Let Players Relive Their Finest Moments
Roleplaying Tips Newsletter #0814
Nick V. wrote in with this great tip about session pacing and letting players revel in their own glory:
Studying for TV writing taught me a lot about narrative structure. I learned that balancing fast-paced, action-packed scenes with more relaxed, role or plot-oriented ones is critical in maintaining a good flow. The rhythm of the whole story must be easy to follow, and allow for every viewer time to process information.
It is basically the same with players, with the notable exception that they are the ones driving the story (whereas characters in TV fiction endure it in a more passive way).
Even though the PCs provoke or trigger the action, a good GM will give them time to digest and more often than not to relive a previous scene.
What Fighter does not like to retell the story of how she beheaded the archmage? Allowing her to do so gives everyone time to think back (and the GM time to think forward): “Yes Fighter, you really outdid yourself in this fight. But why didn’t the archmage summon his felon pet? Now that’s something we should look into!”
If this group had run into another action scene, they wouldn’t have had the time to realize that. Some players might have missed it entirely, and feel a bit lost when facing the felon two weeks later. And we don’t want players to be lost.
So let’s pause to digest Nick’s advice a little.
Two things speak to me.
First is session pacing. I’m always hurrying my players on. I want fast-paced games. One player yells, “Faster Combat!” whenever he sees me trying to push things for speed. I can’t tell if it’s a heckle or support, lol.
It’s wise to mix the pace. Let the action be fast and visceral, and the roleplay be relaxed and savoury.
There will be exceptions to this, but the tip is to vary the pacing and rhythm.
Second is giving players time to digest the story so they can uncover new hooks, leads, and ideas. I do not do this enough, and it’s a fantastic tip.
For example, readers have asked what to do when players miss clues. Now, you can try serving up a roleplaying encounter to give your group time to relive the previous encounter with the clues.
By retelling via roleplaying, perhaps the clue will emerge without forcing anything on your part.
If the PCs do not relive or retell their story, prompt them with NPCs. Rivals, admirers, the curious, informants, and such NPC types would love to hear about the group’s recent exploits and will try to draw the details out, ultimately, for the players’ benefit.
Thanks for the tip, Nick!
More City Flavours
Last week, I shared a list of flavourful things the PCs might see happen each day in your city. I received some great comments from readers I’d like to share with you today.
Here’s a great campaign kick-off “birds eye view” approach from Tom Ganz:
I started my Curse if the Crimson Throne campaign this year with a description of a seagull going up in the air and flying above the city. I described the route, the smells, and the things it saw, shortly before she got snatched by a chocker of the shingles. A feather slowly falling down on the street in front of the PCs was all that was left of her, while the PCs just stepped on the feather in the mud…
GM TerryB shared some encounter tables he uses to determine who is out and about at any given time of day.
And from RPT GMs Sly Slayton, cybercrrgm, and Lorian, we get some additional entries. I’ve combined theirs with the original lists so you have them all in one place:
- The street crews are finishing up their night’s work, rolling wheelbarrows full of trash away while the torch crews turn off the last street lamps.
- The morning watch relieves the night guard, with some smalltalk and gossip being exchanged.
- The city starts to wake up. Shopkeepers begin their days by preparing to open their various stores. Farmers awake to start their day. Banks prepare money for the day.
- Guard shift changes and patrols are assigned. The 6 to 2’s start work.
- Shops begin to open at varied times. The earliest ones are grocery. The bank is now open for business.
- The local tavern shifts rotate, and breakfast is being prepared for its patrons. The daily entertainment is scheduled for 9am (dancers, singers, musicians, jesters).
- The local shrines are being gathered at for various religious/spiritual activities.
- As the sun appears over the bleak horizon the iron wrought gates of the city slowly open to admit the multitude of traders to come.
- The city gates open.
- The temple bells are rung.
- The shops open. Industry begins. The sounds of civilization fill the air.
- Prostitutes retire for the night.
- The temple bells draw devotees to daily service.
- Miners start work shifts in nearby locations. Wood workers and carpenters also start their shifts. The local 8 to 5 jobs.
- Night shifts go homes and get settled for bed.
- Guard shifts that were given posts outside the city roam the nearby roads on horseback. Some guards are posted to the mile markers in case of emergencies.
- As the church bells ringing signifies the start of the working day you see swarms of craftsmen and carters hurry to their stations. However, there are no bakers, as they have to wake up much earlier to proof the bread.
- Apprentices hurry to their tasks.
- The Watch changes, the torches extinguished. The patrol size is halved.
- Carters and Costermongers begin their noisy passages to the Warehouses.
- The stray animals that run the streets find places to sleep.
- The nearby college for magics and sciences opens its doors to the teachers and students.
- The rest of the city awakens slowly. Citizens start to filter into the marketplace and partake in the daily grind.
- Boutique shops begin to open while the main market stalls are being populated by the first of the merchant caravans.
- Bakers send their delivery folks out with baskets while patrons stop in to grab something for the morning.
- In the High District, Lords and Ladies are waking up, or leaving an all night party to stop at their favorite coffee shop.
- Those criminals scheduled for execution are led to the Cliffs of Judgement.
- Lights out, sun’s up. No need for artificial light. Mages put out their magical fires. Peasants put out their torches.
- The rest of the city awakens and the streets slowly fill with workers and shoppers.
- Blacksmiths set out their new wares for show, potion shops do displays in the marketplace, and people begin to participate in various customs and activities.
- The watch changes shifts
- Food orders for the High District are being delivered
- The Council of High Lords meet to discuss the day to day running of the Empire
- The streets are filled with many peoples from all over the world talking and visiting with one another. Shoppers push and shove their way through busier sections of the city. Horse cart restrictions begin from 12 to 3 for safety reasons and must use utility access roads.
- Swindlers attempt to defraud customers with miracle potions and drinks. The poor pickpocket the wealthy for their food money for the day.
- Lunch begins for the students and teachers of the college. Pilgrims from far and wide filter into shrines as latecomers.
- The daily news is posted to the billboards in the city markets. The high councils begin their meetings after seeing individuals of the community.
- The local plumbing is being worked on by a specialist trying to combat a leak.
- Doctors and nurses rush around a facility to treat the wounds of various workers from mines, wood mills, and other heavy labor jobs. The herbologists treat the illnesses of the sick and diseased.
- A rogue guard slips into a tavern to neglect his duties for refreshments.
- Lunch is being served in the tavern. Many participate in drinking games, food contests, and dancing to the local minstrel’s tunes.
- Guard shifts switch around 2pm for the night shift. 2-10pm Guard ranks increase by half.
- The streets are busy with shoppers laden with goods and workers eating lunch. Carts, horses, wagons, and perhaps other vehicles compete with the crowds to move. The noise is deafening.
- Pickpockets ply their trade in numbers. Packs of them.
- The temple bells draw devotees to daily service.
- Buskers try to earn a few coins. Messengers race through the streets. Spruikers hawk their patron’s wares or simply hold signs up and yell in the crudest form of advertising possible.
- The Watch moves in pairs. They are heavily armed and armored.
- The public houses begin to fill, the first notes of music floating on the air.
- Most businesses close to the public, with many apprentices being stuck inside finish work while the master leaves for a nip.
- Carriages begin arriving at various parties being held around the High District.
- The streets become less busy as people start going home for dinner. Business begins to slow.
- Mines, crafters, and mills shut down for the evening. People leave their jobs and go home for the day. Blacksmiths begin to pull their wares inside and finish doing larger business for the day.
- The streets are busy still but not packed. Horse carts are no longer being restricted to utility access roads, they use the main walkways to pack their goods, while others deliver bulk for the next day’s shops and work sites.
- The night watch is only three hours into their shift, breaks and meals are being handled.
- The last of the college’s employees leave for the night after they’ve finished grading papers, tests, or preparing for the next day’s assignments.
- Doctor offices and healer shops slow down.
- A stray cat chases mice across a garden. The work horses are being stabled for the night.
- The town’s government officials close up meetings and send people away for the day.
- Buskers retire for the night, and the relentless clergy bells signify another service.
- The industries slowly wind down. Shopkeepers begin tidying up and counting their tills.
- The streets are busy, but not crowded. Some are returning home, but many are heading for some after-work relaxation, or entertainment.
- The Watch changes. The dogs are changed. Food is eaten hastily and sometimes in-hand.
- The temple bells draw devotees to end of the day service.
- The vehicle traffic comes to a slow halt.
- The stray animals wake up and play before the nightly hunt for food.
- The Night Guard comes on.
- Street crews begin activating the torch lamps. Magic users spark artificial lights.
- Music and laughter pours out of the pubs while great debates are held in tea houses (or coffee if you have the coin).
- Pubs and Tea Houses stay open well past midnight.
- Certain people are moving in the shadows, off to nefarious dealings.
- Kobold trash crews come up from their clan cave networks dressed in heavy grey cloaks to scavenge the Middle and Low districts while more acceptable crews clean the High district.
- Most shops are closed for the night, but a few remain open till 7 or 8. By late evening the only businesses open are the tavern and doctor’s office. Shifts change for 24 hour service centers.
- The tavern becomes packed with people looking for drink and food for the night. Pleasant company is passed around, rooms are being filled by out-of-towners, and parties begin to get rowdy.
- A man is discharged by a bouncer into the streets for not having any more coin and picking fights with people.
- The local entertainment center features a fight night. Heavyweight champs compete in fist fights while people gamble on the potential winner.
- Farmers take their animals in for the night and secure chicken pens.
- As the sky turns a shade of crimson, the few remaining shopkeepers hurry to their homes, the background illuminated by the pale glow radiating from the torches of the city watch.
- The Watch doubles its patrol size and torchbearers accompany them. Sometimes they have dogs or wolves with them. All are heavily armed and each carries a whistle.
- Shopkeepers hurry home, along with the hordes of craftsmen and their apprentices, dock workers, stevedores, professionals and laborers alike briefly crowd the streets. The houses and inns and taverns light up. Vocal noise is the dominating sound, the industry silent for the night.
- Young people, in ones and twos, slowly drift into the streets, sometimes forming packs. They never linger for long and are soon off to the cemetery for a few hours of fun.
- Beggars are in a drunken sleep in the alleyways. Some people filter out of the tavern drunk and rowdy, generally being loud and obnoxious. Guards stop them and tell them to keep the noise down.
- Thieves pick through leftover equipment or food stalls that were not put away by the end of shift.
- 10 pm the Guard shift changes again. The swing shift starts and is increased by another half: which is double from the morning shift.
- Stray people wander the streets for various reasons. Some are going home from entertainment, guard duty, or the tavern.
- The occasional prostitute lingers in dark alleyways trading secrets for money to the thieves or thugs. Some are looking for costumers.
- The guard shifts withdraw from the roads and come in closer to town. Trading meal times and breaks while keeping watch.
- A drug deal goes down behind the tavern’s stable.
- The lights of some of the houses are still on late through the night. Scholars are up reading or studying. Mages perfect magics and potions.
- The night is taken by an eerie silence, only broken by the occasional scream from the multitude of harlots that dot the street as they are rounded up by the guard.
- Drunks and beggars fight for survival and the stray animals snag the scraps.
- Thugs appear late in the night. The thugs are often drunk and will accost small groups, potentially doing them great harm.
- Prostitutes walk the streets and ply their age-old trade.
The Watch calls off the Hours and checks every business’s door.