Last night we returned to Mystamyr and it was great! The players decided to investigate a barred reinforced door and see why it carried a sign to, “Stay out”. They went deeper into the darkness, straight to the edge of the gaping maw of the Underdark. Despite all the clues that dangerous and visceral beasts lurked below, the players descended to find out more.
It’s fascinating to me that as we play in these fantastic roleplaying games we also indulge our curiosity of exactly the sorts of places we would never venture in reality. As the GM, it seems to me that if you provide a deep dark hole for the player characters to explore then the temptation to investigate will grip them.
We know that monsters lurk beneath. As players, we know this is the way of things in the classical fantasy realm. While we may fear the monstrous and the dark, we also crave the danger and the rewards. For if we seek riches and power then we know that monsters horde treasure and forbidden knowledge from the civilised world.
Of course, the players are always free to pull back. In the sandbox, they are free to choose to play however they wish – to set their own goals and seek their own victories – so there is no compulsion from the GM. The drive to enter darkness comes from themselves, from their curiosity or their fear, their greed or their desire for blood.
Last night in Mystamyr, they were looking for a means to bypass a stronger enemy and access the way westward through the caverns. There are almost always ways around the obstructions we might face in the game and it is a worthy plan. The world, of course, contains mysteries and dangers unknown to the player and thus they found their way down into the Underdark.
It’s a joy to share in these journeys with players who choose to explore, delving ever deeper into the world and the lore. As GM, it’s a delight to tempt the unwary and draw them into danger and opportunity. They have surely opened a new direction in their adventuring, even if that way led to pulsating horror and the lair of unspeakable monsters.
Our role is to offer the choice, to open the way, and to tempt the players with hints of the monstrous things that lurk. Last night, they knew it would lead to danger and yet they delved deeper. They anticipated the bloody risk they were taking and they were not (I hope) disappointed.
This is why I love fantasy roleplaying games. We offer one another a trip into the unknown… except that it is perhaps a kind of expectation which grips us and draws us deeper. And in the darkness, we face the horrors together.