Sometimes PCs need to do what’s best for the game even though it may not be what’s best for the character. The PC’s personal politics, morals and ethics need to be set aside in order for the campaign to proceed.
An example of this scenario happened to our party in a recent game. Although we chose to do what was best for the game, it seemed really out of character for at least a couple of the PCs in the party. We’ve played these characters for almost a year and during that time we’ve worked to make them feel like unique individuals. They have distinct personalities and mannerisms. So what happens to all that character building when the adventure dictates that the role-playing be shelved during certain circumstances in order to keep the larger story arc moving?
Here’s a brief explanation of what happened in this specific instance. The PCs infiltrated the temple of an evil cult in order to recover a stolen artifact. In the process of recovering the item, the PCs learned that the cult was worshiping a powerful aberration imprisoned within the temple. When the PCs recovered the artifact, the cult lost its ability to control the monster and would inevitably escape. The PCs, charged with a greater task of returning the artifact to its rightful owner, left the cultists to handle the wrath of their angry god.
Even though the artifact didn’t belong to the cultists, the PCs learned that removing it from the temple would free the monster. Should the PCs have felt any obligation to destroy the abomination? At the very least should they have tried to find a way to keep it imprisoned?
Based on successful knowledge checks, the PCs knew that they were not powerful enough to face the monster in combat without suffering losses (possibly even a TPK). Although the DM didn’t come right out and say it, there was a strong implication that fighting the aberration was not part of the planned adventure.
The party is good aligned and has a Paladin among their ranks. Is leaving this greater threat unchecked something that should weigh heavily upon the PCs? How do you separate the moral obligation of your characters from the practicality of moving the campaign forward?
In the end the party justified its decision by saying that the temple was in an extremely remote environment away from any major settlements or civilizations. Even if the monster escaped the temple, it didn’t pose any immediate threat to anything important.
Has anything like this ever happened to your party? Do you feel that your character might have a problem with leaving this kind of potential threat left to its own devices? Do you think your party would continue with the larger campaign if they knew that staying to fight could result in their deaths? I really struggle with this one and would appreciate any insight the readers can offer.