Thursday, May 22, 2014

Faerie bargains

InTheHat has run two different Heroes By Trade games over the past year with two very different groups.  The only player in common is me.  Both games took place in the same world and they draw very heavily on stories of faeries that are extremely powerful, nearly immortal, and very much wrapped up in rules and games.  They love to make deals with mortals and play word games to try to gain advantage.  Their goals and knowledge are strange enough that they are mysterious at best, incomprehensible at worst.  There is a rich history of this sort of faerie in myth and I enjoy it very much though I don't actually tend to create this sort of thing myself most of the time.

The thing that has been so interesting to me is the way that other players handle confrontations with beings of this sort.  Mostly people seem to tackle it head on and attempt to deal with them simply by playing along or by refusing to engage at all.  They ask simple questions and just accept the terms of the deals that the faeries offer which generally doesn't work well because of course the faeries know a lot more than the players do.

I on the other hand treat these encounters like a game.  My opponents in the game know a lot so I can't allow them to dictate the terms of engagement because they will always choose terms that leave me no advantage.  I put myself in the mind of a faerie and I imagine they are looking more than anything for a challenge.  They want a worthy foe to contest against, a mortal who can step above the petty concerns of those who scrabble in the dirt and then quickly perish to offer something fresh and interesting.

For example:  A demon of some sort was trying to get my character to perform a seemingly simple task in exchange for favours from the demon.  I was paranoid that such a deal would end up very much to my detriment so I declined... but I declined in an interesting way.

"I am thinking of the many stories I have heard of people making deals with powers.  Those deals always seem too good to be true and they always end up being terrible in the long run.  As such I will not be making a deal with you today.  However, if you would like to try to trick me into doing something that will help you I am happy to listen to you."

My idea was that if I could challenge the demon to be clever enough to trick me I could get a bunch of information out of it without actually committing anything myself.  I wanted to put it in a position where the contest was one of my own devising and such that it had a choice - end the conversation and fail to meet my challenge or give me information I could use.  My gambit worked and it told me many things some of which may be false of course but as long as I know that I can still make use of what I learned.

Other people don't seem to approach these things in the same way and I don't quite follow why that is.  I know the people involved are familiar with the fantasy tropes of bargains and deals and such but they don't seem to see it as I do, or at least they don't employ the same tactics.  Perhaps it is just that I see these things the same way InTheHat does and we have a particular connection that way?  It is unclear to me.

What is abundantly clear though is that these sorts of conversations are amazing fun for me.  I love the freedom to take the encounter any direction I want, to use any tactic I can think of to twist someone seemingly holds all the cards to do what I want them to do.  A game with very few hard rules and plenty of opportunity for creative solutions - gotta love that.


  1. I look at those sorts of encounters differently.

    I'm unlikely to get more info out of the encounter than the GM wants, so trying to "trick" the GM doesn't get me too far.

    The GM probably wants me to get certain information or to go in some direction, so to fight against it just makes things more difficult for the GM and I potentially miss out on a story line or opportunity.

    There is also the issue of PC knowledge vs. real life knowledge. In this particular game, my character is not prone to deceit and trickery. Problems tend to be solved more directly.

  2. Ah, I see. I think we have entirely different ideas about what GMs do in encounters. Both InTheHat and I try to make a world with people with agendas and just let the chips fall where they may. He has ideas about things we could probably learn from an encounter but if we manage something crazy and learn things he didn't expect, that is just fine. We can't 'trick' InTheHat but we absolutely can trick the NPCs he runs. He is totally fine with us missing big chunks of the story, figuring that at some point we will run into them, and if we don't then that is okay too. So since encounters really aren't scripted or predictable I love the idea of trying to get the most out of them.

    Certainly with many or most GMs my line of reasoning wouldn't hold. This is particularly true in a packaged adventure where a NPC has a particular purpose. It isn't true here though.