“We don’t walk away.”

bikeIn ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ the Doctor teaches Clara an important lesson of working with him, they don’t walk away. Getting the players in a game to abide by this can be difficult. After all if you present a threat to the their characters it can be logical for them to flee from it. This is a problem that I’ve encountered in one of my own games.

When trouble occurs you want the players to investigate not run in the opposite direction. You want them to risk their lives to be heroes, not trying to save their own skin.

There are ways to avoid this but the key is to make sure that everyone involved in the game has the same expectations. Players should understand that the goal of the game is for their characters to deal with a problem. If they just leave in the TARDIS then they have failed.

Similarly the games master shouldn’t set the goal of an adventure to be the player characters escaping. They should never encounter ‘no win’ scenarios that punish them for even trying.

Firstly the threat to the player characters  should be monitored. The players should expect to survive if they obey certain rules. If the player believes their character would be walking into certain death they will not go.

The Daleks are incredibly dangerous but a player character could deal with them if they either manage to go undetected, are able to use superior firepower or persuade the Dalek they are more useful alive than dead.

This is a difficult thing to balance. Players must feel that their characters are safe but that there is some risk involved, otherwise it would become a very dull game. This is best handled through experience, showing the players just what their characters can survive.

Secondly players must feel that their characters are capable. If they do walk towards the danger they should have the skills to deal with it, in one way or another. If they don’t think they can affect the situation they won’t feel their presence is needed.

It can be helpful to signpost just what the player character will be able to bring to the situation. Just hearing about what the nature of the threat or seeing it can give the player characters an idea of how to tackle it and even what particular skills they need. This will give them the confidence to move towards the danger.

You can even explicitly spell this out, spotlighting a particular characters skills as being vital. Perhaps only one character has the technical skills required to disassemble a power mad computer, maybe only one has the piloting skills to evade the enemies ground defences and get the others into their base and maybe only one has the medical skills needed to save the ailing leader of the alien world.

If each of these skills is needed in conjunction to eliminate the threat then you can encourage the group to work as a team, with each person having a defined role to play in the plan and each being equally important to its success.

Using the game mechanics of the game players can be rewarded with Story Points if they move towards a threat. The more obstacles they have to overcome or the more danger they put themselves in the more points they receive. The extra story points can give them the confidence to deal with the threat, since the more points they have the greater their chances of success.

Over the course of several games this reward system can be reduced, so that the players only expect the story points in extreme situations. This prevents them from being dependent on being bribed while still moving them in the correct direction.

In a narrative sense hesitation or attempting to flee can increase the danger the threat poses. This can encourage the players to deal with it immediately for exactly the same reason they were initially running away, self-preservation.

You could make it impossible for them to run (for example preventing them from escaping) but that removes the illusion of choice. The player characters aren’t being heroic if they aren’t choosing to face the threat.

The ‘Don’t Walk Away’ ethos is not just about the player characters avoiding the plot but encouraging a sense of dependability and hope. Clara demonstrates this when she returns to help the Doctor at the end of this adventure.

Players should be encouraged not leave members of their team behind. While they could simply escape they should have the desire to go back and rescue or save their friends, no matter the risk.

Not running from the adventure emulates a specific style of Doctor Who. There is nothing wrong with running a campaign where the player characters are trying to keep out of trouble. This would be much more in line with the 1st Doctor era where getting back to the TARDIS safely was often the goal.

You just need to be clear on what kind of campaign you are running so that everyone can behave accordingly.

This entry was posted in 11th Doctor, Rings of Akhaten. Bookmark the permalink.

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