RP Path FAIL

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Hey folks!

I'm a new member.  I joined so I could get some imput on this problem.

 I'm currently running a game where two of my elven PC's return home to investigate some murders.  With divining magic, they learned that if they didn't discover the criminal, the king would be the next target.  Letting the newest player Chris, set the pace, the elves took little interest in interacting with NPC's and completely missed the clues those figures offered which were needed to solve the murder.  So, their loss right?  The king is going to be killed.

Here's the problem:
 Those elves are the only two princes of that king and both are honor bound to obey their nation's noble codes (players' choice).  The queen died years ago.
 So, when the king dies, the eldest elf is forced (players' choice) to return home and rule the nation.  This would split the party, vastly change the scope of the RP, or turn the elder prince into an NPC.

 None of these seem to be good options.  Normally, I'd just let the prince be NPC'ed but it's a new player, playing a character that just replaced his last (killed) PC.  I'm concerned that losing this one so soon might make Chris feel like he's barely treading water.


 Any thoughts would be appreciated.  Thanks.   

 
They aren't telling the king so he can beef up his security, go into hiding, something?

In that case, your 'out' is that the two elves are obviously incompetent and shouldn't be in charge of rounding up stray cooshees.  Such a blunder may even make some political rivals try to implicate them as accomplices.  "You knew the king was in danger, and you told no one?  Quite suspicious ..."
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
First of all, if you have clues that are crucial to your story, then the PCs just get them. Done. The new edition of Call of Cthulhu, the whole point of which game is investigation, it going to default to PCs always finding the clues, but receiving a downside if they don't find them via their own rolls and choices. This can mean a lot of different things, but the point is you have a range of choices between making the clues dead obvious and making the group fail utterly.

You didn't give yourself an interesting failure. That's the real problem here. Well, it's interesting, but not in the metagame sense, in the sense of the larger "game" which is helping everyone have fun. So, change the failure. Usually when a ruler is the target it's because someone else wants to rule. Well, if a PC is just going to step in, that's not likely to help the person committing these crimes. There must be some loophole by which power will fall either to a false ruler; a different group, such as a council of merchants, or something; or to someone who appears to have an actual, legitimate claim. If the PCs fail to prevent the murder, the king will die, but the PC won't have to (in fact won't be allowed to) replace him. The player may be fine with this, and if not, there's time to play and enjoy the character before the new ruler is deposed and the prince takes his rightful place. Or whatever.

Find the failure that's interesting to the players.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Who authored the "path" that Chris' character is on - you or Chris?

If it's you, then that'll explain why they aren't interested in this whole series of events and you should rewrite the failure condition. If it's Chris, then let Chris choose what happens to his character with input from the rest of the group to help him decide.
Here's the problem:
 Those elves are the only two princes of that king and both are honor bound to obey their nation's noble codes (players' choice).  The queen died years ago.
 So, when the king dies, the eldest elf is forced (players' choice) to return home and rule the nation.  This would split the party, vastly change the scope of the RP, or turn the elder prince into an NPC.

 None of these seem to be good options.

Let the players decide what to do. Making big decision it one of the joys of roleplaying.

And if things go awry, just have someone cast Raise Dead on the king.

Here's the problem:
 Those elves are the only two princes of that king and both are honor bound to obey their nation's noble codes (players' choice).  The queen died years ago.
 So, when the king dies, the eldest elf is forced (players' choice) to return home and rule the nation.  This would split the party, vastly change the scope of the RP, or turn the elder prince into an NPC.

 None of these seem to be good options.

Let the players decide what to do. Making big decision it one of the joys of roleplaying.

And if things go awry, just have someone cast Raise Dead on the king.




And allow him to lose a level?! egads! 
You are Red/Blue!
You are Red/Blue!
just have someone cast Raise Dead on the king.

And allow him to lose a level?! egads! 

Naw. He'll just walk with a limp for 3 milestones s'all.

... assuming he make his system shock roll.
Wow, what great and speedy advice!  I've never even commented on a forum before and I can say I'm very pleased.


@Salla: This is an excellent out.  This is the best advice so far.  The prophecy of the king's death is known among the nobles so it's not much of a secret.  The PC's clear failure is an excellent justification for another, more sinister power to take the throne whether by declaring incompetence or collusion.  Great input.


@Centauri: I've heard CoC is a great mystery RPG.  This was my first crack at a mystery theme so your veteran advice is much appreciated.  The solution failsafe you mention is definitely going into my repertoire.  If they don't succeed, a new ruler works great in two ways.  First, it provides another clue about who may be behind the plot and what they might have to gain.  Second, a temporary replacement leaves the opening for Chris to take the throne according to his timing.  He doesn't want to be king yet, but after a few epic adventures, he may be ready.  It would be a great ending for his character.  

@Iserith: At first, I was concerned that Chris was disinterested with the RP path.  When I write my stories they're never only mine or only my players'.  Daniel, the player for the younger elf, had a great deal of input designing their homeland and the power-structure was more my baby.  At the end of the session, I felt it fell flat.  I straight-up asked if they wanted to cinematically jump past this little adventure.  He assured me that he was invested in the plot and wanted to play it through but was just very new to RPing and trying to be more outgoing.  For Daniel's part, he played both the obedient younger brother (in-game), and the nurturing player.  He let Chris take the lead so he could take more agency and grow as a player. 


@mvincent: When I wrote, "None of these seem to be good options," I didn't mean for me.  If I thought Chris wanted to try any of those three and the other players were behind it, I would push for it.  You couldn't have known this but I understand my players and I run the game for them, not for me.  It's always good to hear it again though.

All-in-all, I feel like I'm coming away from this as a better DM.  Let's keep the dialogue going.  My session doesn't start for another three hours.
  
@Centauri: I've heard CoC is a great mystery RPG.

Actually, it leaves a lot to be desired. It offers a lot of possibilities for mysteries and danger, but very little about how to set them up, or how to deal with the near inevitability of lost characters. It will be interesting to see if the next edition (7th, I think) will deal with this sort of thing.

This was my first crack at a mystery theme so your veteran advice is much appreciated.

Aw, I'm blushin'. I actually haven't run too many mysteries myself, but I do know that one key piece of advice. Either give them the clues or it better not matter if they find them or not.

The solution failsafe you mention is definitely going into my repertoire.

"Failsafe" is a good way to put it. I think of it as "interesting failure." There's a definite cost to failure, but the cost is entirely in-game. The players continue playing and may even find that failure is more interesting than success would have been. Ideally, you get a group where the characters are working toward success, but can't manage to achieve it because the players are so interested to see where failure will lead.

If they don't succeed, a new ruler works great in two ways.  First, it provides another clue about who may be behind the plot and what they might have to gain.  Second, a temporary replacement leaves the opening for Chris to take the throne according to his timing.  He doesn't want to be king yet, but after a few epic adventures, he may be ready.  It would be a great ending for his character.

Great. If you have an interesting way for them to fail you almost can't go wrong.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Heck, they could probably so cheat the prophecy.  Get their dad to abdicate temporarily, making the PC the king ... so that the assassin will come after him (since he is now the king, after all).  They just need to get creative.
Another day, another three or four entries to my Ignore List.
@Salla: You and my players seem to be gifted in finding novel ways to work around my hard earned plans.  LOVE IT!!!
Has the King died yet?

If not, then nobody said it had to be a successful assassination attempt.

And an unsuccessful assassination attempt can leave a lot of doors open for interesting failures:  the PCs race against time to find a rare antidote for the poison, for example.  Or, the King, injured and weakened, lays on his sickbed, while his political enemies start lining up to finish the job and try to take his place, leaving the PCs in the unenviable position of being guards, detectives, and diplomats at the same time.  The assassin tries to frame the PCs for the assassination attempt, and the PCs must clear their names while the King and his advisors look on suspiciously.  The King, destabilized by the close call, begins overreacting as he cracks down on security, liberty, and enemies real and imagined, to the horror of his subjects.  The King, pushed past the brink of death, is treated with risky spells by desperate healers, and Comes Back Wrong.  And those are just the possibilities I can think of in a few minutes while eating dinner and checking e-mail... I'm sure you can come up with lots more.

Gun Safety Rule #5:  Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy forever.  In RPG terms: don't put the fate of the King on the table, if you aren't prepared to pull the trigger, destroy him, and accept the consequences of that destruction.
[spoiler New DM Tips]
  • Trying to solve out-of-game problems (like cheating, bad attitudes, or poor sportsmanship) with in-game solutions will almost always result in failure, and will probably make matters worse.
  • Gun Safety Rule #5: Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy. (Never introduce a character, PC, NPC, Villain, or fate of the world into even the possibility of a deadly combat or other dangerous situation, unless you are prepared to destroy it instantly and completely forever.)
  • Know your group's character sheets, and check them over carefully. You don't want surprises, but, more importantly, they are a gold mine of ideas!
  • "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." It's a problem if the players aren't having fun and it interferes with a DM's ability to run the game effectively; if it's not a problem, 'fixing' at best does little to help, and at worst causes problems that didn't exist before.
  • "Hulk Smash" characters are a bad match for open-ended exploration in crowds of civilians; get them out of civilization where they can break things and kill monsters in peace.
  • Success is not necessarily the same thing as killing an opponent. Failure is not necessarily the same thing as dying.
  • Failure is always an option. And it's a fine option, too, as long as failure is interesting, entertaining, and fun!
[/spoiler] The New DM's Group Horror in RPGs "This is exactly what the Leprechauns want you to believe!" - Merb101 "Broken or not, unbalanced or not, if something seems to be preventing the game from being enjoyable, something has to give: either that thing, or other aspects of the game, or your idea of what's enjoyable." - Centauri
Gun Safety Rule #5:  Never point the gun at anything you don't intend to destroy forever.  In RPG terms: don't put the fate of the King on the table, if you aren't prepared to pull the trigger, destroy him, and accept the consequences of that destruction.

Oh, man. Exactly.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

A friend pointed me to this resource for planning mystery adventures, it is an excellent guide.

thealexandrian.net/wordpress/1118/rolepl...

Basically, set out the clues you think are important to solve the mystery. Then add another two clues for every clue you think is necessary. You'll end up with A LOT of clues, and the players are bound to stumble across at least a third of them. If they find more than that, they feel clever, but if they find the bare minimum there is still enough material to solve the mystery at hand.