Part of the fun of an RPG is being challenged. Exactly what that means to people is different. Some people want huge combats like what you get playing Final Fantasy Tactics or Risk in a RPG game, slow manipulation around the board as you play strategically. Others want puzzles and riddles and diplomacy, stretching their brains as they have to figure out the name of the creature who spins straw into gold.
But sometimes, you find a challenge, either with the players making it much larger than it was originally meant to be or with the players turning it into something when there isn’t one. I’ve seen it a lot where players make mountains out of mole hills while avoiding the plot hooks dangling in front of them. I could probably even point to the Knights of the Dinner Table a lot, but today, I think I’ll just say Noh to that, as Noh is a much more interesting story that I don’t think people have really heard of.
So I don’t have to redirect you to another site, I include the story of Noh in its entirety (though people have added endings and such to it as you might see if you check out here.
My group was in a dungeon where, unbeknown to them, they were being tested by the spiritual forces that resided within, in order to see if they were worthy of… bla bla bla, the same old shtick.
They find a secret door, and inside is a pedestal with a highly ornate and obviously magical rapier (which two of the characters used), resting upon a similarly ornate/magical chain shirt that the two other characters used.
Next to them, a young girl, with a blank expression, simply requests, “Please do not take these items.” Of course, my players didn’t want to pass up such great items, but they knew that something bad would happen if they just took them, they decided they needed more information before they could make a decision. Pretty standard method of action. And, the only way they could get more information was from the girl.
I didn’t want to spoil everything, and more importantly I wanted this to just be a short test so we could go on to the next part. Also, since she was just the physical manifestation of a minor spiritual entity, she didn’t need to do any more than fulfill her task as a test giver. So, I decided she would be like a NPC from a video game. She would only respond with “No” or, if a negative answer would confuse the players or the players decided to get crafty and ask something like “Can we NOT take these items?”, she would simply reply “Please do not take these items.”
The conversation was pretty much:
P1: Can you tell us about these items?
P2: Can we ask your name?”
P1: What are you doing here?
P3: Are these items important to you?
DM: Please do not take these items.
The players kept at it for a few minutes, until the bard decided to use a perform check to “Awaken her dormant soul etc.” and rolled a 19. As such, I decided I might as well say that she shed a single tear.
At this point, my players could no longer stand it. And they ended up doing something I was completely unprepared for.
One of them scooped her up, put her on his shoulder, and decided they were going to take her. They quickly began to argue as to which one of them was going to carry her, completely ignoring the amazing magical items less than an arm’s reach away, and talking about how she was the cutest thing in the entire world. They decided to name her “Noh”, since it was what she replied when asked her name.
They then carried her through the dungeon, risking themselves many times in order to keep/protect her. After the third time she slowly walked back towards the items when she was left alone during a battle (accompanied each time with each player screaming her name), they decided to go back, put the items on her, and then continue carrying her around.
I had added this whole test as a bit of a side thing, and didn’t know what to do. At the completion of the whole thing, their reward was to have a spirit bound to one of their magic items, corresponding with what virtues they exhibited the most through out the dungeon. As a bit of a side bonus (since she was practically a construct anyway), I decided that a spirit would also be bound to Noh, but the complete binding would take some time, and that the players would be able to take her out of the dungeon. My players were so happy, and they concluded that along with the rest of the adventure (which they seemed to enjoy), this was the best session they’ve had in years.
I feel bad.