Over the years, both in your games and in other campaigns with other groups, your players have developed a set of expectations about the way things usually go.
Orcs? Always evil, dumb and brutal.
Their mysterious patron? Always mysterious.
The black-robed guy in the tavern who offered them a job? Always planning to backstab them in the end.
That NPC who’s never had a kind word for the party? Always a dick.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with “always,” but it can get old. Don’t be afraid to do something different with campaign elements that are common RPG tropes, or that are common to your games.
Just make sure those changes make sense in the context of the game world (Why are these orcs our buddies? Why did our patron reveal herself?), don’t overdo it and have fun with them — your players are likely to appreciate the results.
or play a campaign setting that assumes such variety (i.e. – Eberron). 😉
I don’t think my main gaming group has ever had anything consistent about it’s games . . save that they always play anti-heroes. They tend to play the get the job done by any means possible type of people. They don’t really worry about the consequences, and have just as much fun being chased by the town guards, as fighting the evil bad guy.
I think I will run a game for them where they are scrutinized for doing bad things. Have a good/evil meter and the number of points on the “evil” scale get subtracted from their experience. The setup and pitch to the group will be interesting, but it will make for a really good change of pace.
As a player, one of the things I still remember fondly is discovering that the orcs on this particular world were quite advanced and civilized. They happened to live in the desert, where they had developed huge underground habitations, which (along with their standard armor) had forms of magical air conditioning to keep things cool.
That discovery changed orcs for good, at least for me. Changing things up is always a good thing.
I’m also a fan of Eberron in that it shakes up the stereotypes. It took a few sessions for some of the players to get used to the idea of good orcs and barbarian halflings that could rip the head off an ogre.
Now they actually take pause before kicking in the doors (sometimes).
Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be anything key to the story to catch the players’ attention. In one campaign I ran, the players’ “base of operations” was a mid-sized town. The undertaker in this town was a teenaged halfling girl who inherited the business from her father. She was the opposite of the typical undertaker stereotype, in that she was always cheerful, wore bright colours, and was very loud. Even though she was a minor NPC, the players never had any trouble remembering her name, and when her abduction became the focal point of an adventure, the PCs seemed far more devoted to her rescue, simply because she was a memorable NPC.
Sometimes you can get a lot of mileage out of turning the perceptions of players regarding good and evil on their heads. No veteran player is going to be disturbed by an orc horde anymore, but a tribe of cannibalistic elves takes what is familiar and safe (elves), and forces the PCs to adapt (quickly!).
Most players play RPGs as a way to vicariously explore and experience new and fantastic things. As a GM, you can’t go wrong by giving them exactly what they want.
Ditto to the post and comments. I don’t do “the opposites game”, because that’s a cliche in and of itself. However, I definitely mix up the assumptions a bit to keep the players on their toes.
Playing in games where things don’t always follow the “RPG assumptions” is a lot of fun, too.
I’m not sure if the main theme here is RPG assumptions, as much as fantasy assumptions. There are different genre standards in a game of shadowrun, than in dnd obviously. Sometimes they overlap, but they are very much different because of the genre. When I play shadowrun(cyberpunk) I tend to assume that every NPC could possibly be out to get me, while in a fantasy game in any system I tend to think of generic NPC as information giver/plot pusher.
One of the best examples of turning things on its head that I’ve seen for the fantasy genre was the Dark Sun setting. I’ll acknowledge that, as somebody who’s not a D&D 3+ player, I don’t have any familiarity with Ebarron or Arcana Unearthed, but the Dark Sun setting has scads of potential sitting there.
I once ran a NPC who was a dick to the PCs. He even openly interfered with their goals.
However, I used that to my advantage when I had a adventure that made him out to be a good guy- and make the PCs feel like they were working for the bad guy. I even twisted the dagger when I had the ‘dick’ NPC recover their bodies when they fell out of the sky.
They hated him for being a dick, but even more when he turned out to be right. Twas fun.
I love it when GMs shake things up a bit. One campaign I’m in has a handful of different Orc tribes… one of which doesn’t look quite so ugly and isn’t as stupid, and which is capable of some very noble acts, even though they have to do them in secret since most folks would still believe they’re evil. It makes the evil Orcs more interesting in their own right by contrast, because they’re no longer just faceless bad guys simply by virtue of being Orcs.
Heather, I definitely agree. Most of the orcs can be evil, but if you throw in just a small group that isn’t, it gives the players pause.
I ran a session recently where the players were investigating a church that was getting robbed. They caught a goblin inside the church, but the goblin was actually trying to make a donation, and the thief was just a raven collecting pretties for its nest. It was the LG cleric and the paladin that got the drop on the goblin, so she didn’t die immediately, and she introduced herself as Sally and explained how she knew the priest of the church.
To this day, my player’s talk about how surprised they were to meet a goblin named Sally.
For a minute there I thought this thread was about killing off player’s familiars.
That’s just cruel. 😛
(John Arcadian) Iâ€™m not sure if the main theme here is RPG assumptions, as much as fantasy assumptions.
I was aiming for general RPG assumptions, not any particular game or genre — but I do think fantasy tends to have the most widely known tropes and conventions. I should have picked more diverse examples. 😉