A Matter of Perspective – Who’s the Bad Guy?

by Ameron (Derek Myers) on April 7, 2016

Every week one of my players does a quick summary of what happened at our gaming table and emails it to our gaming group. It’s a great way for the players to keep the details fresh and it’s exceptionally helpful if a player misses a session. As the DM, it gives me a sense of what details they picked up and on what details they may have misinterpreted. It also gives me a clear idea of which parts of the game left the strongest impression upon my players, and allows me to adjust future sessions to focus on that kind of thing more often.

After reading a recent recap I commented that the players, especially the one doing the write-up, often described events in a way that glossed over their own mistakes or poor judgment, especially in cases where the outcome was not good. In response one of the players provided an alternate summary of the week’s events from the monsters’ point-of-view. It was both funny and educational. It reminded all of us that the heroes and villains of a story often depend on who’s telling the story. Read the two accounts of me last gaming session below and tell me what you think.

A few quick notes for context.

The party is made up of the following PCs:

  • Cat – Half-Elf Paladin (F), heavy armor, quarterstaff & shield
  • Caelynn – Elf Fighter (F), two-weapon fighter
  • Kyssis – Half-Elf Bard (F), talker, trickster, illusionist
  • Tobais – Human Cleric (M), heavy armor, spells before weapons
  • Raven – Shifter Ranger (F), Skirmisher build from Unearthed Arcana
    (absent for this session)

Please note that the assumptions and comments about gender roles in the summaries below are not intended to be derogatory or offensive, and are merely highlighted to present an alternative viewpoint from that of the party.

Session Recap – Players POV

Last time, we jumped a group of Hobgoblins that were headed to meet the bandit leader. It was a tough scrape, but we managed to win the day. We tried to interrogate the survivors, but they seemed reticent to provide information. We learned that the Hobgoblins had equipment that featured symbols which matched some of those seen in the portals we encountered previously.

We moved deeper into Hobgoblin territory, eventually discovering a large, semi-destroyed fortress. We played it safe, circling the fortress at a distance and gathering reconnaissance. We confirmed that it was indeed being used by the Hobgoblins. After keeping an eye on it for a little while, we noticed a group of four Hobgoblins set out into the woods. We pursued them for a while, and eventually three of them got the drop on us. We killed two, and dragged the third, unconscious, towards the sound of a commotion.

The commotion turned out to be a Gnome village. The Hobgoblins had laid waste to a number of the Gnomes, and kidnapped four. We doubled-back, seeking the kidnapped Gnomes and the remaining Hobgoblin. Though we could not catch the Hobgoblin, we managed to save the Gnomes.

Master Tobias received a message via the sending spell, informing him that the Sentinel Marshals were making inquiries, that a package had arrived, and that Nexxis had taken the airship. We decided to lay a trap for the Hobgoblins, as we were eager to move on to our actual warrant. The trap was successful, but we were outmatched. The Hobgoblins were led by a Super-Goblin of some kind, the last son of a distant planet, now infused with incredible powers by our world’s sun. Led by this deity-among-Goblins, the Hobgoblins captured us.

Session Recap – Monsters POV

Typically, the winning side writes the history books, so here’s the Hobgoblins’ side of what happened last session:

The Hobgoblin trade delegation set out to speak with the Gentleman Highwayman. It was a perilous road, but the Highwayman’s wares were worth the effort. The last few weeks had been challenging, but hopefully the Highwayman could provide necessary food and medicines for the Hobgoblins and their families.

After traveling for days, they suddenly noticed an unusual sight: A strange little fey creature! It mocked the Hobgoblins and did a little dance on the spot! Barthnarr the Brave tried to reason with the creature. He approached the trickster and offered his mighty two-handed sword as a tribute to it. However, the sword seemed to pass right through the creature. What trickery was this? Around the corner, the Hobgoblins could see several humanoids standing around… A man (surely the leader as befits his gender) and several women (and therefore unworthy of attention).

The noble Hobgoblins fought the human man and his strangely-dangerous concubines. The Hobgoblins chanted their mantra of “when two or more Hobgoblins surround, extra damage shall be found” and dealt some impressive blows. In the end, however, the man with his blade, the death-faced elf with her rapiers, the fashionable semi-elf with her mocking taunts and the metal-clad woman with her stick, proved too much for the noble Hobgoblins. Barthnarr awoke to see the stick-woman standing over him. She spoke to him in the Common tongue, asking if he had any final words. He responded with the standard Hobgoblin gesture of friendship, by spitting in the woman’s face. For unknown reasons, this seemed to anger her, and she smote him on the spot.

The trade delegation had not returned in weeks. The Hobgoblins of Friendship Castle had grown worried. If there was to be no food or medicine to come from the Highwayman, perhaps the gnomes were the only option. This was indeed a daunting proposition… the terrible gnomes with their tiny hands and murderous sense of humour. Another group was sent out, this one led by Peeble the Just.

Days later, Peeble returned alone. He spoke of cackling, insane gnomes and something far worse: A small troupe of amazon guerrillas, led by a human man. They slew the Hobgoblins, but Peeble managed to escape. He ran for his life, certain that the mad guerrillas were following him.

Now the Hobgoblins’ numbers had dwindled and they were running low on food and medicine. Guerrillas waited in the woods to slaughter any Hobgoblin that dared leave the safety of Friendship Castle.

Jankle the Pacifist, wisest of the Hobgoblin, spoke to his people: “I have seen a smoky fire in the distance! I propose that we send a group to parley with them!”

And it was done. But though the Hobgoblins were eager for peace, they were no fools. They sent a group of Hobgoblins to speak with the guerillas, but they ensured their protection by also sending along an ancient gold dragon (who owed the Hobgoblins of Friendship Castle a favour). They disguised this gold dragon as another Hobgoblin and the diplomatic delegation headed out to investigate the fire.

Once they were nearly at the smoky fire, the Hobgoblins heard a pile of pots and pans moving around in the forest. They investigated, finding the stick-woman they expected, who sheepishly struck them with her stick. They did not perceive the other three guerrillas, who joined in the melee.

The Hobgoblins, led by the overwhelming superior combat prowess of the ancient gold dragon, easily defeated the guerillas. They knocked them unconscious, of course, for to do otherwise would make the Hobgoblins no better than the murderers. The gold dragon’s debt paid, he flew off into the sky. But not before enchanting the stick-woman’s plate armor, for reasons that may never be fully understood.

The guerillas were carried back to Friendship Castle.

Now, hopefully, a reasonable conversation could be had.

Have your characters ever tried to be the heroes only to discover that the NPCs actually saw them as the villans? How has perception and point-of-view affected your campaigns?

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1 Rick April 10, 2016 at 5:31 pm

Interesting, especially since another player did the viewpoint.

I also very much like the ‘world’ to give them another perspective in game. Background: Last session they had a quandary. They managed to capture a mercenary company by a show of ‘capability’ rather than actual force. They defeated the enemies non-mercenary forces in the town via stealth and force of arms, and then used parley, a display of themselves bristling with exotic weapons (one of which was flaming) and armor, and a display of arrows/spells from the surrounding woods by their temporary companions, the Elven King’s Royal (and quite magical) archers. The mercenary leader quickly offered his surrender (in truth, the party could have easily destroyed them – glad to see this mostly good and somewhat lawful party shows some restraint). They offered to hire the mercenaries, pay them more than the enemy was paying them. The mercenary leader declined, “It would not be honorable. We took their money, I cannot just ignore the contract we made. If I did, why would you trust me?” They accepted that, told them they were prisoners, and to stay where they were (weapons and all).

The quandary part – later that afternoon they wanted to travel about 10 miles away and take the archers with them, essentially leaving the mercenaries unguarded but leaving them think the elves were watching them. … and they did.

Only to return many hours later in the middle of the night to discover the mercenaries had earlier in the day discovered they were unguarded and had taken the town. They hurt no townspeople, or even interfered with the locals normal activities. Two members of the group (both LG alignment) were outraged that the mercenaries had ‘broken’ their agreement. Of course the mercenaries quickly folded without a struggle when these high level warriors and their elven archer companions returned.

They physically beat the merc leader, and threatened serious mayhem to him and his company for his dishonorable behavior. Rather than be cowed by his beating he was belligerent. “Honorable! You trick us and leave us unguarded, and expect we are supposed to just stand around and wait for the Aflitanians (the LE army which hired them – they have no sense of humor) to return and find us just standing around unguarded, and what do I tell them? Can you not see the position you put me in? And if you were captured and left unguarded – tell me honestly, you would not escape? You would just stand around and wait?”

At which point the LN wizard thought that was the funniest thing and couldn’t stop laughing, “He’s got you, you know”. The other characters were speechless, but still angry and at that time refused to see perhaps they had no behaved ‘honorably’. One of them was a Paladin.

sorry that was long….


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