So, Taverners – riddle me this.

So, Taverners – riddle me this.

So, Taverners – riddle me this.

The group I was GMing for reacted against my expectations in the late stages of a Front resolution.

Put simply, when the Dwarf Librarians declared (albeit cryptically) they would take forbidden knowledge they and the players suspected was in the Library of Tiza, the PCs decided to run away and hide out with the Blood Mage’s old master in a faraway city, before checking out the group of elves they’ve suspected of having the book all along. The Front of the Dwarf Librarians is reaching its critical stage – all that is left is for them to storm the library and take the forbidden book.

What do I do?

A) Proceed with the Front as planned, leaving the PCs to return to a smoking hellhole of a city, with its people enslaved beneath the Librarians they failed to stop?

B) Resolve the Front, but in a reduced way? (turns out the Librarians just wanted to stop it falling into the wrong hands!)

C) Disregard the Front until they return? (The guards have held them off just long enough! Please, heroes, save us!)

If the front was more obvious, the choice would be simple – “You walk away from the Cultist summoning an Elder God? You sure? Ok, reality buckles…” But it seems to belittle the players when they make such a drastic mistake without realising it, despite the RP opportunities it offers. Advice?

14 thoughts on “So, Taverners – riddle me this.”

  1. Ooh, rough call. I think it depends a lot on the group.

    If you honestly feel like you telegraphed enough about the Librarians so that the PCs had all the information they needed and totally dropped the ball, and everyone’s on board with a hard-knocks type of game, they should totally come back to a ruined hellhole of a city, but have ways to try and defeat the Librarians.

    Otherwise, I’d probably have them return in the middle of the city’s progression toward hellhole status, so they can at least mitigate, if not entirely stop, the damage. Then the next step in the disaster chain can be kicked off but at a slightly slower rate?

    Something like that.

  2. I don’t see a wrong answer, really. There’s a lot of suspicion (but no certainty) so you’ve left yourself room to adjust the narrative from your original plan. And the players formulated an apparently reasonable plan, which means you’re doing things right re: engaging them. So good job so far!

    If you think they’d be upset with an ending that amounts to “you screwed up, sucks that you got a city blown up,” you could also try a compromise where EVERYONE loses. Yes the book was in the library, but it was missing the secret ingredient that the elves knew about. The Librarians performed the ritual not knowing it was incomplete, and now a whole NEW complication has arisen. Call it the 7-9 result for the front. 🙂

  3. I would honestly go somewhere between A and B.  The city is in ruins, and the Library has the book, but there is still resistance in the city.  This gives the characters a chance to mount a counter assault to retrieve the book.

  4. I’d go with A, or Timothy Walsh’s reduced variation.  But the players made decisions and sometimes they make the wrong ones.  Now they get the cinematic discovery of what happened because of it.  It’s all good.  Sometimes the bad guys win.   Fuuuuuuuuuuuu…..   🙂

  5. Why did the players run away to hide out with the Blood Mage’s old master?  Did they think they had something critical to the Dwarves’ plan and that they would chase them, thus saving the city?  Or were they simply afraid and said “Let the city burn, we ain’t sticking around to get killed!”?  If they thought it was the former (or something like that), then I’d say go ahead and say they are correct, even if originally in your plans they were wrong.  If they said “forget the city, we’re gone”, then let the city burn.

  6. If I was a player I would LOVE to go adventuring in the hell-hole remains of the city! Bring It!

    If they don’t want to adventure there, well the whole world is gonna get overrun by hell-spawn right? That is even more exciting as a ‘big picture’ front. 

    Hells Yeah! (pun most certainly intended 🙂

  7. How “cryptically” did the Librarians make this declaration? Was it clear that taking this forbidden knowledge would cause ruin?  Why did the players think the elves had the book?  The answers to these questions would seriously impact my answer.

    Most players don’t want to feel /punished/, in my experience. They’re OK with seeing the consequences of their actions, but if they honestly thought they were taking the correct course of action and didn’t see the doom coming, it feels punititive to unleash it. 

  8. Background – the Librarians were in the city, when a player mentioned he had heard rumours of a blood magic tome held by the late Prince Regent the party had been arrested on suspicion of assassinating. In addition, all elves had simultaneously left the city regarding an entirely separate impending catastrophe.

    The players added two and two to make five, and concluded “the only reason they would be running is if they knew something or were hiding something”.

    The Librarians declaration was to create a large amount of magical symbols in the air above the city. If they’d stayed long enough, the Dwarven Priest MAY have noticed that similar runic circles were used during his time as a Librarian to draw attention away from areas of interest. As it was, they fled the scene and pinned their hopes on the elves knowing something, or at least being able to help.

    I think I may have a compromise – the city may be desolated, but it won’t be the eldritch god that did it. Who knows what else the Prince Regent may have been keeping in his secret stash on the top floor of the Great Library?

  9. Yeah, with that information, I’d lean away from following through on your Grim Portents and Doom.  It doesn’t sound like the PCs made a meaningful choice.

    At the very least, I’d give the players some more signs that bad shit was coming.  Like, visions and portents for the dwarf cleric.  Or catching up with an elf and finding out exactly why they were fleeing and that no, they’ve never had the Blood Tome.

    The whole Grim Portents/Doom thing only works if you are generous with the truth. The players should be able to say at the end “yup, we saw this coming!”  or at least “we should have seen this coming.”  If they can’t, that’s just going to feel like “GOTCHA SUCKERS.”

    (Obviously: all of the above is only my opinion, and based on the details that you’ve provided. But I figure you don’t feel right about how things are playing out, which is why you’re asking.)

  10. I had some thoughts, but Jeremy Strandberg captured them all. I might suggest asking your players what they think is likely to happen to the city; that could give you a good sense of what you can do. Unfortunately it depends in part on your group.

    I’ve seen this happen twice in two different Dungeon World games over the last half year.  In the first, we left a city in which Bad Things were clearly happening.  Our best guess was some sort of political take over. We didn’t even think we were abandoning it; we were pursuing other directions. A few sessions later we blunder into the Big Bad from the city, and there is some sort of ritual that we’ve never heard of, and then the Big Bad has ascended as a god. To which our collective response was, “What the hell just happened?” It may have made logical sense, but to our perspective it was completely random. The game fell apart after that.

    More recently in a different game we thought we’d sorted out a problem. We did some final cleanup, all ready to move onward and… oops, we, a few other people, and an entire temple got dragged into Faerie.  This completely thwarted out plans, caused a giant mess, and took several weeks to sort out. But, when it happened we all went, “Well, crap, of course that was what would happen!”  There were two very clear clues pointing to the problem.  That campaign continues.

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