My illustrator is weird. She tells this epic gaming story where the characters fight all campaign long against the very avatars of death and destruction. They struggle, they triumph, and finally they get to place their chosen king upon the sacred throne. And when at last they get royal butt in royal chair, said king reveals himself as the BBEG.

“You have labored long to bring me here,” says the now-omnipotent villain. “I am not ungrateful. What is your desire?”

And the campaign ends with the words, “I want to forget. I don’t want to remember any of this.” There’s a dark laugh, a flash of light, and then oblivion.

“It was amazing!” she insists. “That character had 5 ranks in Dark Fate, so we knew something terrible would happen. Two of the players actually started crying. I’ve never had a better moment in an RPG.”

Freaking masochist, right? But I’ve got to admit, the way she tells the story and the light that comes into her eyes at the memory, it does sound like a pretty special day around the gaming table. There’s a certain appeal to the tragic moment, that melodramatic twist that brings an emotional arc to its climax. Here’s the problem though. As cool as the moment can be, not everybody wants it.

Case in point, Laurel tried to give a player in one of her games a tragic moment all his own. She’d kidnapped the PC’s sister, then had the corresponding BBEG visit him in his dreams.

“Serve me,” says the villain, “Or your beloved sister dies.”

Now this particular PC had escaped from that particular villain in his back story, so it was certainly a poignant moment. And since this was a dream sequence, the character could only speak. Fighting wouldn’t work. And because, in the player’s mind, this was a game of epic heroism, he defied the villain.

“Never!” he says. “I will find a way to save her! And I will see you dead.”

That’s when Laurel killed the sister. She’d adapted her experiences in the “accidental King BBEG” session to her own GMing style, and believed that giving the player his own tragic moment was akin to giving him the spotlight. The player, on the other hand, wanted to be a big damn hero. He didn’t want drama. He wanted to win. And that means the dude was pissedThe GM had killed his pet NPC in a freaking dream sequence, and he couldn’t even do anything about it. What the hell!?

We wound up resorting to time travel to fix the plot point, but it remains for me the epitome of different playstyles butting heads. Lesson learned. Not everybody is a drama queen…or a drama wizard for that matter. So if any of you GMs out there want to give a player their moment in the spotlight, make sure you know what kind of spotlight they’re after.

So here’s the question of the day. Have you ever experienced a big tragic moment in an RPG? Was everyone happy with the outcome?


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