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How to surprise your players


Rise of the Runelords


I just started Hook Mountain Massacre and made some small changes, weaving in some character background, reviving the Paradise etc (to get some more RP enocunters, before the big slaughtering begins), but after last game night the I finally realized with 100% certainty, that nothing can really surprise my players any more (this is not a critique about the AP per sei, mind me). Every twist and turn in the adventure is anticipated one of the players or another and if only in a joke he makes. Without encountering Lucretia, just from seeing that she is somehow involved with the Sihedron, made them suspect, that she is a Lamia, and there are many things which they are not surprised about.
Do you have similar problems? Is every twist and turn in a story anticipated by the PCs or are our stories just too much cliche? How do you counter it?
Not that we did not have any fun, but sometimes this frustrates me a little bit.

Taldor RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16, 2011 Top 32

Belfur wrote:

I just started Hook Mountain Massacre and made some small changes, weaving in some character background, reviving the Paradise etc (to get some more RP enoc%~&ers, before the big slaughtering begins), but after last game night the I finally realized with 100% certainty, that nothing can really surprise my players any more (this is not a critique about the AP per sei, mind me). Every twist and turn in the adventure is anticipated one of the players or another and if only in a joke he makes. Without encountering Lucretia, just from seeing that she is somehow involved with the Sihedron, made them suspect, that she is a Lamia, and there are many things which they are not surprised about.

Do you have similar problems? Is every twist and turn in a story anticipated by the PCs or are our stories just too much cliche? How do you counter it?
Not that we did not have any fun, but sometimes this frustrates me a little bit.

Spoiler:

I had Lucretia seduce one of the PCs. He knew she was evil, but by gawd, she was hot too, and he went along with it while the other players thought he was opening up secret doors to allow the shocker lizards in.. I ended up playing her as a Bond villainess: smart, sexy, willing to offer the good guys a chance to switch sides and utterly unswayed by their obvious awesomeness. When she was genuinely saddened by their refusal to turn coat, they were a bit worried. When she started throwing lightning bolts in the close confines of the dungeon, they were scared. When she finally changed and then drained one of the PCs down to 2 Wisdom, they were very very afraid. She escaped and they will be seeing her again, possibly in a recurring role.


My group has to anticipate the enemy. No armor, no cleric, all light infantry. Whenever things go wrong (and they do) they are suddenly working for that bad save or other fluke to happen to the villain.


Belfur wrote:

I just started Hook Mountain Massacre and made some small changes, weaving in some character background, reviving the Paradise etc (to get some more RP enoc!#!ers, before the big slaughtering begins), but after last game night the I finally realized with 100% certainty, that nothing can really surprise my players any more (this is not a critique about the AP per sei, mind me). Every twist and turn in the adventure is anticipated one of the players or another and if only in a joke he makes. Without encountering Lucretia, just from seeing that she is somehow involved with the Sihedron, made them suspect, that she is a Lamia, and there are many things which they are not surprised about.

Do you have similar problems? Is every twist and turn in a story anticipated by the PCs or are our stories just too much cliche? How do you counter it?
Not that we did not have any fun, but sometimes this frustrates me a little bit.

Well, they've read spoilers then. There's nothing that suggests an inherent connection between the rune and Lamia. It's not obvious, like seeing a stone giant on the cover or a ghoul on the cover.

Figure out one encounter where they'd be counting on the villain to have specific weaknesses and invert or cover those weaknesses with different class levels. If you rout the field, you caught them out.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps Subscriber
roguerouge wrote:


Well, they've read spoilers then. There's nothing that suggests an inherent connection between the rune and Lamia. It's not obvious, like seeing a stone giant on the cover or a ghoul on the cover.

I'm not sure. After Xanesha, my players were paranoid about hot women sporting 10,000 year old bling.

To the OP, I also had the Paradise around, and had my players kicked off when their sniffing around for clues became too obvious. Well, the cheating at cards didn't help either.


Ian Watt wrote:


I'm not sure. After Xanesha, my players were paranoid about hot women sporting 10,000 year old bling.

To the OP, I also had the Paradise around, and had my players kicked off when their sniffing around for clues became too obvious. Well, the cheating at cards didn't help either.

Its a pitty, that the Paradise was cut from the original adventure, so Lucretia is just reduced to just another monster to slay (this one sentence where she might reveal who cheated the Black Arrows does not help much...by the way the traitor in this case is the long lost brother to my Ranger).

The rogue got an audience with Lucretia by flashing around his Sihedron Medallion, telling her to stop "this" operation...of course she knew he was lying, but decided to pull the plug anyway and burn the ship, with the players on it and 30 people from town to save.

roguerouge wrote:


Well, they've read spoilers then. There's nothing that suggests an inherent connection between the rune and Lamia. It's not obvious, like seeing a stone giant on the cover or a ghoul on the cover.

I don't think they read any spoilers. Its just that all adventures follow the cliche and after more than 10 years of gaming, you can just guess, what the plot will be, I guess.

That's my question, when did you last really surprise your players with a plot twist? Most of the time it is like this: the very friendly merchant comes around and offers the PCs good jobs and money. player: this merchant is just too nice, he is the bad guy, we should kill him right away.


Belfur wrote:

I just started Hook Mountain Massacre and made some small changes, weaving in some character background, reviving the Paradise etc (to get some more RP enoc&@&ers, before the big slaughtering begins), but after last game night the I finally realized with 100% certainty, that nothing can really surprise my players any more (this is not a critique about the AP per sei, mind me). Every twist and turn in the adventure is anticipated one of the players or another and if only in a joke he makes. Without encountering Lucretia, just from seeing that she is somehow involved with the Sihedron, made them suspect, that she is a Lamia, and there are many things which they are not surprised about.

Do you have similar problems? Is every twist and turn in a story anticipated by the PCs or are our stories just too much cliche? How do you counter it?
Not that we did not have any fun, but sometimes this frustrates me a little bit.

Not really. Maybe running the game which follows RotRL plot only in a very general sense (i.e., Karzoug tries to return, the party must discover and stop his slaves/dupes, including most of the NPCs from APs) helps here. Sometimes the party has surprising, if, maybe, accidental flashes of insight, such as guessing that Vorel Foxglove was attempting a lich ritual after first hearing about him. Mostly, they are in the dark, so far. Although I think, that as soon as the Sihedron stuff and its connection to runewells is discovered (and if PCs are sufficiently inquisitive, they at least stand a chance of figuring it out by the end of Skinsaw Murders), the general direction of the AP becomes clear. Or even more than general direction, if PCs are smart enough during interrogation of Xanesha's corpse (I don't remember if anything prevents that, and my party surely is going to do this to every major baddy, as soon as they hit level 5). This is one of the reasons I removed some relics of Thassilon from the first adventure and made skinsaw cultists pay more attention to covering their tracks (they always burn or badly disfigure the bodies of the sacrificed to hide the Sihedron rune and, as they are both dupes and rather obvious targets, none of skinsaw cultists is allowed to have any idea of what they actually are doing, beyond necessary techicalities of the Sihedron ritual).


Hi there,
What is this "Paradise" thing? Is there some neat stuff that I've missed?
GRU


GRU wrote:

Hi there,

What is this "Paradise" thing? Is there some neat stuff that I've missed?
GRU

The "Paradise" is an amusement ship which Lucretia provides to the inhabitants of Turtleback Ferry. In the first part of the book, there is a chapter called: The Sihedron Sign, there the story of the Paradise is briefly mentioned. James Jacobs admitted, that this part was cut from the module due to space limits. I personally think it is worth to have the PCs encounter Lucretia already on her ship and later witness the burning. You will have to find another reason to bring the PCs to Turtleback Ferry though, which again removes some timeline inconsistencies.


Belfur wrote:
GRU wrote:

Hi there,

What is this "Paradise" thing? Is there some neat stuff that I've missed?
GRU
The "Paradise" is an amusement ship which Lucretia provides to the inhabitants of Turtleback Ferry. In the first part of the book, there is a chapter called: The Sihedron Sign, there the story of the Paradise is briefly mentioned. James Jacobs admitted, that this part was cut from the module due to space limits. I personally think it is worth to have the PCs encounter Lucretia already on her ship and later witness the burning. You will have to find another reason to bring the PCs to Turtleback Ferry though, which again removes some timeline inconsistencies.

Thanks, Belfur

I agree, meting her on the ship first should give the fight with her later more impact.

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