Sometimes, When I Close My Eyes…

… and start to go to sleep at night, I begin thinking about my campaign setting. Often times, this leads to several hours of tossing, turning, pondering, and driving my wife crazy, with me ending up on the couch in the living room. It makes me wish that I could program my dreams so as to get the full effect of my imagination running wild, while still getting the recommended amount of R.E.M sleep each night. Alas, as of yet, I am unable to decide what I will dream about, and thus must use the hours of 11:00 PM to 1:00-ish AM each night to think about role playing.

Last night, what kept me up for several hours, was recalling a key event (and discovery) in the last session I had, which was the third session thus far in my new 4E D&D campaign. At this point, the party (which consists of a cleric, ranger, and fighter – yes, slightly unbalanced at the moment, but we have a fourth player joining soon as a wizard) had been doing research into the mysterious disappearances of four children in Shaelford, a small village, when the ranger of the group, Disorn, notified the other two that he spotted one of the children in the Drakenhaunt Forest on the previous night while he was out and about. The three went to the spot that Disorn believed he had seen the child and found the remains of a rabbit, completely drained of blood, with two ragged bite marks on its neck. After doing a bit more research, the party discovered that some livestock from a farm had been killed in a similar manner just a few weeks before, but they could find no more information about the killings than the manner in which they were done. As the last part of the session took place, they heard of a rumor about an old mansion in the Drakenhaunt that had always been avoided superstitiously by the village folk, and the party decided to check this mansion out.

After the session ended, the players began discussing the obviousness of a vampire nest, and what to do if there were several turned children. Dorin’s player, Timothy, said outright that the children would have to be slain, but both of the other players believe that this would be a terrible, terrible move, and that they would need to find some way to save the children’s’ souls. Of course, all this is done in a meta-gaming fashion, with absolutely no idea as to how vampires work in my particular campaign, and with the ruling from the GM (me) that their characters know nothing about vampires in-game, though the cleric, Mohinder, may have at least heard of a similar style of undead before. This didn’t bother them though, and they continued to debate on whether or not they would have to rescue the children.

What they don’t know is that I have secretly made the decision much tougher for them, though they won’t find out for another session or two. In Memory Fading, vampires can be brought back to life as humans if the sire is killed, though it is a process that requires very quick action after the sire’s destruction. However, the sire of this small nest is no longer in the area, having decided that he can find better game in the small city Haven to the northeast. This leaves four vampire children hanging around near the old mansion, who will aggressively attack the PCs when they arrive, and if the PCs don’t arrive soon, will turn several other children into vampire “playmates.” What I’m basically hoping for is the realization from the PCs and their characters that there is no way that the children can be redeemed, save locking them in cages, traveling with them by night to Haven (if they even figure out where the sire has gone to), and hunting down the sire to perform the final acts. They will have to kill children (albeit, of the blood-sucking variety), and will have to live with their acts.

When I told this idea to some of the people at the Campaign Builders’ Guild, they thought it was a swell idea in that it introduced that gray-scale of morality within the first few sessions, and let’s the players know that I’m playing for keeps. However, when I told the plan to a couple of my friends, who I used to play with, they seemed to disagree on whether the event was just “over the top too cruel,” or simply “darkly cliché.” I personally like the idea, but I am now rethinking certain aspects of the soon-to-be scenario.

And thinking on that is what kept me up last night. Care to comment and help me resolve my thoughts (so I can get some sleep)?

-Ish

6 thoughts on “Sometimes, When I Close My Eyes…

  1. It seems a bit harsh in the sense that you haven’t really set the situation up with much choice for the players.

    If you introduce some other choices (not necessarily easy choices) it may be more satisfying. One example would be the players have to follow clues to capture or lure the sire back to near the children.

  2. Yeah, the capture would be pretty tough considering the sire has fled the immediate area, however I like the idea of working on some way to allow them to lure the sire back into the area. Since the players haven’t actually found out specifics about the sire yet, there’s still plenty of room for me to move in that direction. How would you recommend I go about that?

  3. I like it and I’m a DM. I think my players would not like it because they like to resolve things. Providing an unsatisfying ending works every now and then, but my players have no sense for tragedy, no appreciation for the hopeless struggly against impossible odds. The adventure would leave a foul aftertaste in their mouth.

  4. Forcing a story on the players will not work. They will not be genuinely horrified or anything, just railroaded.

    Forcing choices on players may work, depending on the local playing style. One easy way is to offer the choices through NPCs; one ally demanding the undead be destroyed, another saying that there must be a way to redeem them, and then both acting on those intentions. (One charging, another sneaking to a local temple to search for the forbidden tomes of lore about undead. Forbidden tomes should always be meddled with. If players do this by themselves, there’s no need for NPCs, naturally.)

  5. Yeah, I never intended to do any sort of “forcing” of the players, I just had plans – if the plans didn’t work out my way, well then, I’m used to that by now as a GM of 20+ years! 🙂

    And I certainly agree – Forbidden Tomes should always have a part in a good story.

  6. If they don’t know that information about vampires in your setting, what kind of choice can they make, and how can they feel that it was any kind of moral decision? If I were to try something like that, I’d make sure that the players got all the relevant information (including the fact that you can successfully cage a vampire as well as the details of the ceremony) well before they actually encountered the vamp kids.

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