In this adventure the city is hit by a devastating plague that threatens to kill a quarter or more of the population. The characters almost certainly get infected early on and have as much reason as anyone to want the plague to be cured and the threat ended.

Unless your party is full of sociopaths they should find it almost irresistible to try to help the mothers thrusting their sickly babies in their faces begging for help. The helpless impoverished people being forcibly quarantined and repressed under martial law. Any character of Good or Neutral alignment who wasn’t moved to some kind of action by the large-scale tragedy going on around them would quickly be called out in my game.

Even if your characters are evil, or completely mercenary, how can you miss this opportunity? Saving the city from the plague is a sure-fire route to fame and fortune. There are plenty of unscrupulous people who would pay a lot of money for a working cure, and even an evil jerk through and through cares what happens to their friends and loved ones – who are certainly not immune to the disease.

Honestly, people who complain that the adventure path didn’t provide strong enough motivations for the players to pursue the plot are playing a different game from me.

4 thoughts on “CCT Journal 11: Buy In

  1. It sounds like they're approaching an RPG like a movie or novel. “This game didn't entertain me enough”. The problem is, RPGs aren't passive entertainment. And you're right, people who come to it like passive entertainment are doin' it wrong.

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  2. I'd say that is a common issue with D&D, and especially modules. The game has such a history of the DM doing all the prep work and “serving up” the game like it was something to be passively consumed. Players have been conditioned.

    It is one reason I am such a fan of indy games that are conscientious about concepts like buy-in and social contracts.

    All that being said – I also think there are players who just resent being “rail-roaded” and actively try to subvert any whiff of plot they encounter in most games. They get a kick out of trying to “spoil the DM's plans” without realizing they are spoiling the game for themselves as well.

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  3. Except in the rare situation of a truly heinously-bad DM plotline, I've never understood that impulse to sand-bag and sabotage fun – especially in a game where you approach it passively in every other way. Come entertain me *while* I am messing with you and being contrary.

    I guess I just never had that trouble understanding that to win at roleplaying, we collectively produce fun for ourselves.

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