Roleplaying requires constant improvisation by both players and Keepers. The MoN campaign materials provide us with a wealth of material to draw from with many detailed characters and location descriptions, but sometimes we find ourselves portraying bit players or describing unexpected locales. We frequently discover our groups getting interested in something that may not be plot-relevant or fleshed out. Rather than wave off their interest or block them, we can instead use a whammy (or bang) to institute a pause by interrupting the player’s pursuit of that lead allowing the Keeper inter-session time to engineer campaign links and flesh out a rewarding encounter. Of course, you can skip all that and just improvise, but let us provide you with a fun example from our New York Chapter before you write us off.
While attending a lavish party at Erica Carlye’s newly purchased penthouse at the Roosevelt Hotel, Irina gossiped with a woman that revealed that Hypatia Masters had an intense relationship with a Marxist professor. The conversation featured some descriptive material about Ms. Masters, as well as some sordid innuendo. Irina walked away with an extremely keen interest in Raoul and what might have happened. A few sessions later, after the Will Reading, Irina convinced the group they needed to track down Raoul and interrogate him about his involvement with Hypatia.
The group’s level of excitement about confronting this presumed lothario exploded. Irina convinced Lucia that they would have it out with this scoundrel and wring him for whatever useful information they could. At this point, we had little on Raoul beyond his profession and role as Hypatia Masters’ former lover. An encounter with Raoul at this point could be an entertaining interlude with a nugget of information, but with some prep work, it could seed some great foreshadowing about Kenya and provide additional leads for the Investigators, thus creating a rewarding encounter on par with their excitement. The players could find the rich NPC they were anticipating. Instead of denying the encounter or moving forward with improvisation, a pause was instituted. We selected a random event from the New York table and proceeded to set up a distracting encounter.
While driving to Raoul’s office across town, we called for Spot Hidden rolls. Behind the wheel, Lucia kept a close watch on her rear-view mirror and noticed a tailing car containing cultists. By dropping a new whammy, we had instituted a pause in the search for Raoul. This whammy rapidly evolved into an exciting car chase and set up a violent encounter with the cultists to end the session. By offering an exciting, yet easier, prep-free encounter, we had delayed the showdown with Raoul while concluding the session on a dramatic note.
How would you have handled the player’s interest in Raoul? Do you prefer to pause or improvise in these situations?