A Cool Twist For One Of Your Players

Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0763

Was chatting with the paladin before a game the other day and he gave me an idea.

A core theme of fantasy is discovering you are amazing. Bullied boy or girl in small community learns they have magical powers or are gifted with sword-fighting or some other skill.

This resonates with readers because we all have these fantasies. We want to be special. We want to believe there’s magic in us just waiting to be discovered. (It’s true that you have the magic in you — dig for it if you haven’t found it yet.)

So here’s the idea. We make a player feel super special in our campaign by revealing their character is special.

We don’t do this at start during character creation, though.

We do it later, Sixth Sense style, for maximum impact.

You want your player to be floored. Gobsmacked. Knocked off their chair. A delay to in-game reveal is partly what makes this happen.

In a fantasy campaign, do this with a humble detection type spell.

PCs never use their detection abilities on each other. Too polite, I guess.

So by making a PC ring the bell when detected, this is the perfect delayed surprise set-up that feels like immersive, story-driven gameplay.

  1. Start by deciding what detection to target.
  2. Then work backwards from there to add story, meaning, and properties.
  3. Then be sure this winds tight into your overall plot arc.

For example, let’s say the character detects as magic. Detect Magic on them causes the bell to ring.

How amazing would it be to discover you are actually magical? How did the character become magical? What does this mean? Can the character unlock any cool abilities?

All sorts of special questions burst forth.

As GM, you decide what direction to take. Does the PC have a special ability or two? Or do you just want a McGuffin, and now they are being hunted by other murder hobos on a quest? “Find me the magical one and bring them back alive!”

Another example. What if the paladin did not detect as good? What’s up with that, pally?! Some amazing story opportunities lurk there for you.

Look through your player’s guide. Find detection spells or tech that would set up this plot twist.

Also look through your monster guide. In D&D, for example, monsters have Types. Perhaps a PC is secretly Fey or an Outsider. Just imagine the look of amazement on your player’s face when you reveal this crazy twist. They’ll love it!