October 19th, 2010

Voodoo Dolly

Living Environments

A conversation I had not too long ago (and actually, a few times before this), involved roleplaying environments.  In short, the setting.  The conflict came from the idea that there were people in the setting (NPCs), who were better / more powerful / more influential than the PCs, and that they existed in the same region the PCs did.  This was described, essentially, as a bad thing.  The idea was that the PCs were the ones who should do all the heroic stuff, but if there was a serious problem, these NPCs existed who could clear things up.

But, see, I don't see this as an issue.  If you're in a fantasy setting and there's a city of 10,000 people, you're very likely not going to be at the top of the heap.  Socially, you have nobles, royalty, heads of various guilds and secret societies, the clergy and the upper echelons of those groups, wizards and the heads of those groups, and so forth and so on.  These people have a lot of temporal influence, and unless your character really digs in and starts to work, they'll outclass you socially.

Then there's raw power and experience.  You have retired adventurers, currently active adventurers, mages, arch mages, high priests, and other groups who would have a few levels on you (or a lot of levels on you).  These people, by all rights, should exist.  The world doesn't exist in a vacuum, and you shouldn't, technically, be at the top of the heap usually.  It isn't a given your character will run into them, unless you're running around in the area they have influence and experience, and you call attention to yourself.

So, the hand-wave for that was being told 'well, if they have so much power / influence, then just have them elsewhere.  They've been asked to deal with something else, so the players never have to deal with them.'  -- okay, that, I'm not so sure about.  Sure, you can do that once in a while -- of course they'll have stuff to do from time to time, but that doesn't mean they'll never be around to look after their home-town or place of residence.  That's where they keep their stuff!  And if they didn't bother to remain there, the influence they have in the area starts to decline.

The thing is, I can see having the characters do some of the heavy lifting, but from time to time they should run into people who are Better Than Them.  It shows that the environment is alive, breathing, and that they're not operating in a vacuum.  Perhaps the BTT person is willing to give a hand or some advice, or to teach the people they favour to help them out and advance them some.  Perhaps they're working at cross purposes and there's some verbal (or not so verbal) sparring that could happen.  Perhaps it's to show that the PCs are stepping on toes, and the BTT person wants to give them a dressing down (and then the PCs could be a bit more cautious, or work against the BTT more subtly).

Just because the PCs are the PCs, doesn't mean, I think, that they should be at the 'top of the heap'.  Yes, they do awesome stuff.  But they're not the only ones doing awesome stuff.  And at times they need to realize ... there are those who could screw them up if they aren't aware that they're not the only fish in the pond.
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