18 March 2017

Aleena, and the fine art of annoying the party with their hirelings

Aleena and the Bargle incident are often remembered with tongue in cheek fondness by many gamers, and for good reason, she's a memorable NPC, it's a cool campaign starter adventure hook, and Larry Elmore's art for her is D&D cheesecake gold.

But, let's look at her dialogue for a minute:
"Greetings, friend! Looking for the goblin? You might - Oh! You are hurt!
May I help?"
"My name is Aleena. I’m a cleric, an adventurer like yourself. I live in the town nearby, and came here seeking monsters and treasure. Do you know about clerics?"
"Well, the goblin went that-a-way, “He came through here so fast I almost didn’t see him. You hit him? Good for you! Goblins are nasty"
So far so good...
"Since you don’t know about clerics, let me explain. Clerics are trained in fighting like you, but we can also cast spells. I meditate, and the knowledge of spells enters my mind. One of the spells I can cast right now is a curing spell, and you look like you need it!"
"feel better? Would you care to sit and rest a bit? I’d like to tell you a few things that you will need to know later."
Um, actually chica, I've got a goblin to slay, thanks for the healing and all though...
"If you didn’t know about clerics, you probably don’t know about magic-users. They are adventurers, like you and me, but they study only spells, and rarely fight. They have different spells than we clerics do, and instead of meditating, they learn their spells from books. There are a few magic-users living in town, but not many."
"If you are attacked by a bad magicuser, you might be able to avoid the magic, but it’s harder than avoiding poison. Spells can be helpful, but they can
be very dangerous, too.

By the way, that looked like a snake bite that I cured. That can be very bad, because most poison is deadly; you were lucky that it didn’t cause more damage. Some other creatures also have special attacks, like poison. Some can paralyze, and some can even turn you to stone by just looking at you - unless you look away in time. And
dragons are the worst! They can breathe fire, acid, or other deadly things. You can never avoid all the damage from their breaths, but you can lessen it if you cover up in time."
Huh. Not only preachy, but a metagamer, this is going to get old fast.

She goes on blabbering in this preachy, almost condescending manner right up until ol' Bargle shows a little mercy on strong fighter's mental state and fries her with a magic missile.

Now, of course, this type of hand holding is probably useful to someone who is picking up D&D and the heroic fantasy genre as a whole for the very first time, but to experienced players, when read to them as npc dialogue, it gets irritating, fast.

And that's a good thing.

Especially among low level parties, the temptation to use hirelings as party crutches can be a problem in a campaign. "What, 6 of you and noone rolled up a cleric? Great, I supposed you expect me to run one for you, so you have a paramedic tagging along while I'm trying to run the monsters, npcs, etc"

Yeah, sometimes you have fewer players than the game assumes, or PC attrition during a campaign or a player absence from the game makes hirelings and other tag-a-long NPCs useful, if not required, but, if your players begin to lean on them too much, getting lazy or careless because they know the hireling will bail them out....

Make them like Aleena. Annoy the living hell out of your players every time they call on the healer or torchbearer to do their job. You don't have to go as far as having the hired thief steal from them, or the hired cleric refuse to heal those not of his alignment, just have the thief be an arrogant prick, have the magic user be overly intellectual and condescending of their mistakes and silly ideas, have the cleric preach endlessly about the glory of his faith and the sins of the players, have the fighter be a loudmouthed boor who never fails to break down parleys with insults hurled at the enemy.

You get the idea. Eventually the party will get tired of the BS and release the npc from employment, or murder him in his sleep...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comments!