1. long and careful consideration or discussion.
2. slow and careful movement or thought.
When and how do you apply this to your game?
When you pick up the dice for a roll that could alter the course of everything, do you pause to look the players in the eyes? Do you speak differently, perhaps with a near-whisper, emphasizing the importance of this decision?
When introducing the Monster or Bad Guy ~ you know the one ~ that fucker you’ve been working on for months, taking notes when inspiration strikes you, crafting the tiniest details so as to deliver the full weight it to the players, hoping for that moment of realization, that, “we are so fucked,” moment ~ how do you present that to your players? Do your eyes widen as you describe the scene? Do you slowly match your physical tension to their own?
When revealing that critical piece of information you’ve been holding onto for years, that one detail that ties everything together into a neat little package, that explains everything from the street urchin in the first adventure to the king’s deal with the devil to the wizard who tried capturing the moon, and everything in-between: do you just casually drop the reference to Destiny’s Book? Do you pointedly look at the druid when you say it? Or do you pause everything, turning bodily toward the player, cocking your head to one side, letting your crazy slip through as you repeat the reference in a slow, deliberate voice?
I had this one player ~ I’m sure you know the type, we like to call them munchkins ~ who wanted a character that was obviously overpowered. He wanted to play a monster, in effect, that could adopt the shape and form of anything he had consumed. Normally, I said ‘no’ to these requests, but I had a moment of inspiration and thought of a way to incorporate his idea into the setting. So I compromised: no class, no skills, no proficiencies, no special abilities except a shape-shifting power, limited to a certain number of “known” forms at each level. I justified it by fitting him into the existing themes of the game.
There’s this realm outside of everything we know ~ a place of lawlessness, madness, insanity and truly alien geometry and physics ~ a place that is antithetical to everything that exists ~ the place where gods go when they die ~ like, truly die, not just when they’re forgotten ~ and his character was a creature from this place, having stepped through a breech into our universe and acquired a form, albeit a temporary one, that he could manipulate as he grew in power.
He didn’t know this is what he was playing. Not at first. I dropped hints along the way, one of which was the lore that the gods were forever at war with creatures from the Beyond (or the Far Realm, the Nightmare Lands, etc.). Another hint was a player who acquired the power to see souls and when she saw his soul… well, it looked different. Alien. Parasitic. Darkness and filth and consumption. A black hole in the fabric of the spiritual realm.
Of course, an adventuring party is composed of several members and I wasn’t going to make the entire game about this one character. Many sessions came and went, and the party advanced their goals and traveled the world (and other worlds); eventually, they came to the Faerie Realm, into the Seelie High Court, and in the presence of Queen Titania and Prince Oberon.
One more piece of lore that’s relevant to this story: “true” elves and fey creatures do not worship gods. They recognize worship for what it is ~ a spiritual drug and a source of power. While other mortal races have religions and gods and such, the elves and fey of Faerie reject gods outright, to the point where they’ve fought wars with gods (and their followers) in the past. But the rules for becoming a god aren’t as strict or well-known as some scholars believe; and the long rule of Titania and Oberon, and the near fanatical devotion of their subjects, had resulted in the pair becoming deities, after a fashion. The members of the Seelie Court didn’t know this; but the Queen and her Prince knew full well what they were and had every reason to keep their secret well hidden.
When they were introduced to this adventuring party ~ with the characters’ reputation and influence, and all that that implies ~ it’s understandable that they would be a little wary. When they learned that one of the adventurer’s allies was a maddening abomination, hell-bent on one purpose and one purpose only ~ the absolute and total destruction of everything, starting with the gods ~ and if a god expires, truly dies and does not remain in any form, then that is when the breech between us and them opens just a little bit wider.
The Queen and the Prince met the party. They were gracious, if a little bit distant. Pleasantries were exchanged. Wine and food was offered. A celebration, of sorts, was begun and the travelers introduced themselves one at a time, each regaling the royal court with tales of their adventures.
And then the monster stepped up. He did the same as the other players ~ gave a quick synopsis of some story for the court, based on a previous adventure ~ I wasn’t going to make my players tell the full story or act out the scene, just whatever they were comfortable with so we could get a sense for the scope of information they were willing to share. But as he started his story, the Queen and Prince fell silent. I fell silent. I stared at the player. I rose slowly from my seat at the table. The player was already a bit nervous ~ he wasn’t an actor or storyteller ~ but my attention, focused suddenly on him and him alone, made him feel even more uncomfortable.
There was a dramatic reveal. An accusation. I don’t recall the exact words I used, but acting as the Prince, I raised my hand and pointed at the player, calling him out as an abomination against nature, a monstrosity of the highest order, and who dared to travel with such a beast and bring him into my house? By the end of it, I was practically shouting at the players.
The Prince made to have the players arrested and thrown in a pit. The players were having none of this. They fought their way out ~ it took another full session to escape Faerie, but they managed it. When they were safely removed from that threat, they paused for a bit to ruminate on what had transpired.
And that’s when their deliberation resulted in the, “Oh shit!” moment I was working for.