So no shit, there I was. Big, mean, counts-as-size-large and in charge. I was bringing a martial artist monk / brutal pugilist barbarian half-giant to the table, and I was going for maximum brutality. It was an evil campaign, and my dude had cannibalized the kindly monks that took him in. Then he’d gone back to his tribe to cannibalize all the treacherous uncles who’d left him with the monks. Then he set out to join a secret society of evil weirdos (because this was a Way of the Wicked campaign, and it don’t work unless you do).

Point is that I was all set up to be a savage sumbitch when I joined the campaign. But there was nothing left to savage.

My evil coworkers had cleared the dungeon, and they were at the ends of their ropes. They’d looked everywhere for their missing McGuffin, but the fabled orb of opening the next section of dungeon was nowhere to be found. The rooms of the sacked keep contained nothing but a bunch of dead elves, a few blood smears, and one “very realistic statue with a cloth sack hanging at its belt.”


“Da monks told stories ’bout snake women,” I said, trying desperately to justify this mess in character. “Dey was so ugly the could turn ya to stone!”

Gears clicked. The stone salve the group had looted from the next room was applied, and we continued on our merry. I often wonder what that GM would have done if I hadn’t joined the game.

Look at it from a player’s standpoint. There you are, down in the dungeon. You’ve checked every room. You’ve taken 20 looking for secret passages. You’ve even formed your very own synchronized glaive team to try and break down walls. At that point in the day, progressing your descent into the depths is no longer an option. All you can do is muck about until the GM gets frustrated enough to send another encounter to you. And with any luck, this one will have a convenient treasure map in its pocket.

So for today’s discussion, why don’t we brainstorm a few ways out of this trap? When your players don’t know where to go or what to do, how do you nudge them along? Should you nudge them along? Or is it better to wait for them to come up with some clever plan of their own? Let’s hear all those opinionated opinions down in the comments!


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