Adventure Builder Workshop: Repercussions

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on September 28, 2010

According to Newton’s laws of motion, “For every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” The same can be said of the actions of your players. Every decision that they make, every action they take, has a repercussion.

The village is burning, while rushing back the PCs encounter bandits with villagers as prisoners. The PCs can rescue the prisoners or attempt to save what’s left of the village. There is only time to take one of these actions, which actions will the PCs take and what will be the repercussions?

The PCs can eliminate a major force of evil in the campaign, but killing this foe will leave a power vacuum that other rival factions will seek to fill. Is the devil you know better than the ensuing chaos that will ensue with the death of this foe? If things go from bad to worse and it is common knowledge the PCs are the ones responsible, how will they be perceived by the common people?

This is the final instalment in the Adventure Builder Workshop, based on the seminar at GenCon this past August. To read the complete series view the articles listed below:

As was mentioned in several posts in this series, the actions of the PCs have consequences on the campaign. The villain and henchman will react,  both proactively and reactively, to what the PCs do. The events of an individual adventure segment should have long-lasting repercussions on the campaign. Every encounter matters. It’s part of the larger whole that tells a story. So ensure that your campaign is playing out that way.

Your players should feel that they are making a difference in the campaign. The actions that the PCs take are larger than life. As they advance in level the severity of their actions only increases in magnitude. Eventually, the very ground the PCs walk on will shake at their passage. Use the actions of the PCs to assist you in telling the story. This will have the effect of making the PCs feel that they are directly impacting the story. Also remember that the PCs actions will have an effect on allies and NPCs that they have met over the course of the adventure. These relationships will change for better or worse depending on what decisions the PCs have made over their adventures.

Every decision the PCs make will have an effect on their reputation. I’m not going to go into great depth about reputation here, you can read our three part series on it (Reputation Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). Be aware that as your PCs are gaining levels, they earn experience and renown. As the PCs travel they will be recognized. They are the celebrities of their time. While their picture isn’t known in the sense that we understand it, tales of their actions have spread. Items PCs carry will work themselves into folklore. Reputation is a key way to let the players know they are important, don’t underestimate its value.

Take every opportunity to remind the players of their past failures and successes. Nothing happens in a vacuum and that includes player actions. When the players meet an NPC in subsequent adventures remind them of how they may have succeeded or failed in the past.

How do you use repercussions in your campaign? Do you find them to be a useful motivational tool to keep your players interested in the campaign?

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