Thinking Like a Monster
Tonight is game night, and I have to admit I’m really looking forward to it. Bigfella posted a recap of last session, which in summary ended with the party discovering a Medusa was loose somewhere in the dungeon. Worse yet she apparently knows the layout better than they do, having surprised them at first by entering a room they thought they had secured via a secret door they didn’t know existed. At the very end of the session they holed themselves up into another room, discovered the secret door that presumably connects to the other, and started discussing plans for how to deal with her.
Whenever the session ends with the party disagreeing about some plan or other, I like to tell them they have a week to figure it out. I’m pretty sure though that all thought of the game vanishes from their heads until they return to the table a week later. I chided them in my email about tonight’s game, saying “I assume you have all spent the week productively coming up with a cunning plan for your current predicament?” Then it hit me — did I come up with a clever plan for the Medusa?
Bigfella himself called her “an intelligent, mobile, and potentially very dangerous foe.” She’s out numbered, but she knows the layout better than they do. And they’ve locked themselves in that room to bicker about what to do for a considerable amount of time (it took several turns for them to find that pesky secret door). She should have her own plan, shouldn’t she?
I started thinking about what kind of scenes would be cool to play out. Of course I have no idea what the players have in mind, so I’m thinking pretty generically here about how she fits into the rest of the dungeon’s ecosystem, what her own goals might be, and what information about the setting she might impart to the players.
Then the second revelation hit me — I shouldn’t be thinking about how she progresses the game, I should be thinking like she’s my character. If I’m the Medusa, what do I do about these pesky players? How can I get the upper hand? Sure, I can petrify with my gaze, but there’s a lot more of them than me. I’ve got to play it smart if I want to win.
And that’s the key right there: how do I win? Oh sure, I don’t really expect to win. The players are high enough level that they should be able to handle a medusa. The real problem for them is doing so without suffering any petrification or player deaths. But for this encounter to really be fun, I should be trying to win as best as I can. Sure, I should know the answers to what kind of info the medusa has, how she fits in to the dungeon as a whole, but I should not be planning on how to use her to get that info to the players. I should simply know the answers in case I need them during play.
With that info in hand, the real question is how can I best kick the players’ asses? Man, this is going to be fun.