Random Thoughts - I am but a simple blogger...

NB: This was written a while ago, but never published. When I say 'over the weekend', it was a few months ago...

Over the weekend I encountered an RPG in play, and overheard one of the NPCs interacting with the players, and I overhead a snippet of the game which was something like:

She waves her hands in a strange pattern and mutters some arcane words you don't understand. Her appearance is no longer disheveled. She thanks you for your help.
When the players asked about her, she replied:
"I am but a simple merchant, who was waylaid by bandits..."

Wait a moment... I've heard this before...

I've realised that there are some tropes about role playing characters that do get played out a bit. Quests turn into the murder-hobo tour, princesses are captured by dragons, magic swords are a standard first magic item reward. But I never twigged to the following formula being used so much: 

I am but a (adjective indicating they do not think highly of themselves) (insert profession here), (insert screaming flashing plot hook here)

It's common, and almost looks like a video game characters dialog when they are just scene filler. The phrase itself is pretty innocent, and could be used as a quick grab when nothing is available, and a scene needs to be set.

"Who are you, good sir? What happened here."
"I am but a struggling grocer, my family struck by hunger as the baron demands higher taxes each week."

The baron is a jerk, and needs a talking to by some upstart heroes.

But there is a difference, and it goes like this:

The man dusts himself off as he stands up from the brawl. A city guard marches round the corner, and before he can speak up, the man growls something at him in Undercommon and flicks a jingling pouch at the guards feet. The guard looks around nervously, scoops up the pouch, and leaves.

"Who are you, good sir? What happened here."
"I am but a struggling grocer, my family struck by hunger as the baron demands higher taxes each week."

There seems to be a major plot point in training here. Things are not what they seem, and it's time to investigate. My issue is that, while it's OK to use this once in a while, does it have to be so common? Let the players find things out for themselves? And I'm not saying you can't do something to arouse suspicion, but there has to be some kind of slow burn to it, right? Have the person say something in a language you don't understand, or carry too much gold for such a profession. My issue is that when the reveal comes for "Haha! I was really the lost Drow Prince after all!", the players have probably all figured it out long ago, and everyone kicks around nervously waiting for confirmation. It's fine if a few players suspect things, or figure it out and convince the others. But the above phrases seem more like a stage wink to the audience, which is kind of weird considering in that analogy, the PCs are fellow actors in the play. It becomes more of a pantomime. 

Or, even more fun, don't drop hints until the players start looking for clues. I did it a while ago. and had a recurring character appear from time to time that the players were friendly with, even if she didn't like being in the city. 

Sure was a surprise when she turned up and one-shot the Cleric...


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