The little sentence that saved my life

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A few months ago, I had one very memorable game session, as a DM. My players still talks about this evening with excitement, so I thought I might share this one with you as a first post on this community. We've been playing DnD together for almost 15 years so they're kind of hard to impress.

(Please show some leniency if my wording happens to be clumsy; I'm less-than-comfortable outside of my beloved native French)

So, well, it was game night and I had nothing in store. Just nothing. I had a sheet with unused stats for a bunch of orcs. That's it. Five orcs to go through an entire evening. During the car ride I figured out an exotic feel and a bunch of cool names in my head, but that was it.

So at a red light, I googled something like "simple roadside encounters ideas" and fell on the coolest sentence ever. I can't find it now, but it was something like: "A goblin wearing a rug as a cloak jumps out and asks a toll for the king of the road".

So it basically went out like this: after a quick debriefing about the last game, the PCs are traveling and take quick rest to eat a quick lunch. As one of them surveys the area while the others start a fire, I use my best goblin voice and make the amazing "king of the road" entrance. I make a vivid description of the King's outfit, and explains to the PCs that they have to pay a toll, because, you know, he's King of the Road and stuff.

Most of my players already have their d20 in their hands, ready to kick his greedy ass, but one of them simply asks:

"King of the Road, where is your crown?"

That's right. I forgot the wooden, crude crown in my description. It was my chance to figure something out.

"Oooh. Mah crown? Twas that stoopid orc rebel and his four fwiends that took it! Wouldn't pay the toll to the King of the Road, wouldn't! Wouldn't give back the crown. Laughed at me and threw me mud. Threw me feces. Stoopid orc." (something like that. We play in French, mind you.)

So the PC who asked that went full of sympathy for the goblin, and went back to the others saying: "We must investigate this. We can't let such a royalty in disgrace!" The others were like "We don't care. We don't have time for silly games." But they finally catched on. I think they thought taht the goblin had something special, something quest-related. How wrong they were.

So they went on investigating (and wondering where on Earth was epic fantasy nowadays). They asked me if there was some king of an inn around. Yeah, I said yes. I was drawing a complete blank on an inn name, so I just said: "The Inn of the Road".

At The Inn of the Road, the innkeeper wouldn't tell the PCs where the five orcs were hiding. With some persuasion, they discovered that the orcs used to storm the inn for supper and beer once in a while, and the innkeeper was fearing for retribution. The PCs managed to convince the dude that they were able to take out five orcs. So, as a good innkeeper in need of a party of heroes, he said: "What do you want from me in exchange, then?"

"Do you know any goblin that goes by the name of King of the Road?"
"Yeah. I keep throwing him out of here. Eats in my garbage at night. Customers are all freaked out."
"Well, he's pretty cheerful once you know him. So, we take out the orcs, give him back his crown, but you'll have to rename the inn "The Castle of the Road". And you're to hire that goblin as the king of your inn. You'll pay him two copper a day, and he'll stay here for free. I think he can be quite a good entertainer, and shall bring you some business."

The rest of the night went on by itself. Skill challenge through the wild to find the orcs. Bunch of ad hoc traps in their lair. My five orc stats from the start. And with the loot, a wooden crown.

My campaign setting isn't the best in the world, but now there's a inn somewhere with a goblin jester that goes by the name of King of the Road who's not out of a job anymore because a party of heroes went into the trouble of bringing back his crown.

The end.

Someday, I plan to have them meet the King of the Road again, this time as a real quest giver. This character is too precious to let go, and I gladly suggest to introduce him in your games as well.

That was my little story.  
This is a good story :3

More DMs should be like you =)
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lol.  It's still amazing for me, the ability to google "encounter at a roadside inn dungeons and dragons" and get 702,000 results.  I started D and D w/the original little brown books in the 70s - back in my day we didn't have no fancy internet, couldn't look up "1 legged monsters with a limp" then select one and download their stats.  If we had game questions we had to mail them with a self adressed stamped envelope to lake Geneva and wait 6-8 weeks for our answers ....Of course I guess the next generation will be saying "Can u believe those guys used to play in 2D? (shudder) Without virtual-world projectors and live action suits?  Good lord, they couldn't even feel it when they took a crit - that's insane imagination!"
Magnifique!  Thanks for the story Zhealdo.  You're a great improvisor, and hearing how you went about it during that session is kind of inspiring.  I'm the type of DM that over-prepares, rarely improvises beyond my notes, mostly due to worry.  Basically, my worst fear is that it will play out like THIS.  I really need to move past that, and just dive right in.  Improvising is so important to this game, but I have a hard time letting go of the reins.
Now imagine how much worse the game world would be if you had done as so many others do, and insisted on following what you had pre-planned for the evening. After all, what you planned and put time into HAS to be better than what you improvise right? Of course not.

Awesome story. I much enjoy goblins as fun little beings rather than nasty buggers...leave that to kobolds.

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Great story! I'm glad the players didn't simply kill him off. I bet they're glad, too.
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Good job DMing!
That's a great story. I would love to have a group of players like yours. Great stuff!

Cheers Imruphel aka Scrivener of Doom
I think you just won the Internet.
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I also salute you!  As a fellow DM I'd be glad to play a PC with you any time!  Furthermore, I'm going to steal your idea!  And give you credit. 

And your English is excellent, better than half the native English speakers I read on the Internet.  If you hadn't said you're a native French speaker I wouldn't have known.  

OD&D, 1E and 2E challenged the player. 3E challenged the character, not the player. Now 4E takes it a step further by challenging a GROUP OF PLAYERS to work together as a TEAM. That's why I love 4E.

"Your ability to summon a horde of celestial superbeings at will is making my ... BMX skills look a bit redundant."

"People treat their lack of imagination as if it's the measure of what's silly. Which is silly." - Noon

"Challenge" is overrated.  "Immersion" is usually just a more pretentious way of saying "having fun playing D&D."

"Falling down is how you grow.  Staying down is how you die.  It's not what happens to you, it's what you do after it happens.”

I also salute you, bravo monseigneur.
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Tres bien.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

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A few months ago, I had one very memorable game session, as a DM. My players still talks about this evening with excitement, so I thought I might share this one with you as a first post on this community. We've been playing DnD together for almost 15 years so they're kind of hard to impress.

(Please show some leniency if my wording happens to be clumsy; I'm less-than-comfortable outside of my beloved native French)

So, well, it was game night and I had nothing in store. Just nothing. I had a sheet with unused stats for a bunch of orcs. That's it. Five orcs to go through an entire evening. During the car ride I figured out an exotic feel and a bunch of cool names in my head, but that was it.

So at a red light, I googled something like "simple roadside encounters ideas" and fell on the coolest sentence ever. I can't find it now, but it was something like: "A goblin wearing a rug as a cloak jumps out and asks a toll for the king of the road".

So it basically went out like this: after a quick debriefing about the last game, the PCs are traveling and take quick rest to eat a quick lunch. As one of them surveys the area while the others start a fire, I use my best goblin voice and make the amazing "king of the road" entrance. I make a vivid description of the King's outfit, and explains to the PCs that they have to pay a toll, because, you know, he's King of the Road and stuff.

Most of my players already have their d20 in their hands, ready to kick his greedy ass, but one of them simply asks:

"King of the Road, where is your crown?"

That's right. I forgot the wooden, crude crown in my description. It was my chance to figure something out.

"Oooh. Mah crown? Twas that stoopid orc rebel and his four fwiends that took it! Wouldn't pay the toll to the King of the Road, wouldn't! Wouldn't give back the crown. Laughed at me and threw me mud. Threw me feces. Stoopid orc." (something like that. We play in French, mind you.)

So the PC who asked that went full of sympathy for the goblin, and went back to the others saying: "We must investigate this. We can't let such a royalty in disgrace!" The others were like "We don't care. We don't have time for silly games." But they finally catched on. I think they thought taht the goblin had something special, something quest-related. How wrong they were.

So they went on investigating (and wondering where on Earth was epic fantasy nowadays). They asked me if there was some king of an inn around. Yeah, I said yes. I was drawing a complete blank on an inn name, so I just said: "The Inn of the Road".

At The Inn of the Road, the innkeeper wouldn't tell the PCs where the five orcs were hiding. With some persuasion, they discovered that the orcs used to storm the inn for supper and beer once in a while, and the innkeeper was fearing for retribution. The PCs managed to convince the dude that they were able to take out five orcs. So, as a good innkeeper in need of a party of heroes, he said: "What do you want from me in exchange, then?"

"Do you know any goblin that goes by the name of King of the Road?"
"Yeah. I keep throwing him out of here. Eats in my garbage at night. Customers are all freaked out."
"Well, he's pretty cheerful once you know him. So, we take out the orcs, give him back his crown, but you'll have to rename the inn "The Castle of the Road". And you're to hire that goblin as the king of your inn. You'll pay him two copper a day, and he'll stay here for free. I think he can be quite a good entertainer, and shall bring you some business."

The rest of the night went on by itself. Skill challenge through the wild to find the orcs. Bunch of ad hoc traps in their lair. My five orc stats from the start. And with the loot, a wooden crown.

My campaign setting isn't the best in the world, but now there's a inn somewhere with a goblin jester that goes by the name of King of the Road who's not out of a job anymore because a party of heroes went into the trouble of bringing back his crown.

The end.

Someday, I plan to have them meet the King of the Road again, this time as a real quest giver. This character is too precious to let go, and I gladly suggest to introduce him in your games as well.

That was my little story.  

*slow clap*

It's stories like this that keep on inspiring me to stay impromptu; rather than I dictate the events in the game world, I simply relay what I observe from my imagination, and explain how the world is reacting to the players' input (I always make it a point that my players provide me with their PCs' reasons to go out, and shape the story taking place in the world based on those reasons).  You can and often do end up with far more interesting stuff when all you've got is monster stats (just in case), a magical item or two (just in case), and a lot of input from your companions.

I'd suggest that you have the King of the Road's quest to be a bit of a happy accident again.  The next time the PCs pass by the Castle of the Road they might see a lot of changes (depending on what has been happening in the area), and perhaps the King of the Road might be happy and show the group an item that some unknown NPC left behind (then maybe some crazy set of events can happen, depending if the item is mundane yet memorable, or magical), or he might be depressed again for one reason or another (maybe someone broke his scepter, or something that the players -- especially the one who displayed sympathy over the King of the Road -- could easily relate to).  Doesn't have to be world-breaking or even heavily or mechanically rewarding, but I'd recommend that it should be an activity that rides on the interest of the players.
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A few months ago, I had one very memorable game session, as a DM. My players still talks about this evening with excitement, so I thought I might share this one with you as a first post on this community. We've been playing DnD together for almost 15 years so they're kind of hard to impress.

(Please show some leniency if my wording happens to be clumsy; I'm less-than-comfortable outside of my beloved native French)

So, well, it was game night and I had nothing in store. Just nothing. I had a sheet with unused stats for a bunch of orcs. That's it. Five orcs to go through an entire evening. During the car ride I figured out an exotic feel and a bunch of cool names in my head, but that was it.

So at a red light, I googled something like "simple roadside encounters ideas" and fell on the coolest sentence ever. I can't find it now, but it was something like: "A goblin wearing a rug as a cloak jumps out and asks a toll for the king of the road".

So it basically went out like this: after a quick debriefing about the last game, the PCs are traveling and take quick rest to eat a quick lunch. As one of them surveys the area while the others start a fire, I use my best goblin voice and make the amazing "king of the road" entrance. I make a vivid description of the King's outfit, and explains to the PCs that they have to pay a toll, because, you know, he's King of the Road and stuff.

Most of my players already have their d20 in their hands, ready to kick his greedy ass, but one of them simply asks:

"King of the Road, where is your crown?"

That's right. I forgot the wooden, crude crown in my description. It was my chance to figure something out.

"Oooh. Mah crown? Twas that stoopid orc rebel and his four fwiends that took it! Wouldn't pay the toll to the King of the Road, wouldn't! Wouldn't give back the crown. Laughed at me and threw me mud. Threw me feces. Stoopid orc." (something like that. We play in French, mind you.)

So the PC who asked that went full of sympathy for the goblin, and went back to the others saying: "We must investigate this. We can't let such a royalty in disgrace!" The others were like "We don't care. We don't have time for silly games." But they finally catched on. I think they thought taht the goblin had something special, something quest-related. How wrong they were.

So they went on investigating (and wondering where on Earth was epic fantasy nowadays). They asked me if there was some king of an inn around. Yeah, I said yes. I was drawing a complete blank on an inn name, so I just said: "The Inn of the Road".

At The Inn of the Road, the innkeeper wouldn't tell the PCs where the five orcs were hiding. With some persuasion, they discovered that the orcs used to storm the inn for supper and beer once in a while, and the innkeeper was fearing for retribution. The PCs managed to convince the dude that they were able to take out five orcs. So, as a good innkeeper in need of a party of heroes, he said: "What do you want from me in exchange, then?"

"Do you know any goblin that goes by the name of King of the Road?"
"Yeah. I keep throwing him out of here. Eats in my garbage at night. Customers are all freaked out."
"Well, he's pretty cheerful once you know him. So, we take out the orcs, give him back his crown, but you'll have to rename the inn "The Castle of the Road". And you're to hire that goblin as the king of your inn. You'll pay him two copper a day, and he'll stay here for free. I think he can be quite a good entertainer, and shall bring you some business."

The rest of the night went on by itself. Skill challenge through the wild to find the orcs. Bunch of ad hoc traps in their lair. My five orc stats from the start. And with the loot, a wooden crown.

My campaign setting isn't the best in the world, but now there's a inn somewhere with a goblin jester that goes by the name of King of the Road who's not out of a job anymore because a party of heroes went into the trouble of bringing back his crown.

The end.

Someday, I plan to have them meet the King of the Road again, this time as a real quest giver. This character is too precious to let go, and I gladly suggest to introduce him in your games as well.

That was my little story.  

*slow clap*

It's stories like this that keep on inspiring me to stay impromptu; rather than I dictate the events in the game world, I simply relay what I observe from my imagination, and explain how the world is reacting to the players' input (I always make it a point that my players provide me with their PCs' reasons to go out, and shape the story taking place in the world based on those reasons).  You can and often do end up with far more interesting stuff when all you've got is monster stats (just in case), a magical item or two (just in case), and a lot of input from your companions.

I'd suggest that you have the King of the Road's quest to be a bit of a happy accident again.  The next time the PCs pass by the Castle of the Road they might see a lot of changes (depending on what has been happening in the area), and perhaps the King of the Road might be happy and show the group an item that some unknown NPC left behind (then maybe some crazy set of events can happen, depending if the item is mundane yet memorable, or magical), or he might be depressed again for one reason or another (maybe someone broke his scepter, or something that the players -- especially the one who displayed sympathy over the King of the Road -- could easily relate to).  Doesn't have to be world-breaking or even heavily or mechanically rewarding, but I'd recommend that it should be an activity that rides on the interest of the players.



I approve of this idea greatly.  I would take it and run with it- make it a bit like the hangover, the King of the Road engages the party with drinks of somesort, then they wake up somewhere else in a truly crazy situation, then have to retrace their steps and figure out what happened.  Or something.

Either way, very, very good!  I love stories like this. 
That was an amazing bit of DMing and an amazing story. I'm impressed really, and even more so inspired. I now have some ideas popping up into my head for great side stories to distract from the main plot. That's something not enough DM's do is little side quests. Not only are they a fun distraction, but they are an invaluable DM tool for those times when you just don't have the time to prepare a regular nights gaming.
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