Zen and the Art of Giving…

2007 December 24
by Dante

As we enter the holiday season, I want to take a minute to discuss the art of giving within your campaign. Many times as DMs, we have the opportunity to structure battles, fudge rolls, and generally massage things in the favor of our players. Occasionally, I like to take the opportunity to actually give my players something within the scope of the game, be it relevant to the plot or simply something they have always wanted.

Learning the appropriate relevance of gifts

If you plan to give your players something, you should do it with certain guidelines in place. If the item they are being given is relevant to the plot, you should take safeguards to ensure that this item doesn’t simply pass immediately to the local merchant.

If you don’t safeguard these items in some way, or make them relevant enough that the players don’t desire to hock them, then you should plan some sort of a side quest to track the item down again or plan what path that item takes once it is out of the players hands. It can be a great opportunity for deep roleplaying, be it haggling with the merchant to get the item back or tracking it across country in order to divine its resting place.

Desire based gifting

If you intend to give your player that “item of affection” that they have always wanted to get hold of, you must be very careful (both in and out of game) to balance this gift against the rest of the party’s possessions. If you don’t provide either roleplaying opportunities or some other method of engagement for the rest of the party, this gift can appear like overt favoritism which is never a blessing for an adventuring party.

I have found that if you give the entire party a gift, they are quick to ignore the fact that Ceril the Barbarian got a nicer greataxe compared to what they got, they will likely just be happy with their present. This is generally a good opportunity to address level based inequity between different classes and generally even-up your party so everyone can effectively participate in roleplaying or direct conflict.

Narrative Elements

Much to the chagrin of a few of my more traditionalist co-DMs, I have often assumed the guise of an in-game Santa Claus or Easter Bunny in order to dispense with the merriment. Sometimes this has taken the form of a more “realistic” altruist merchant, but I prefer the little dash of whimsy that more familiar icons of gift giving can bring.

In the end, it is really up to what you want… my regular players have taken to expect a gift-giving entity surrounding the Christmas and Easter holidays, and I enjoy the Narnia-esque dash of fun that this interaction often brings.

Honestly, I have no idea if anyone else actually does this within their campaigns. Our college DM started the trend with an Easter Bunny visit one year, and I liked that encounter so much that it was just something that I continued out of the sheer fun of it.

Have a happy holiday season, everyone!

One Response leave one →
  1. kanati permalink
    December 24, 2007

    and I…… am one of The Chagrined…

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