So there we were. The auction had been arranged in neutral territory, and the party was all set up for the ambush. We’d managed to persuaded our honorable paladin to participate in our ruse. He would appear before the vampire duergar slavers as a fellow slave trader, and he would offer himself (which is to say our disguised wizard) into their nefarious clutches.

“Is it truly he?” they hissed. “This pitiful cringing creature is the paladin who has plagued us for so long?”

The paladin’s next words were some of the best in-game dialogue I’ve ever heard. “Truly,” he said, “None other than Torin Ironanvil stands before you.”

The sly dog! Dancing around the “speak no word that is untrue” code of conduct takes all manner of subtlety. Everyone around the table made oh snap face, because we knew that some next level barb-trading was afoot.

“How did you manage it? How did you capture him?”

“He came here willingly.”

Oh snap intensifies.

“What manner of payment do you demand?”

“Only the chance to meet you face to face.”

The atmosphere around the table was electric. These were the same slavers that captured the paladin’s family and destroyed his clan. The air of imminent violence was freaking palpable. To my lasting shame, I was the one who poked a hole in it.

“Guys,” I said out-of-character, “Our rounds-per-level spells are ticking. Should we maybe hurry and—”

“Dude,” said the DM. “Rounds spent monologuing don’t count towards spell duration.”

I sheepishly shut my gob, and the scene continued towards its natural climax. In the years since I’ve thought quite a bit about that call, and I still think it was the right one. It’s OK for tactical advantage and game mechanics to take a back seat every once in a while. Going into cutscene mode may mess with the rules of the world, but I’d rather trade away that bit of verisimilitude than the climactic story moment. As always, YMMV.

What about the rest of you guys? Have you ever been tempted to shoot the Bandit King? Should story always trump tactical considerations? Or is a game better off when you let the mechanics rather than narrative beats determine the course of play? Let’s hear your tales of monologues-cut-short in the comments!


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