How to kill a family?

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Of dragons, that is. I'm looking for something that I can hide in the bowels of a dungeon that can be used on the matriarch of an entirely too large family of dragons. The effect needs to be that when the mother dies, it also kills all of her offspring (and their offspring, and so on). Gimme some ideas!

And Centauri et al, while I respect your playing style, I'm not looking for the answer "let your players decide what's cool and run with that". They get plenty of input in the way the campaign is run, but I want this one to be a surprise.
The 79th Chromosome - a defective gene stripped from the primordial dragons by the gods at the beginning of time. Reintroduce it to this matron dragon and her progeny will wither and die.

But can the PCs also keep the effects from spreading through the incestuous draconic family tree and affecting good dragons as well?

(Take THAT, Centauri et al. Oh wait...) 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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Familicide! www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0639.html is what you want, make it a scroll.
A blood bond ritual. The mother is not a true mother, her body unable to bear offspring due to past injuries or illnesses. Because of the trauma such a bilogical defect caused, she sought familial connections that most dragons do not. She claimed Dragon eggs from other Dragons, instilling them with her blood through a ritual, tying them to her life to build her family. As a result though, when the mother dies, the blood ties of the other dragons take them in kind.

A cult could aid in painting the story, especially if they are the secretly the cause for the Dragon mother's biological failings in an effort to breed Dragons as living weapons. A dragon ally might be neat for this situation too. If one of the mother Dragon's "children" discovered the truth, it might want revenge against her and the cult for how theyhave denied it a proper Dragon's life.

Hope this helps. Happy Gaming
What if you created some sort of heart-stone / draconic-heart crystal. (Honestly call it what ever you want) Lore wise you can make it some sort of soul gem that is draconic in nature and tied/linked to an entire family of dragons (or if you want to go crazy = ALL dragons)

Your question/situation reminded me of a similar situation i was in regarding dryads. They are a powerful group in my current campaign that the players are bitterly in league with, purely out of fear. One of the players was desperate to find something that would give them a way to destroy the dryads a weakness or something, so the players stumbled upon a rumour that an enemy guild that hated them and the dryads had recently been acting strange so the players sent spies to the guild and eventually had to launch a rescue operation for the spies. anyways long story short in the bowels of the guilds underground base of operations they found tunnels the group had spent years digging which lead to a blessed grove where an aged tree stood in the bowels of the earth. This tree was the heart of all the dryads and if destroyed it would kill them all. The players ultimately decided to protect the tree but they have that ace now if they ever need to use it.

Edit: You could then create some cool repercussions if the stone/crystal/whatever is destroyed especially if it were to kill ALL dragons. For example if they ever decide to burn the heart tree, they will kill the forests on the continent and incurr the wraith of melora.
But seriously, perhaps the Matron of these Dragons fears being usurped one day, and thus insists on a "soul bonding" ritual at birth of all her offspring. Because they are bonded her death will result in their death, they are forced to protect her at all costs (since they will die to) and can't usurp her since it would be suicide to kill her.

As a safeguard against her untimely death, (and the demolisment of her family) perhaps she secretly created an item to store her soul in the event of her death, like a liches phylactery. This is insurance in the event of her death. She will know if the phylactery is destroyed and create another, so to ensure her soul can't go anywhere else, they need to keep it until they kill her and then destroy the phylactery, thus robbing her soul of an escape from death and resulting in the chain reaction of the family being wiped.
And Centauri et al, while I respect your playing style, I'm not looking for the answer "let your players decide what's cool and run with that". They get plenty of input in the way the campaign is run, but I want this one to be a surprise.

I appreciate your respoect, but if you think this couldn't still be surprising with "my playing style," then I don't think you understand my playing style. And if you have had enough good experiences with surprises to still want to bother with them, then you don't need my help coming up with them for people I've never met.

Good luck.

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

To borrow an idea from Jim Butcher, have a ritual curse which, with the sacrifice of the youngest member of the family, everyone else from that family will also die, up to the oldest living relative.
Thanks for the ideas, I like 'em. It's important though that it's not something that the players can use to blackmail the dragon, like a heartstone that they can threaten to destroy when the dragon doesn't do exactly as they say.

I appreciate your respoect, but if you think this couldn't still be surprising with "my playing style," then I don't think you understand my playing style. And if you have had enough good experiences with surprises to still want to bother with them, then you don't need my help coming up with them for people I've never met.

Good luck.



Well, apparently not. Let me try and explain how I understand your general advice: when you advice people to collaborate on the plot with the players, then the DM's role becomes adding to it and making it happen from the DM's side (like adding obstacles and coming up with monster powers). That implies that the DM's role is specifically not to come up with plot devices that the players didn't think of themselves. Hence the remark in the OP.

Now when I ask for input on a plot device that the players don't know about and that will be a surprise to them, I get some dissonance when you say it can still be surprising when the players came up with it themselves. So I'd love it if you would elaborate a bit on that.
I'm not usually a big fan of the solution I am about to suggest, because it is a bit overused as the default answer when creativity has failed, but in this case, I think the solution is apparent and the most readily applicable.

Just say, "It's MAGIC".

*BOOM*
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
But seriously, perhaps the Matron of these Dragons fears being usurped one day, and thus insists on a "soul bonding" ritual at birth of all her offspring. Because they are bonded her death will result in their death, they are forced to protect her at all costs (since they will die to) and can't usurp her since it would be suicide to kill her.

As a safeguard against her untimely death, (and the demolisment of her family) perhaps she secretly created an item to store her soul in the event of her death, like a liches phylactery. This is insurance in the event of her death. She will know if the phylactery is destroyed and create another, so to ensure her soul can't go anywhere else, they need to keep it until they kill her and then destroy the phylactery, thus robbing her soul of an escape from death and resulting in the chain reaction of the family being wiped.

Def. this
A rogue with a bowl of slop can be a controller. WIZARD PC: Can I substitute Celestial Roc Guano for my fireball spells? DM: Awesome. Yes. When in doubt, take action.... that's generally the best course. Even Sun Tsu knew that, and he didn't have internets.
Familicide! www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0639.html is what you want, make it a scroll.



I agree, it was the first thing i thought of when i read the title.
FWIW [4e designer] baseline assumption was that roughly 70% of your feats would be put towards combat effectiveness, parties would coordinate, and strikers would do 20/40/60 at-will damage+novas. If your party isn't doing that... well, you are below baseline, so yes, you need to optimize slightly to meet baseline. -Alcestis
But seriously, perhaps the Matron of these Dragons fears being usurped one day, and thus insists on a "soul bonding" ritual at birth of all her offspring. Because they are bonded her death will result in their death, they are forced to protect her at all costs (since they will die to) and can't usurp her since it would be suicide to kill her.

As a safeguard against her untimely death, (and the demolisment of her family) perhaps she secretly created an item to store her soul in the event of her death, like a liches phylactery. This is insurance in the event of her death. She will know if the phylactery is destroyed and create another, so to ensure her soul can't go anywhere else, they need to keep it until they kill her and then destroy the phylactery, thus robbing her soul of an escape from death and resulting in the chain reaction of the family being wiped.

Def. this



Quick way to kill a family.......Taxes...j/k.

Seriously though I like the above idea presented by MrCustomer.
Let us say that once before the young dragons met with a tragic fate
Perhaps this mother dragon was so attached to her younglings, that using ancient draconic knowlegde, she gave a piece of her life escense to each of these younglings to restore them to life (perhaps a gem or some other item, worn on mother, is the focus of this spell) however, their lives are bound to hers and should she die...they too will die.
8.8 My House Rules! (roll the d20) *click to roll*8.8
Well, apparently not. Let me try and explain how I understand your general advice: when you advice people to collaborate on the plot with the players, then the DM's role becomes adding to it and making it happen from the DM's side (like adding obstacles and coming up with monster powers). That implies that the DM's role is specifically not to come up with plot devices that the players didn't think of themselves. Hence the remark in the OP.

Now when I ask for input on a plot device that the players don't know about and that will be a surprise to them, I get some dissonance when you say it can still be surprising when the players came up with it themselves. So I'd love it if you would elaborate a bit on that.



Probably better for another thread or PM, but I'll take a shot at this because Twitter is terrible for splainin'. Some of it just requires looking at the issue differently.

We don't collaborate with players on "plot." There is no plot. "Your gaming session is not a story -- it is a happening. It is something about which stories can be told, but in the genesis of the moment it is not a tale being told. It is a fact that is transpiring." (credit)

That said, the collaboration process is just that - everyone brings something to the table. It's very common for people to assume that when we say "ask your players for things" that we're saying the DM doesn't do squat. The DM does most certainly come with some ideas (usually situations or locations) and then solicits additional ideas from the players to build a coherent and engaging whole. This is especially as it relates to interesting outcomes and consequences. The players "Yes, and..." the DM as much as he "Yes, and's..." them. The game grows and moves on its own, often in surprising directions that no single person could have easily planned. It's a beautiful thing. It's almost like a random generator, if the random generator only produced results you actually like.

What Centauri is talking about when suggesting players be brought in on surprises is two-fold (in my view). First, if the DM is married to The Big Reveal, this almost always causes the DM to block player ideas. Your surprise may not be all that surprising or original, so when you're collaborating, a player stumbles right into it and "ruins" it in some way, causing the DM to pull back, change, alter, or block the player's idea to preserve the reveal he has planned for later. That's not good, at least if you hew to the notion that playing an RPG is not unlike improvisational acting. Which it is, if you're not writing plots and scripts (rails, in gamer parlance) for your players to follow.

Secondly - and this has been revealed in many posts over the last few days for me - it seems that people really have a hard time separating themselves from their characters when it's important to do so. I imagine this comes from the whole "don't break immersion!" thing which is actually getting in the way of people enjoying the game more than they think. Well, actually, worrying about it does that.

Look: Immersion happens on its own and for some people it doesn't happen at all. (It does for me.) It's a fleeting thing, triggered by this or that, with no real rhyme or reason. It's a feeling, a vibe, something that's shattered the moment the guy next to you rips ass. Planning for it is a crapshoot, so it's not really worth my time in prep. In the context of the game, reveals are really for the characters, not the players. The NPC quest-giver turns out to be the BBEG! Dun dun duuunnnn! That's a fictional surprise for the characters, not necessarily the players. So really, you can just bring the players in on the surprise and then they can actually help the DM set up the scenes going forward so that the characters are surprised. This is something you can accomplish 100% of the time. If you're trying to surprise the players, good luck. Whatever effort you put into that isn't guaranteed to pay off and it comes with the risk of blocking player ideas to preserve the Big Reveal you married yourself to. For me (and I imagine Centauri et al), that's not worth it. For others, I leave it for them to decide.

Hope that helps explain what we're referring to and if I left anything out, take it from here Centauri. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
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Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Eh, I'll PM something.

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

How about something that causes the remaining dragons to turn on each other?  Maybe a spell of discord or something?  I'd do something like have the amount of dragons I wanted to get rid of take to the air and start battling each other.  As the players take on the remainder, I'd describe snippets of the ongoing overhead battle, and the odd dragon or dragon bit that crashes down from above.  The survivors of the battle could descend on the players at the end if I needed them to, just to provide that extra we're-almost-done-oops-we're-not twist (or not).
Well, apparently not. Let me try and explain how I understand your general advice: when you advice people to collaborate on the plot with the players, then the DM's role becomes adding to it and making it happen from the DM's side (like adding obstacles and coming up with monster powers). That implies that the DM's role is specifically not to come up with plot devices that the players didn't think of themselves. Hence the remark in the OP.

Now when I ask for input on a plot device that the players don't know about and that will be a surprise to them, I get some dissonance when you say it can still be surprising when the players came up with it themselves. So I'd love it if you would elaborate a bit on that.



Probably better for another thread or PM, but I'll take a shot at this because Twitter is terrible for splainin'. Some of it just requires looking at the issue differently.

We don't collaborate with players on "plot." There is no plot. "Your gaming session is not a story -- it is a happening. It is something about which stories can be told, but in the genesis of the moment it is not a tale being told. It is a fact that is transpiring." (credit)

That said, the collaboration process is just that - everyone brings something to the table. It's very common for people to assume that when we say "ask your players for things" that we're saying the DM doesn't do squat. The DM does most certainly come with some ideas (usually situations or locations) and then solicits additional ideas from the players to build a coherent and engaging whole. This is especially as it relates to interesting outcomes and consequences. The players "Yes, and..." the DM as much as he "Yes, and's..." them. The game grows and moves on its own, often in surprising directions that no single person could have easily planned. It's a beautiful thing. It's almost like a random generator, if the random generator only produced results you actually like.

What Centauri is talking about when suggesting players be brought in on surprises is two-fold (in my view). First, if the DM is married to The Big Reveal, this almost always causes the DM to block player ideas. Your surprise may not be all that surprising or original, so when you're collaborating, a player stumbles right into it and "ruins" it in some way, causing the DM to pull back, change, alter, or block the player's idea to preserve the reveal he has planned for later. That's not good, at least if you hew to the notion that playing an RPG is not unlike improvisational acting. Which it is, if you're not writing plots and scripts (rails, in gamer parlance) for your players to follow.

Secondly - and this has been revealed in many posts over the last few days for me - it seems that people really have a hard time separating themselves from their characters when it's important to do so. I imagine this comes from the whole "don't break immersion!" thing which is actually getting in the way of people enjoying the game more than they think. Well, actually, worrying about it does that.

Look: Immersion happens on its own and for some people it doesn't happen at all. (It does for me.) It's a fleeting thing, triggered by this or that, with no real rhyme or reason. It's a feeling, a vibe, something that's shattered the moment the guy next to you rips ass. Planning for it is a crapshoot, so it's not really worth my time in prep. In the context of the game, reveals are really for the characters, not the players. The NPC quest-giver turns out to be the BBEG! Dun dun duuunnnn! That's a fictional surprise for the characters, not necessarily the players. So really, you can just bring the players in on the surprise and then they can actually help the DM set up the scenes going forward so that the characters are surprised. This is something you can accomplish 100% of the time. If you're trying to surprise the players, good luck. Whatever effort you put into that isn't guaranteed to pay off and it comes with the risk of blocking player ideas to preserve the Big Reveal you married yourself to. For me (and I imagine Centauri et al), that's not worth it. For others, I leave it for them to decide.

Hope that helps explain what we're referring to and if I left anything out, take it from here Centauri. 



Maybe I play a different game, or just plain DM differently (or maybe its my group...) but typcially I dont just let the players in on "surprises" I try to foster throughout a story/campaign.  In all honesty, I have about 3 or 4 ideas I have a "baseline" for and throw the hooks out there and see what is biting.  I dont get caught up in trying to collaborate with players on story, or even try and have the exact story I want.  Generally I just take the cues they give me with each session and run with what is fun based on their attention span and smiles.  I'm fairly good with improvisation so that makes it easy (I understand there are those who arent so good at this ), so the story just happens each session as we move along.  The current campaign I'm running, I wouldnt have imagined it would lead to Drow and the players being sold in to slavery.  But hey, things happen, dice happen, actions happen and curiosity happened.  Anywho, when I sometimes decide to go back to one of those NPC's that seemed inconsequential or even friendly at the time and make them the reason they were sold in to slavery - I think that has more impact without letting the players know.  Being fluid is what its all about.  If you can manage to takes notes on the random NPC's you throw out there, it makes it easier too.

Nonetheless.  To your thread.  I like the aformentioned ideas on the offspring being part of the "soul" or "spirit" of the mother dragon.

Another interesting idea might be a sort of debilitating dragon "disease" that the players stumble across.  Maybe they run in to one of the offspring withering away slowly because it was too curious about some long forgotten artifact/potion (or pool?)/fungus(moss).  Then the PC's come to realize that this disease is spread merely by contact. 

Another idea might be a take on the spirit/soul and disease idea.  Maybe the offspring must "feed" off of the mother dragons blood every so often (monthly?), so she leaves vials of her blood in certain sanctuaries where only her offspring know about - or maybe even one location (so its easier to find for PCs) so her offspring can fly/teleport there and imbibe her blood to maintain their life.  

Perhaps all off her offspring are males and she already kills off all of the females so she is the only female and the males must go to her when they wish to mate - and they take care of the young.  Surely something can be done with that - makes it much easier for the spirit/soul idea too.

Hope that helps!
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