Monday, March 23, 2015

A War of Clubs and Hearts

AKA SantiCore's Santi-War
AKA Technician, Magician, Soldier, Spy

I've managed to lightly playtest this, and I think it's a fun and effective party game once people have played a practice session or two. There's just enough unbalance and strategy to keep up the tension and make it rewarding, I think.
I'd love suggestions for the Environmental Effects deck - leftover cards from which one is drawn for each time around the table.

This is a party wargame using only a deck of cards, table space, a notepad, and these instructions.

Get a standard 52 card deck. Separate any Jokers. Separate face cards into one stack, numbers and Aces into another stack. Shuffle the two stacks.

Players then take turns drawing cards to make four units each. A unit is one Face card and three cards from the numbers and Aces stack. All cards begin face down, but players can look at any of their own cards at any time.

Any leftover cards (including Jokers if you want) are put into a new stack of "environmental event" cards.

Players then arrange their units, one to a position - Front, L Flank, R Flank, Rear. Then players can trade their Aces around as they wish, swapping a card from the Ace's new unit to replace it in the old one. All units begin the game with 4 cards per unit.
Then players flip all their own Club cards face up except the Ace.

Card Meanings
Clubs - Soldiers. The only cards which are face up the entire game. They can only attack cards in the unit "ahead" of them (in the same position on another player's board), but can attack in groups (many Clubs attack one enemy card) or split attacks (one Club attacks 2 other cards).

Diamonds - Technicians. Can only attack cards in the unit in front of them, and only one to a card. Get +1 Strength when attacking with or hiding behind Ballista (Aces). Flip up to resolve attacks, but are face down the rest of the time. They can also save Ballista from being destroyed; see below.

Hearts - Magicians. Can attack any card on the board. Flip up when resolving attacks, but face down the rest of the time. Can attack a card another card is also attacking, but not in the unit "facing" them.

Spades - Spies and Assassins. Can be sacrificed on the player's turn to reveal any face down card for one moment. Can only attack cards in the unit in front of them. Attack Clubs as normal (value VS value).
When a Spade attacks or is attacked by a non-Club, both cards remain face down. Each player wagers a number they think is the difference between the values of the two cards. The defender wagers first. When each player has announced their wager, flip both cards face up. The card owned by the player who was most correct wins. If it's a tie, the Spade wins. Cards cannot "hide behind the Ballista" when being attacked by Spades.

Face cards are Unit Commanders, and have a strength of 10. Number cards are soldiers, magic users, or spies, and have a strength equal to their number. Aces are Ballista.
King - are immune to damage from cards of same suit. Can temporarily transfer this ability to any card in own unit, but the King loses it for the rest of the turn.
Queens - Units headed by Queens can exchange number cards with other units controlled by the same player on that player's turn. When a Queen is killed by a Spade card, the Spade card is turned face up the rest of the turn (used like a Club until flipped face down again).
Jacks - Jacks can deflect one spell (attack by a Heart card) per turn; the Jack is turned sideways ("tapped") the rest of the turn and that specific attack does no damage. The Heart's "spell" does not have to be directed at the Jack.

Ballista (Aces) have a Strength of 5 when defending against attacks, but cannot attack on their own. Any non-Ace in the same unit can use the Ballista to attack any other card on the board, instead of that card's normal attack. The attack's Strength is equal to the card "using the Ballista".
Any card in a unit with a Ballista can also hide behind it. This means damage from an attack on that cards goes to the Ballista instead. Attacks from Spades cannot be deflected in this way.
Ballista are flipped over the first time they are used in any way, and remain face up the rest of the game.
Ballista can be captured - if you kill all the other cards in a unit without destroying the Ballista, it becomes part of the victorious unit.
A Technician (Diamond card) on either side (in the unit attacking or being attacked) can sacrifice itself to prevent a Ballista from being destroyed by an attack at the time of that attack's resolution. (but this doesn't save it from a second attack, for instance).

Cards are considered "In front of" or "facing" cards in the the same Position on each enemy side, except for the Rear. (your Front is facing everyone else's Front, your Left Flank is facing everyone else's Left Flank, etc)
Units in the Rear position are not Facing or In Front of any other units until one of that player's other units has been destroyed. Then the Rear position can attack any other position.
A player's last remaining unit, regardless of position, can attack any position.
Keep in mind "ranged" attacks - those by Hearts or cards using Aces/Ballista - can be made on any card regardless of position (except when combining attacks, see "Hearts" above.)

Win Conditions
The game is won in one of three ways:
1. There is only one remaining player with any face cards. Players can continue to act each turn as long as they have cards remaining, but only players with Face cards can win the war.
2. A pre-agreed upon time limit is reached. In this case, the player with the highest total Strength of all cards wins, the next highest is second place, etc.
3. All remaining players agree to end the game, either in a tie or by counting up the Strength of all cards and ranking each other thusly.

If a player leaves the game early (IE while they still have "living" cards), other players cannot affect their cards in any way for the remainder of the game (unless all players agree on a variation to this rule before the game.)

Order of Play
Once the Setup is done, each player adds up the Strength value of all their Club cards. The player with the highest Strength (of Clubs only) goes first. If there is a tie, each player flips over a card from the Environmental Effects deck, and the one with the highest card goes first. If there is still a tie, each player must eat shoe leather. The first to finish their piece goes first.

Then the player decides what each of their Units is going to do, generally attacking the cards of other players. Each Unit gets one action per turn, so only one card from each unit is active per turn (except for effects from Aces and Face cards). A unit is simultaneously facing all other units in the same position. If there are many players, each member of a unit may be attacking a different player's cards.

Each number card can only do one thing to one other card each turn. Face cards may attack and also use their special ability in a turn.

If several cards attack one card and the defender's Strength is higher than one of the attackers, that attacker dies (even if the defender dies).
When all of a Player's Units have acted, the dead are cleared from the battlefield and the next player begins their actions.
The player with the lowest number of Clubs decides if the game goes clockwise or counter-clockwise.

A "round" is one player's actions. A "turn" is once around the table - all players taking a round.

The longer Variant: each card has one action per turn, resolved the following order:
1. hand-to-hand combat - attacks against cards in a unit one is facing, except by Hearts or Aces
2. Magic - attacks by Hearts
3. Ballista - attacks using Aces
4. Special - abilities not covered under one of the phases above.

Environmental Effects
At the end of each Round, draw from the Environmental Effects deck.
Number Cards Mean:
Face Cards Mean:
Aces Mean:

The only other playtest note I haven't dealt with - it seemed like cards with low numbers were pretty useless in the latter half of the game, so maybe they should have some "trick"?

Comment on Googly Plus here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Threefold Passions of Madam Adjani

(this item was not accepted for the LotFP Referee's book, so I am putting it here. Is it clear what it is and does? It is too obviously cursed? (find notes about how cloth makes everyone love you, or makes your senses better, or makes you almost invisible, then find cloth later...) Is it not clear how the effects can be gamed for temporary gain but long term consequences?

Also if you haven't seen the film Possession by Zulawski, starring Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neil, well, see it when you want to be really uncomfortable. It's excellent. The effects of this don't really match up with anything in the film, but her performance in it led to the inspiration for this.

Anyway, the idea was a magic item that you think you can use if you're really careful and manage it well, but can too easily get out of control even if you know what it does. Hopefully by the time you figured out what it really does, though, you'd already be in trouble anyway.

Maybe it's a little too ADnD Artifact-y for LotFP though.)

Mme Adjani lived in a great city of the ancient world which was torn apart by the consequences of her passions and admirers. Her emotions were so fevered and unbound that a mortal body and specific time could not contain them. The passions of Mme Adjani left scars on reality, and flare up again when others find remnants of her wardrobe.

While other items of her clothing (or sex toys, bondage gear, torture devices, makeup, etc) may be discovered, the item most often found is a cloth lavishly, beautifully embroidered with decorative figures. It is difficult to discern if the embroidered figures are engaged in feasts, rituals, orgies, murder, cannibalism - or all of the above. The cloth is just long enough to be worn wrapped about the upper body, hanging an inch past the loins. Some have used it as a scarf, headwrap, or decoratively tied around a weapon or limb.

The cloth is often found among the dead; when found, the DM should determine if the previous owner is still alive (see below). Often there will be lavishly written notes extolling the wonderful effects of wearing the cloth. These notes are written by those under the effects of the cloth, and while not outright lies, portray the effects in a positive light.

d6 to determine what the note describes or the effects of wearing the cloth without specifically folding it.

1: Fold 1
2: Fold 2
3: Folds 1 & 3
4: Folds 1 & 2
5. all 3
6: The writer of the note, while overtly positive, worked in enough nuance that with a successful Wisdom roll the reader gleans there may be unpleasant consequences to wearing the cloth. Roll again.

Fold 1: All who behold the wearer of the cloth must Save VS Device or fall for the wearer - desperately, jealously, murderously. The passion is so overwhelming they may even avoid the cloth-wearer at first, taking days to work up the courage to say, "Hello."

Within a week, they will begin stalking their beloved and acting to separate them from other potential lovers. This may start as social manipulation but extends quickly to abduction, imprisonment, torture and murder. Often the smitten person will not reveal their feelings (and attendant actions) until they have accumulated a body count to "prove their love". Those who are not monogamous may work together, but jealousy is one of the passions the cloth enflames.

The enthralled must have the object of their affection. They will not take rejection well.

The Save is rolled the first time one views a person wearing the cloth folded this way. If the person passed their Save, they must Save again if they see a new person wearing the cloth with Fold 1. Once the passions have taken hold (IE the Save is Failed), the effect remains even if the wearer removes the cloth, uses a different Fold, or a new person is seen wearing Fold 1. Each person affected by Fold 1 must have a Remove Curse cast upon them while the object of their affection is out of sight.
Optional: Those who spend most of every day with the wearer (such as party members) save again at +1 (bonus) every day more than 8 hours is spent in the wearer's presence. ("Remember when the whole party was in love with Steve for a week? That was weird.")

Fold 2: The wearer's own passions become ungovernable. Each day they must Save VS Device at a cumulative -1 for each day they have worn the cloth. When a Save is failed, the wearer pursues every passion and interest without regard for safety, social convention, or previous experience until they become unconscious or die. They may veer from animalistic abandon to wanting the finest things society can provide in an instant. If they are still wearing the cloth after a period of unconsciousness, they may Save again.
Depending on your group, the DM may need to control a PC affected thus, or it may be more fun to let the player play it out.

Fold 3, or if carried unworn (such as in a bag): The wearer cannot stir the emotions of others, and is easily forgotten. A companion may cut a rope the bearer is climbing on if the rest of their companions climbed up it first, for instance. The wearer's contributions to all endeavors are taken for granted or forgotten about. If caught doing something nefarious, the wearer may still be attacked, arrested, etc - but will likely be left there to rot, as their associates and guards will forget to feed or free them. The wearer cannot convince anyone of anything except through the most logical argument. Companions will forget to cut them in on profits, and employers will forget to pay them.

If someone attempts to remove the cloth from a conscious wearer, the cloth will strangle the wearer for increasing damage every round: 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, etc
The cloth can be stolen from an unconscious wearer, but see the next paragraph. 

The wearer will be compelled to write notes as described above (describing the effects of wearing the cloth in a positive light) before being able to remove it themselves.

If someone touches the cloth and the previous wearer is still alive, they become obsessed with the previous wearer as if they had seen them wearing Fold 1. If the person so affected has not met the previous wearer, they will dream about them and be driven to find them (and "prove their love" as above).

All current effects of the cloth will be cancelled if it is placed in Mme Adjani's grave. This should take much research, travel, and exploration to find. After a day in her grave, the cloth will attract explorers. Her passion must be spread in the world again.


The PCs coming into a city where the grizzled outcast ruined their life with Fold 2, a local built up followers with Fold 1 who are now turning on each other, and someone else is using Fold 3 to hide in plain sight could make for a nifty investigative adventure with opportunity for horror and peril.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dispatches from Viricon (FLAILSNAILS domain game)

(crowded sweating where do they all come from the city vast the occupants vaster still a susurrus of breath in out in out choke snore sweat cough strange bodies rub in the twilit coldly traversing the dim purple roads)
From A Child's Ten Thousand Views of Viricon by Auds Pendr*

Footbridges between Highton and the following quarters have collapsed from overuse:
-The Artists’ Quarter
The Twin Queens are reviewing bids from Viricon’s many Constructors, but it will be months of negotiations before reconstruction can begin. In the meantime, the Transporter’s Union has recruited many persons strong of body to carry citizens across on their backs. This goes for the Thousand Steps, the Winding Spit, and the Wan river. Many enterprising individuals have constructed vehicles to carry across those of sufficient coin in a more discreet manner.

A Southwest portion of the Tower of Nish has collapsed into parts of Lowton and Wavesend. The Cusk Brothers claim this may be due to Union activity in Wavesend. 
The pattern of debris, as read by Beanpole Matrella, indicates those beginning new endeavors in Wavesend, The Quarter of Fleeing Dogs (the FLAILSNAILS Quarter), and all entertainers in the City should begin as many sentences with the letter G as possible until the end of the month should they wish their endeavors the following Spring to succeed.

Dockworkers in Wavesend report recent sightings of Low Pan Jak. Anyone unfamiliar with that area is advised to avoid low keening, the merry singing of a maiden, and cries for help. It is unclear if wearing a Wok’s foot around the neck is still helpful in avoiding catastrophe.

*The Queens have issued a declaration.* One might recognize the characteristic wit of scribe Aut Mon.
*Those who wish to claim dominion over any area* of the new lands they clear of danger must have a Knight Avant license, available from the crown for a sum of 1000 GP, 
+500 GP for every Lieutenant Avant they wish to declare; that is, one who may claim Dominion in their absence. 
+100 GP for every Squire d’assist, that is fellow person-at-arms who will help in their endeavor under their official banner. (basically, other PCs in their party)
There are no fees for arming and training the common citizenry, especially if one takes them forth; one may be sued by families of the deceased and is responsible for any damage cause by those one arms, however, until the area is declared safe for development.
From A Child's Ten Thousand Views of Viricon by Auds Pendr*

Those who clear an area without a Knight Avant license are in danger of that land being claimed by any official Knight Avant who wishes to develop it. Knights Avant may petition the Twin Queens to have their claims enforced by the Iron Hands or other military groups under the Crown’s control.

It is the understood responsibility of a Knight Avant to clear one or more areas of danger, so that a citizen may feel safe traveling to and settling there. A Knight Avant’s ultimate responsibility to the Queens is to create new areas that citizens may settle and establish livelihoods, so relieve the egregious overcrowding of the capitol and have the satisfaction of Dominion over their own lands.
Should a Knight Avant achieve this, 100 GP per year will be forgiven of their tribute and taxes for a period of ten years.
[How I imaging this will work: in the latter half of March sometime I’ll start running hangouts for high level FLAILSNAILS PCs exploring the new lands; there will be very light play by G+ post between games, possibly in a Community or using my blog comments, to establish who’s going where and doing what. This is mainly for PCs level 7 and higher, those at or approaching “Name” level.

Each Hangout will revolve around a specific PC’s exploration, and the other PC’s along will be helping them, so each one may be a different area or a different set of problems, or we may stick with one for several sessions in a row. When a cluster of hexes is cleared of dangers that actively threaten life, the PC who claims Dominion may begin developing it according to the rules (probably slightly hacked) from the Rules Encyclopedia. I’ll fill you in if you don’t have it. It’s expensive, but hey, then you can start collecting taxes and income.

*watercolors actually by me

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Twilit Lands (FLAILSNAILS Domain Game)

Just posted this to G+; preserving here

For the first time in long memory, the flotsam and jetsam of the Planescapes will align! Though the soothsayer is toothless, blind, and drooling, you feel the truth like a shock. A Concordance is upon us.
In March, the FLAILSNAILS Domain Game Begins.
While one may stumble into the FLAILSNAILS Quarter from any number of cities, it is also in the domain of the Twilit City, Viricon. The Twin Queens Janus have consulted the Debased Oracle of Nai, and call now upon all adventurers to prepare. In a month's time, wild tracts of land will come into alignment with Viricon and the FLAILSNAILS Quarter, some permanently. Adventurers with great resources are called upon to explore and settle these areas, erecting castles and towns over which they will have dominion.

Should an area prosper and stabilize, The Queens Janus will authorize public works projects (helped along by generous donors, who may apply in due time) to run track through for the Genie-powered locomotive, stimulating trade throughout the Twilit Domain.

Beware! None know what wild creatures or indigenous peoples may reside in these lands.

So far, the Debased Oracles have seen with their not-eyes:

-a land of floating islands, many leagues above the ground

-a wasteland devoid of color, where the most stalwart suffer visions

-a forest of magical contamination, ready for the touch of Law once again

-swampland dimly inviting and deceptively quiet

-the sideways land, a mountain face with no peak or base

-verdant plains, teeming with game

...who knows what other sights and smells torture the sightless Debased!

This will be many things; high level FLAILSNAILS characters will have opportunities to spend lots of GP and make strategic decisions to best secure their area of choice, and new Pendragon/Stormbringer hack PCs will have occasional opportunities to serve these new Barons of the Twilight in exploration, settlement, and construction.

Pale shadows tremble in the glory of the Twilight!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Death Frost Doom: Horror Movie Edition

BOOM - somehow you've made it to the graveyard. It's dark and blue and there's that perfect stillness of snow and moon and dead trees. Expectant. Waiting. You're the only thing moving, and you can't imagine it was ever any other way - except - that angel statue praying at you. Did it just look away? Did it glance at your face?
You look up over the expanse of the graveyard, to the peak. Each grave not staring- no, nothing so vulgar - but aware of you. Expecting you. Hoping you'll  -
Hey, that shack at the top is pretty small. That can't be where all that stuff we heard about is, right?

(the endpapers/maps)
"Hey guys, there's a shaft!"
The clueless stumble about, flashes of graveyard, flashes of cabin, the mundane made frightening by time. NOW TUNNELS - I see them running, the clueless ones, from what they've unleashed. Screams. Glimpses of monsters. Was it right, or left? There are so many tunnels. We know where we're going to die - FADE TO BLACK.

The title lights up the screen in a diseased white, the font inevitable, trypophobia triggered -



That's my best attempt to relate the cinematic synesthetic experience I have flipping through the new edition of Death Frost Doom, from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The new edition reimagines and doubles down on every element of the graphic presentation of this OSR Classic that "launched a 1,000 screams", and I couldn't be happier about that. One of the feelings the original PDF* evoked in me that reminded me of older TSR D&D material was, "But how the hell do I use this stuff?" I could tell there was great stuff in there, but it took a lot of parsing uniform blocks of text to piece it all together.

This new edition is easy to read, easy to parse, nearly runnable from the book - which is a high accomplishment for such a dense adventure, and especially one so idiosyncratic. Zak Smith's rewrite and Jez Gordon's art, design, and cartography make it clear just how much this adventure is fission, is a haiku, is a small thing from which years of DnD (death and doom?) can flow. There's so much here, and now it's in a form my visually-oriented and ADD addled brain can make prime use of. Zak writes in such a way that James Raggi's original ideas shine; the original was so charming and unique and so fitting for a mood that's hard to capture in RPGs that I kept coming back to struggle with it's uniform blocks of text and haphazard maps. This new edition keeps that charm, uniqueness, and mood, but lays all the wonders of it out before the reader.

The edges are sharpened, the grip re-tooled, and now this baby can really cut!

Jez Gordon's new art deserves a lot of praise as well - his graphic and cinematic illustration style gives each thing it's own character while maintaining the grim mood throughout. The wealth of art in this book alone is worth the price tag.

I do have some affection for the original art - it's reminiscent of Stephen Gammell's art from Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark- so I'm glad it's included on some pages at the back of the new edition. James's commitment to crediting and honoring his artists even as things get revised is laudable.

* (I wasn't OG enough to be around the scene when the first print happened)

If you're an LotFP adherent but you've had enough of wacky magical machines, bent towers, and gooey gods, check this out.

A lot of LotFP adventures have elements that stray to the Army Of Darkness zone - stuff is wacky but can kill you. In comparison, this is much more Evil Dead I or the scary stuff of II - much darker, more a horror movie, and full of grot.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Reliquum Monstrum

Some monsters I thought of years ago, put on a map, no one went there.
I drew them a few months ago, and am rewriting them better now.

HD: 2
AC: as Chain Mail; tongue as Plate Mail
Move: 1/2 speed of running human. Flight. Hop 5ft vertically and horizontally. 
Attacks: Tongue slap (1d4), Special
Special: The Batrachian will attempt to steal food and shiny objects from above with it's long, sticky tongue. If it makes a successful attack against an object, the object is held as if with Strength 18. The Batrachian may immediately retract it's tongue on any round it hasn't moved or attacked. (For instance, it could position itself quietly hovering over someone one round, then dart it's tongue in and steal a gem or rations the next round; OR move into position and stick it's tongue to something, then retract it the next round.)
On the round after a successful tongue slap, they will rip their tongue off painfully (1d4+1 damage, target -1 to rolls next round)
They fly with a Stealth of 3 (on a d6, or slightly less than 50%)

HD: 3+2
AC: as Leather + Shield
Move: 2x human (flying), 3/4 human (walking)
Attacks: 1d4 (claws), 1d6+2 (beak)
Special: The Hachetbeak's beak attack can cause extreme wounding or damage to armor - see below.
# on to hit die
If target wearing metal armor
If target wearing non-metal armor
If target unarmored
No additional effect
AC reduced by 1
Wound will bleed 1hp/rd until healed
See above
See above
Roll 2d4, one is for duration in rounds
D4: 1: R arm disabled
2: L arm disabled
3: blinded
4: knocked unconscious
AC reduced by 1
AC reduced by 2
as 18 but turns instead of rounds
See above
See above
As 18 but lasts until extensive bedrest or advanced healing magic

(in addition to damage)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

RPG Voldenort Makes Me Think About Plants

...and now I make you think about plants.

+Zak Smith 's post/poll about plants got me thinking about a problem with plant monsters and other things I run into while DMing sometimes...

So plants. In "non-civilized" places, IE outside of town, mundane plants are often ubiquitous in the pre-industrial or post-apocalyptic type of places adventurers travel through to have their adventures.

Plant-monsters can be terrifying because they can hide in plain sight. The plant-monster, consciously or instinctually or incidentally, is hidden by non-monstrous plants until it acts in a way that violates the observers' assumptions about plants. You don't know what's dangerous or not dangerous til you're in danger, or if you've survived this particular danger in the past.

This is an ideal situation to create when DMing. The problem?

In visually immersive media (movies, video games, etc), you just show the background of plants-on-plants. The background noise from which the monster emerges, the normality which that specific type of monster violates, is instantly communicated visually. When the plants starts monstering, or like spraying seeds into your wounds, or whatever, the thing that shouldn't be moving moves, it creates a sense of horror. Something is wrong with the world, and it's being wrong all over you.

In a pen n paper RPG, the economy of communications often means you're not telling players every detail of the scene, only generalities and what they ask about specifically. When a monster shows up, even one like this, it doesn't produce horror so much as "another monster" and "oh shit it did damage to us before we noticed it."
Even with seasoned DnD monster killers, were they actual people seeing a weird green-haired lady pop out of a flower then realizing they have been walking through flowers a while and they don't know which ones have green-haired ladies and is she magical, poisonous, explodey? There would be far more of a sense of horror and nature gone wrong or at least forces-bigger-than-us-beyond-our-immediate-understanding.

This may be a trapping of DnD instead of like, Call of Cthulhu, and maybe I need to find more horror games to play in (someone with magically the same schedule as me start running horror games on G+ y'all).

The best horror-feeling situations I've experienced in DnD, as player or DM, were, like all the best results of DnD, emergent rather than planned. That's for the best, but the reason we tweak and tweak is to massage that emergence toward the results we want to happen most often.

DnD, sadly, is not a visually immersive experience. When done well, it veers between party-with-friends and collective-immersive-imagination. The visual experience is inside - sure, aided by pictures the DM shows you, minis on this Amazon box facing minis on that piece of painted styrofoam, every fantasy painting you've seen, etc - but it's not the same as wandering through a strange forest with pals and a plant suddenly opens to a face and says "Who the fuck are you and what is your nutritional content?"

Ugh fuck what was my point? I think it's to think about tools to capture this wrongness and innate hiding in plain sight that serves certain things like plant monsters in a way that's not relevant to other monsters. Methods to try and make up for the fact that characters have senses and players have senses and you're trying to account for the imaginary side of that equation and sometimes there's not a great way to make up for it.

Part of this in DnD revolves around your skill as a writer (prep before the game) and improvisationalist (gauging how to describe the stuff to your players to get across what they'd notice and what they wouldn't so they can react with meaningful choices).

It's also fighting that "monster" role any player will get in their head after a certain amount of time playing DnD, especially dungeon crawls. Like the serial monogamist trying to fit every person they date into the boyfriend or girlfriend role in their head, the players sort those they meet into NPC and Monster. I try to blur those lines often, with limited success, but if you have any great tools for that, let me know.

The thing to do when in doubt is describe what's happening to the characters and let them get themselves into more trouble, of course.