Can you win this game?
So here’s a game where it’s the heroes against a dragon, and there’s a rule that says the heroes die if they confront the dragon in combat.
So how do you win?
First, let’s talk about the intent of the game. It’s really about how our lies catch up to us, and the responsibility we have to the people who heard them. Even positive, encouraging untruths can hurt people. So the game isn’t here to showcase a group of entertainers who turn out to really be dragonslayers.
Second, let’s talk about attributes. Some games use your attributes or stats or whatever to represent some core part of who you are as a character. In this game, your ability to succeed at story-critical moments isn’t down to who you are, but what you do. Every time you act the hero, every time you own up to the lie, you have a bit more of a fighting chance. Your decisions make your success possible. You can boast about yourself to get some dice to roll, early on, but those boasts fade once they’re exposed as lies. On the other hand, “I have a plan that’ll save us all” can be a boast as well, and if you’re right…
Even with all this, some happy endings are possible. Here’s a few suggestions. What others can you come up with?
- Is the dragon really a threat? Everyone assumes it is - probably including the players, especially those coming from the Dragon Game or similar fantasy. I tweaked the text slightly - “the creature’s reputed power and storied savagery” to suggest that other options are possible.
- Are the villagers really so harmless? It’s possible that some actual fighters are in the village, and may end up shaming the PCs. Or it’s possible for the PCs to try and organize a dragon defense. Success is not assured, and saying “real heroes are here” might feel like a deus ex machina, but maybe that’s a story you want to tell.
- What does the dragon really want? Maybe someone will think to ask, “does the dragon intend to just murder us all, or does it want something else?” Perhaps there’s the possibility of peace, once everyone gets over the gung-ho idea of a bunch of adventurers murdering an intelligent being just because it’s big and strong. After all, we’re not told that the dragons of old did anything wrong - only that they died at the hands of humanity.
The game talks about lies and assumptions, and examining the real motives of all parties - not just the entertainers - can yield other solutions.
Of course, stories like this also have a habit of ending badly. Maybe the outcome is that the villagers leave their burning homes and travel elsewhere. Maybe everyone dies - or just the entertainers, in a valiant but doomed effort to distract the dragon from the villagers’ exodus. Maybe a lot of things.
Sometimes, it’s just too late to do the truly right thing. Sometimes, every choice you can make will be a compromise. In that moment, maybe all you can do is the best you can, whether or not you’ll ever succeed.
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