From Tasty Bait to Terrifying Consequences: Tricking Players With Instant Gratification

It’s great to be back from vacation! Thank you for your patience as I took a couple of weeks off from the newsletter. We went camping near a place called Rocky Mountain House where it’s not rocky and there are no mountains.

The picture below was each glorious morning for me. This might leave you scratching your head, but my perfect vacation is getting up early before everyone else, brewing some fresh coffee, and writing whatever I like about RPGs until I’m done. Then I read or play games with Alana.

It was during one of these writing sessions that I penned today’s short tip. I recalled a memory from an old campaign and thought you might be interested in using the same tactic – but hopefully with a better result. ๐Ÿ™‚

Let’s dive in!

– Johnn

Tricking Players With Instant Gratification

You might put this player trick in the evil category. I trust you will use this minor power wisely. ๐Ÿ™‚

Even before TV, cell phones, and social media disintegrated our attention and ability to focus, we still struggled with managing instant gratification. The temptation to reach for short-term gain has always reigned us.

We can use this fact of human nature to trick our players:

Offer them something now within easy reach versus something they’ll only get later after some struggle.

The thing is, the easy option is trapped. Smart players will realize this. And they’ll be rewarded when taking the hard fork surely. And those who reach into the candy bowl….

Well that’s up to you. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ll give you a funny yet tragic example.

A couple of campaigns ago, the PCs were in a boat hanging high up via crane and chains. The party climbed atop the ship and encountered baddies. It looked like the PCs would win, but only after more grinding.

But then I offered one player a tasty diversion: a flight of stairs going down ending in a mysterious door. I knew this player loved closed doors – he could not resist opening them. He just had to know what was behind such things, especially if I described them as mysterious….

He took the bait, split from the party, and opened the door….

That released another wave of terrifying monsters!

Now the characters were out-gunned, almost out of spell slots, and about to die. The players held a quick vote – flee and likely die from free enemy hacks, or go down with the ship. They voted to stay and fight, perhaps hoping luck would save them.

Well, the characters started falling until the last PC stood. He was the one who opened the door. And he fled! And got away!

The guy who caused the TPK was the only survivor, lol. Post-game, the player said his character would travel far and wide, telling the land of his heroism and great deeds. Amazing.

When you try tricking players this way by dangling something tasty but trapped in front of their noses, the stakes need not be so high. A small penalty for chosing instant gratification over the longer path. It’s a good trick that often works.

Graphic of section divider

Have you pulled this evil GM trick before? I’d love to hear about it on our Discord or Campaign Community forum.