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Madeiner
2013-02-07, 05:47 AM
Hi there,

i just finished DMing a very good murder mistery adventure.
I won't describe it much here as i don't want to spoiler anything, but at the end of the adventure, the PCs learned that the murderer was a changeling (eberron).
The changeling had the form of an NPC they had interacted with many times during the adventure.
Now, changeling can shift their bodies at will, so the players thought that maybe the changeling was actually playing the role of TWO npcs, and they became so excited while trying to figure out which NPCs they had never seen together in the same room.

I think their idea was actually quite ingenious, and that version would have made the adventure far better than it was, and they were so shocked to have come to that realization that i didn't want to break their sense of achievement.

I considered for a few minutes if i could instantly change the whole story over, and making it so the changeling actually was disguised as two NPCs at different times.
In the end i decided against it, partly because i didn't have time to think all the clues through and i had no idea if they still made sense that way, and partly because it didn't sound "okay" to just change everything up while the adventure was almost over.

Anyway, the players liked the adventure very much, even if the finale wasn't that great, as the assassin simply wanted to flee the PCs, and they were expecting a final confrontation with her. Instead, she just jumped off a bridge in Sharn with a feather fall spell and disappeared forever. Maybe i could have changed that too, i don't know.

I just think it would have been a far better story if the changeling was actually impersonating two people, and with a final confrontation moment.

What do you think of this? Would you have changed the adventure if you had the opportunity, or do you think it is not "ethically correct" to do so?

hymer
2013-02-07, 05:59 AM
A changeling was the murderer?? The shock! :smallwink:

I guess it depends a bit on the campaign. Basically, changing things is perfectly allright if you can do it consistently. On the other hand, in a very detailed sandbox, conistence may be difficult to achieve - and changing things might be against the idea behind the campaign. So in such a case I'd be much more wary of changing things in such a way. But it all depends on whether you pull it off. If you do, you've done nothing wrong.

About the ending, I'd try to give them a chance to track the murderer down. Disappears forever is kinda boring. At least turn him/her into a recurring villain.

Jack of Spades
2013-02-07, 07:16 AM
Well, in this particular case, it seems like it would have ended up being even more fun if you had dropped "hints" that they were on to something, and then pulled the carpet from under their feet at the very end. Maybe have both of those NPC's, each of whom could plausibly be the target, turn up in the same room. Then the PC's need to figure out who to accuse and who to let go. In storytelling and DMing, especially in the mystery genre, the best thing to do when you know the expectations of your audience is to use that to your advantage in making the eventual revelation of the truth have more gravity. The Giant once said in an interview that he sometimes reads the forums so that he can try to "run away" from people's expectations (paraphrasing of course). And look how popular OotS is.

As for what's correct, you're the DM. You can change the story as much as you want, whenever you want. It's not like the players will know.

Also, I definitely agree with the post above mine. Having someone disappear forever is always more boring than having them become a recurring villain.

Madeiner
2013-02-07, 08:06 AM
Also, I definitely agree with the post above mine. Having someone disappear forever is always more boring than having them become a recurring villain.


Thanks for your answers guys :)

Regarding this part, i wanted to make the assassin come back to kill the last person she wanted to kill.
However, i decided against it, since the assassin was described as not caring about the PCs, not even wanting to kill them at all. She just wanted to run away, and it was specified in the adventure that she would flee from the PCs if she could. In the epilogue, a few months later, she is described as coming back to finish the job, if and when the PCs left the last target without protection.

She bears no ill will to the PCs and has no reasons to ever come back and become a BBEG, even if i admit it is a rather stale finale.

nedz
2013-02-07, 10:26 AM
Changing the story in response to the player's theory would have been an interesting example of collective story telling. On the other hand having the PCs follow a red herring is also fun. I've done both in the past.

There's no reason that the changeling cannot become a recurring villain but you might want to rest her for a couple of missions.

valadil
2013-02-07, 10:42 AM
Changing the story in response to the player's theory would have been an interesting example of collective story telling. On the other hand having the PCs follow a red herring is also fun. I've done both in the past.

There's no reason that the changeling cannot become a recurring villain but you might want to rest her for a couple of missions.

I've done that sort of thing before. It works in some contexts, but not others. The danger in it is you end up with an all roads lead to Rome game. As long as the players come up with plausible, interesting theories, they'll always be right. Where's the fun in that?

I think you should always let them explore the possibilities they come up with, but you aren't obliged to make those possiblities correct. In this case, I'd only have made the change if there were a good candidate for another NPC to have been the changeling. If you have three candidates of NPCs who haven't met each other, and none of them really make sense, don't go for the plot change just for the cool factor. Do it if it makes sense and you have somewhere to go with it.

nedz
2013-02-07, 12:28 PM
I've done that sort of thing before. It works in some contexts, but not others. The danger in it is you end up with an all roads lead to Rome game. As long as the players come up with plausible, interesting theories, they'll always be right. Where's the fun in that?

I think you should always let them explore the possibilities they come up with, but you aren't obliged to make those possiblities correct. In this case, I'd only have made the change if there were a good candidate for another NPC to have been the changeling. If you have three candidates of NPCs who haven't met each other, and none of them really make sense, don't go for the plot change just for the cool factor. Do it if it makes sense and you have somewhere to go with it.

Yes, I have mixed feelings about it for that very reason.

It is a useful trick if the party are stuck and you just want to move things along.

It can also be a fun way of taking a plot arc way out on the left field.

Not something to be over done though.

valadil
2013-02-07, 01:20 PM
So I've done this to good effect in a different circumstance. I'm not sure if that makes it an argument in favor or a counterargument demonstrating how it should be done. At any rate, here's something similar that worked for me.

I ran a thieves guild game several years ago. All the PCs were at least half rogue. When the PCs were in town the sessions used this format:

1. Gather information.
2. Plan heist.
3. Steal goal.

Initially I planned the hell out of the heists. But I couldn't plan for everything 5 players could. During phase 2, they always brought up ideas I hadn't thought of and brought contingencies along for those. If they thought there might be guard dogs, they brought steaks. When step 3 rolled around, I rewarded their foresight with guard dogs.

Anyway, they got so into the info/planning portion of the game that I stopped writing any details about the heist and just prepped for it while the players did their own planning. Whenever they came up with potential hazards I wrote those down and later deployed them. If I had a less creative group the game would have been easier for them...

But this situation is inherently different than what you ran. I wanted to do open ended problem solving. A mystery is supposed to have exactly one solution. So while I'm okay with changing D&D session details mid session, I think changing a mystery is another matter.

1337 b4k4
2013-02-07, 01:36 PM
There's absolutely nothing "unethical" about changing up the plot mid stream if the players come up with a better plot than the one you have. Whether or not it's a good idea is dependent on whether or not you can retcon or hand wave the existing clues and whether you want your players to be right or not.

What would be unethical is your players stumbling upon your plot before you wanted them to and altering the plot so that they're suddenly wrong.

Ozfer
2013-02-07, 04:19 PM
I do it all the time. Often my players have a theory that is better than what I had prepared, and if it wouldn't break immersion or retcon anything, I go along with it (Unless it would cause more fun and drama for them to be wrong).

Scow2
2013-02-07, 09:43 PM
The assassin should still be a recurring villain, even if she doesn't have any ill intent to the PCs. Make her an enemy of circumstance, having the PCs actions constantly encounter her as she tries to go about her own business. There doesn't need to be any recurring vendetta.

Jay R
2013-02-07, 11:32 PM
Start with the feasibility questions:

1. Can you change it seamlessly, so everything is consistent and they cannot see the change?

2. Can you work out the completion of the new scenario, as completely as you have done the current scenario?

If the answer to both of those is "yes", then you are running Schrodinger's Scenario. The scenario is neither changed nor the same until you decide to open the box and change it (or not).

So now you ask the comparison question:

3. Which way would be more fun to play, and to run?

Madeiner
2013-02-08, 04:40 AM
Start with the feasibility questions:

1. Can you change it seamlessly, so everything is consistent and they cannot see the change?

2. Can you work out the completion of the new scenario, as completely as you have done the current scenario?

If the answer to both of those is "yes", then you are running Schrodinger's Scenario. The scenario is neither changed nor the same until you decide to open the box and change it (or not).

So now you ask the comparison question:

3. Which way would be more fun to play, and to run?


Thank you again all of you :)
I like the scrhoedinger's scenario idea, but sometimes things go wrong.

What if you think you can pull off the change and keep everything consistent, but fail and the PCs end up discovering that you have decided to change things up?
Would you as player be disappointed? I think i might...

Kelb_Panthera
2013-02-08, 04:52 AM
Thanks for your answers guys :)

Regarding this part, i wanted to make the assassin come back to kill the last person she wanted to kill.
However, i decided against it, since the assassin was described as not caring about the PCs, not even wanting to kill them at all. She just wanted to run away, and it was specified in the adventure that she would flee from the PCs if she could. In the epilogue, a few months later, she is described as coming back to finish the job, if and when the PCs left the last target without protection.

She bears no ill will to the PCs and has no reasons to ever come back and become a BBEG, even if i admit it is a rather stale finale.

While that may have been true before. Upon being thwarted that "has" became a "had."

Petty vengeance, professional pride, pragmatism; these are all reasons the assassin might start gunning for the PC's now. Nobody likes failing (vengeance), a job is a job and they're in the way (pragmatism), his reputation will be tarnished by the failure the PC's have caused (professional pride).

You may also have to contend with the players deciding that your assassin is the next BBEG and go hunting after him.

On the topic at hand; I don't see how your decision could be considered wrong. You have enough to do as a DM that choosing -not- to rewrite a story that's almost over is perfectly acceptable. Frankly, wasting the time on a rewrite at this point seems a bit counter-productive.

Madeiner
2013-02-08, 05:07 AM
While that may have been true before. Upon being thwarted that "has" became a "had."

Petty vengeance, professional pride, pragmatism; these are all reasons the assassin might start gunning for the PC's now. Nobody likes failing (vengeance), a job is a job and they're in the way (pragmatism), his reputation will be tarnished by the failure the PC's have caused (professional pride).


Yeah i could make a big leap and make it happen, but it doesn't look that interesting.

The assassin was actually a woman who had lost her child to an accident. She was angry that no one did anything for her child, she was just accepted as part of the incident. She killed all that were responsible even slightly, and the PCs weren't able to interfere with her plans, only delay them for a while. She escaped the city, probably finally in peace.

Can't see a way to bring her back. Also i believe PCs shouldn't always win, and this is one of the very few times that a villains actually "wins".

Kelb_Panthera
2013-02-08, 07:27 AM
Yeah i could make a big leap and make it happen, but it doesn't look that interesting.

The assassin was actually a woman who had lost her child to an accident. She was angry that no one did anything for her child, she was just accepted as part of the incident. She killed all that were responsible even slightly, and the PCs weren't able to interfere with her plans, only delay them for a while. She escaped the city, probably finally in peace.

Can't see a way to bring her back. Also i believe PCs shouldn't always win, and this is one of the very few times that a villains actually "wins".

Never would've guessed that. Assassin has certain connotations; noteably the notion of a contract-killer.

If the above is the case then, yeah, the only way that character recurs is if the party decides to hunt her down as another mystery adventure. Given her nature as a changeling and the likely derth of information regarding her whereabouts, it seems rather likely that attempts to find her simply won't pan out.

Jay R
2013-02-08, 08:49 AM
What if you think you can pull off the change and keep everything consistent, but fail and the PCs end up discovering that you have decided to change things up?
Would you as player be disappointed? I think i might...

You haven't given us anything to base an opinion on.

Was it a fun, engaging game that was clearly not the original plan, but was unique and fascinating? No, nobody would be disappointed to discover that this was the second idea, not the first.

Was it an idea that didn't work, with inconsistencies and unfair difficulties, with time-wasting diversions because of the inconsistencies? Yes, people would be disappointed - but still wouldn't care if it was your first idea or your second.

Middle scenario: did you pick up on one of their ideas and run with it, but when they compared it to their original clues, determined that it couldn't work, headed in a different direction, and you had no way to reconcile the early clues under the first scenario and the later clues under the second scenario? Yes, they would be disappointed, not because it wasn't your original plan, but because it was inconsistent and unworkable.

Hence my original two questions:


1. Can you change it seamlessly, so everything is consistent and they cannot see the change?

2. Can you work out the completion of the new scenario, as completely as you have done the current scenario?

yougi
2013-02-10, 11:18 AM
If I had enough time to rethink everything through, yes, I definitely would. If not, I wouldn't, just in case something I didn't think of doesn't make sense anymore. In your case, I would have looked for how plausible it was while they were discussing, and if I needed more time, either adjourned the session (or thrown a combat encounter at them) and rethought things at home, or just rolled with my first idea.

I once had the same problem, dropped my PCs in a semi-plane, where small "pocket-worlds" representing various child stories would run, and they'd have to get "keys", various items marked with painted letters. The first they caught was a goblin's glass eye with an F, which lead one of the guys to a quick conclusion: the party's bard is named Franak, and one of the recurring joke about him is that he wears a re-fluffed Artificer Monocle, which is actually an Artificer's Glass Eye (yes, he did take out one of his own eyes for that, and yes, I'm crazy like that). They therefore thought the keys would each represent a character. The next one was a tea cup with a B on it: the former cleric was named Berrick, and was often played a la British. They thought they had it all figured out, but it included former characters. In the end, they had G-B-E-A-C-F-D: their theories didn't work. It took them about half an hour to figure out it was just the first seven letters of the alphabet. A half-hour during which I was laughing so much I was in pain by the end.

And after that, I complain that my players don't try to understand anything.

prufock
2013-02-10, 04:59 PM
The changeling had the form of an NPC they had interacted with many times during the adventure.
Now, changeling can shift their bodies at will, so the players thought that maybe the changeling was actually playing the role of TWO npcs, and they became so excited while trying to figure out which NPCs they had never seen together in the same room.

I have changed adventure details before, but only if it made sense. IE, what reason did the party have to believe the changeling was playing two NPCs? Were there some clues that pointed in that direction, or were they just making a baseless assumption?

If they were connecting things that made sense that I just hadn't realized, I could see changing it. If they're just making stuff up without evidence, though, I wouldn't.