Behind the Screen: Reinvention, the best anti-rut device…

2007 September 24
by Dante

In my last installment, I touched briefly on the concept of allowing opportunities to allow your characters to reinvent themselves. There are many other ways that you can foster reinvention in your campaign, both directly and indirectly.

Give your characters options

In the first act of our campaign, Vanir played a bard that was quite skilled at attracting the ladies. The situation arose that he needed to rescue some local children from a house that was thought to be haunted, and with no ready source of reinforcements he decided to held a rock and roll seminar on how to be cool and score with the ladies in exchange for forming a magical rescue posse.

Now, it was hard to tell at this moment whether or not we were looking at an attempt to create a D&D version of Animal House or if something was going on here, but the notion intrigued me enough that I let him lay out his plan for me and enact it.

It was a completely different, surreal altruistic side to this character that never would’ve come to light if Vanir wasn’t given the option to try what he wanted to try. If you give your characters some breadth to reinvent themselves, you will probably be surprised how often they will take that opportunity.

That doesn’t mean you can’t force it

If you find that your characters are stuck in a rut and act the same way at most situations, its perfectly acceptable (and recommended) that you give them a hard decision. Make them choose between saving the orphanage or rescuing the damsel in distress. Sometimes forcing the characters to figure out how to think “outside the box” on how to resolve a situation will bring about some real reflection on how they would act.

The trick becomes creating these encounters so that the player and the character really relates to both sides of the equation. You will then see them work in surprisingly fresh ways to get to a happy conclusion for both sides. Whether or not you give them the option to save both the orphanage or the damsel is really up to you. It might be interesting to see if they’d stay to rebuild the orphanage if it was destroyed, or seek out vengeance on the baddie that offed the damsel. It is in these moments that your characters have the option to grow in new ways.

Artificial Reinvention

As I spoke about on Friday, we elected to let some time pass between story arcs in our campaign. We encouraged our players to tell us what happened in the years after the first adventure concluded, which created an artificial moment for the players to reflect on what the characters wanted to do next.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be years, you can engineer a few weeks/months of downtime within your storylines to let your characters settle with their decisions for a bit and see if they emerge at all changed from the experience. We’ve had a lot of luck in making these moments occur between game sessions, so the players can think about what has happened and what they want to happen next.

This can be good for you as a DM

I encourage you to find what works best for your group and give this a try, you will find that new character motivations are fertile ground for fueling future campaign ideas. Reinvention in this way becomes a mutually beneficial exercise for both player and DM, so give it a try!

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