View Full Version : Creating Expectations?

2007-10-20, 06:06 PM
I have a question for the DMs that frequent these forums (and I guess some players, too), and I will illustrate my question with a section of a book, The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch.

In this section, a character tells a story about a crime lord, to teach his new ward something about him. The crime lord, in the days when his grasp on the city's gangs was new and weak, had several gangs whose desire to unseat him was an open secret. Dealing with them brutally would cost him too many allies. So he waited. In the meantime, he bought a carpet for his hall; he loudly proclaimed the love of his new carpet. In fact, whenever he invited a guest to his hall whom he intended to kill, the carpet would always be safely rooled up and out of the way, so no blood got on it. It got to the point where men could tell upon entering the room whether or not they were to live or die. Back to his troublesome gangs...... of course, no member of any of them was stupid enough to be alone or undefended in the crime lord's presence. Then he invited their leaders and the most troublesome to have dinner with him in his hall. They consulted their spies, and learned that the carpet was unrolled, right under the table where they were to have dinner. And they, believing the crime lord to be scared and wishing to negotiate, came undefended. I am sure you can guess the rest......... in the words of the character telling the tale, "If there was a drop of blood that wasn't on the carpet, it was on the ceiling." In short, this crime lord made the gang leaders expect something, then used that against them.

My question is, how do you create such expectations in your players? How do you make your players expect certain actions of your NPCs? The simplest way would be, of course, to tell them that their characters would expect it, but then they might not really believe you, and some people would be annoyed over what they see as you controlling their character. The next up would be to establish the correlation over several sessions (such as attending dinner parties where people die, and dinner parties where they don't, and emphasizing the carpet's presence or absence), but what if you don't have several sessions? Is it possible to have one of your NPCs tell stories of past events and have it convincingly believed? Or would that just be taken as an overly elaborate way of telling them straight up?

I realize that these answers would depend slightly on how gullible (or paranoid) your players are. But, as a DM, what would you do if you needed to establish some expectations quickly? As a player, which option would you prefer to have used, or be most likely to believe?

2007-10-20, 06:23 PM
Honestly, it depends on how you DM. If you like to put in a lot of fluff then the players aren't immediately going to suspect something is up if you put in a story to lull them into a false sense of security or what have you. On the other hand, if you usually keep fluff to a minimum, telling an elaborate tale like that one will make the players believe that there is something important in it and they'll fret to learn what that is. If you're good you could work either of these situations to your advantage.

2007-10-20, 07:05 PM
This is more of a metagame thing for me. The people I play with have memorized the monster manual, so they're using that information as their "expectations," so I plan on editting / changing things around on them. People Metagame, so you can use that against them, but that's the most obvious. As for adding great in-character fluff and flavor? Beyond hearing stories from NPCs and such, or constantly mentioning important items like that in the presence of PC's, I don't really know.

2007-10-20, 07:49 PM
Interestingly enough, you don't even have to make the expectations to trick the players by breaking them.

Fun expectations to reverse/deft include:

All non-metallic dragons=evil
The Darkness is always evil
Large, green goblinoids are always evil

Fun expectations to reverse/defy that are also dangerous to the PC's include:

The Tavern is safe
The Mayor/King/ruler is a reliable source of honest quest information
Paladins are always Paladins (Make a Blackguard act like a Paladin until the great reveal)
The main Church of Pelor is always good, and will never hurt you