Visiting the Archives: "I’m Missing the Chili Cookoff!"

2008 October 8
by Stupid Ranger

Today, I wanted to re-visit one of my favorite posts from the past.  Inspired by that all-inspiring show, The Simpsons, here is some wisdom for roleplaying, distributed in the unlikely form of insanity peppers, from my post which originally appeared here April 22, 2008.  Enjoy it again!

Visiting the Archives: “I’m Missing the Chili Cookoff!”

One of my all-time favorite Simpson’s episodes, “El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer (The Mysterious Voyage of Our Homer)”, was on recently. Watching Homer crazed out on the Merciless Peppers of Quetzaltenango reminded me of some of those crazy times in a campaign when you’re not sure what to do, but you’re sure it’s not what you actually are doing.

“To Make Yourself Complete, You Must Find Your Soulmate”

Sometimes it feels as if the DM has set a seemingly simple but deceptively difficult quest, like Homer’s quest to find his soulmate. And often times, we feel unequipped to complete our quest once we learn the true depth of it.

As we embark on this quest, the DM may provide a spirit guide, like Homer’s Space Coyote. It might not be a guide, per se, but some sort of help: a rumor, a prophecy, a random bit of knowledge. So while the quest may seem difficult, at least we have a bread crumb trail to get started.

“This Is Just Your Memory, I Can’t Give You Any New Information”

The biggest obstacle to be overcome in these types of quests is the Great Doubt. This is the time when you’re sure you’ve missed something, and you don’t know what, but you refuse to move forward until you figure out the “missing piece.”

There are two reasons I feel this is the biggest obstacle. First, it is easy to be blinded from that missing piece because you are focused on what you already know. For instance, we recently were quested to save the world, and we had figured out that meant we had to overcome the evil goddess. It wasn’t until much later that we realized (via a Bardic Knowledge check) that the goddess could be killed through a specific ritual. All along, we had known that we had to stop her, but we hadn’t thought specifically about how that could be accomplished. By sitting down and discussing the goal as a group, you’re more likely to figure out that missing bit of information and overcome this obstacle.

The second reason this can be a big obstacle is much more devious; sometimes there isn’t a missing piece to be found. This is a difficult situation because of the mental agony associated with it. You don’t know what to do, and you don’t know how to figure out what to do. You’ve interviewed everyone you can find, you’ve researched every old tome in every library you can find, you’ve even tried consulting with the gods. And now you’re stuck… because there’s no new information to find… there is no “missing piece.” Well, that’s the devious part: this piece isn’t missing, it’s misplaced. The DM is being devious and wanting you to piece together all the obscure bits of information from back to the beginning of the campaign into some coherent, usable body of knowledge. To overcome this particular obstacle, make friends with the historian in the group and review everything that has happened to you since you all met in that tavern.

“The Mind Is Always Chattering Away With A Thousand Thoughts At Once”

To succeed in your quest, you have to overcome the Great Doubt. You have to calm your mind and divorce yourself from the emotional entanglement that comes with your quest. You’ll successfully reach the end of your quest if you take a few minutes of quiet reflection on your goal, and lay off the insanity peppers.

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