Well-spotted, Fighter! That is indeed the Unnamed Pirate Ship II sailing off into the distance and leaving your party to die. Insult to injury, you guys are stranded in snipe territory. That’s a double-whammy!

While it’s unsurprising that Thief and Wizard failed to spot the deception, I would have expected more from Cleric. He’s usually so in tune with these Sense Motive situations. I guess it goes to show how everyone rolls low sometimes. The problem comes in when you’ve got to justify that mess narratively.

While we’ve talked about portraying intelligence in the past, there’s also the equal and opposite scenario. Whether it’s due to your own poor decisions as a player or the perverse antics of the dice, your normally on-the-ball character has found themselves in a we’re-smarter-than-this situation. They’ve fallen for an obvious ploy, stepped into a basic trap, or failed to remember mission-critical details. How do you maintain your character’s aura of competency when they done goofed?

The conventional wisdom here is to opt for outside interference. We see this malarkey with physical action all the time. The floorboards broke beneath your expert burglar. Your martial arts master was momentarily blinded by a bleeding headwound. A seagull bonked your dashing pirate in the face mid rope swing. The same strategy can apply to mental/social activities. If we’re in an Insight check situation, the criminal masterminds lying to you were “impossible to read.” If  your learned wizard forgot some critical monster lore, then they took a sick day during that Defense Against the Dark Arts class back in undergrad. Maybe the elven tongue itself is famously easy to mistranslate. These are all plausible excuses for an oopsie, but there is another option on the table: Being smart doesn’t mean you’re immune to mistakes.

Like so many gamers, I love my power fantasy. I think it’s cool when my investigator notices the detail; when my wizard remembers the countercharm; when my silver-tongued bard successfully flatters the wealthy patron. But when these characters fail, it can be just as rewarding to show off character qualities like excessive pride, strain under pressure, or unfamiliarity with a strange new environment. In other words, you can transform misfortune into memorable RP. And with a little creativity, you can still look cool in your floppy pirate hat while you’re doing it.

Question of the day then! When your character is the one with the crappy rolls or the poorly-conceived plan, how do you react? Do you roll with the punches? Invent an excuse? Or do you sulk sullenly and glower at your character sheet? Tell us all about your own greatest screw-ups and most memorable misadventures down in the comments!


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