Have a plot but you hate having passive players?

I’m posted this recently: I’d like to explain that having plots makes players passive lumps. Why is that? Because if a player ever goes to do something that would screw the plot up, the GM does one or both of the following A: Subtley or obviously chastises the player or B: Makes events stop the player from doing the action.

The thing is, the player is never sure what action will cause the plot to break. So what’s the best solution for the player if they don’t want the plot to break and to suffer A or B? Well….do nothing. Be a passive lump. That way you can’t break the GMs precious plot.

GMs who use plot but loathe passive players are their own worst enemy.

Let Slip the GMs of War!

So the thought exercise is this: each player would take a slip of paper from a container without looking. Then they can look at the slip and hide it under something in front of them.

One of the slips says they are also a GM at the table! Lets say the number of slips of paper are equal to three times the number of players – so there’s about a one in three chance of a player being a secret GM – because they do not declare they are a GM. They sit quietly, as if just a regular player.

The point is, though, that the GM cannot try to just ‘run a story’, because if the ‘player’ who is actually their co-GM decides to reveal themselves, they can act like a GM just as much. And if the second GM tried to ‘run a story’, how would that work when it’s not the same story??

It wouldn’t. And that’s the point of this thought exercise – to show how each player is already like a mini GM, because they control one ‘NPC’ each. And you can change a lot of setting with one (N)PC – and more to the point, the player can attempt to run a story.

How will that work out? Well players already play their characters with the expectation that like in real life things don’t always go your way, it wont always go their way for what they do with their character/what they do with the story they run. This leaves players fairly flexible in regards to all of them running their own stories around each other.

Again, that’s the point of the exercise – it shows up whether a GM could handle there being another GM/is flexible like a player. The randomness of the slips would mean you can’t be sure there is another GM but you also can’t be sure there isn’t. You would have to bring together game world elements, but you couldn’t be sure you could just try and run ‘your story’.

Witless Poem

It’s curious, the bent between…not actual signal to noise but instead signal to reception.

The billowing urgency, the message, the rising tide.


The pointlessness of the transmission. Dial a random phone number and speak into it without listening.

The same.

Grasp. Reach. Traction. Point. Morale. Effort. Institutionalized thieves, setting us against us and collecting the pittances into their own pocket.

(How many man hours are put into youtube? Yet who gains the profit?

But yet more people flock still.

They see glamour, when glamour is no longer attached to food and shelter.

They can’t see past their seeing. Which is the message.

And if you want to pass on a message, hand over your man hours to the thief)


And the silence in attempting to figure traction, when traction is all about not being silent.

Have I dialed your number?

Encounter 05, The Request

05 The request

There is a trap ahead of the PCs. It consists of a magically animated stone face on the wall that will speak to them when they approach. Whether it is merely an animated construct with no thought or spirit behind its words or whether it thinks is not quite clear.

But it will speak and say to the group “Please put fifty gold coins in the receptacle below.“

There is a small receptacle like bowl built below the face. If coins are put into it, the receptacle folds back into the wall beneath the face, there’s a clinking sound and then the receptacle folds back out again, empty.

If fifty gold is put into the bowl, it does just that…and nothing else happens! In a way this is a kind of strange trap, if money is given. But it goes further.

If no money is put into the receptacle bowl, the face starts to look angry and repeats the ‘request’ in a lower tone, delivered through clenched teeth.

If the PCs say no, the face gets even more angry looking. Then after a few more seconds/a chance for the PC’s to say anything else, the corridors trap is triggered.

If a PC says ‘If you are saying please, you should be able to take no for an answer’ or some variant of that phrase, the face just gets worse and becomes psychotic! But the traps have become out of control too and all characters have advantage to save on the traps.

A character who attempts to disarm the trap must beat DC: 19. If they do, the method of disarming is to state the above phrase, then when the phase goes into berserk rage, to give it a swift punch (no attack roll necessary). The face will disappear and become smooth black stone, the traps remaining inert. The trap will reset in future though. Perhaps after an hour – it doesn’t remember for very long!

If the PCs attempt to flee the face, it will fire the traps.

It is indeed traps plural – from the direction the party was headed, dart guns slide out from the wall and fire darts down the corridor. While at the same time from behind the party a blade at knee height unfolds from a wall then races along a groove in the wall toward the party!

You may want to give the last two party members a perception check of around DC 10 to notice the blade advancing on them from behind. Otherwise the whole party is at disadvantage to save against the blade. Also those who are aware of the blade and think to say they try jumping before they make their save against it with advantage!

The DC and damage of the darts and blades I leave to you good souls to determine. Also the XP, for surely this encounter is worth some XP. Or if you want an idea for them, leave a comment 🙂

The PCs may well simply leave after this. But if they investigate they find that actually the face is set in a door that is near flush with the wall. And which is also locked! But if picked the party finds a small cupboard like space behind the door and 100 gold laying on the ground in it, plus any gold the PC’s put in there!