Turning murderhobos into heroes

Mines, Claws & Princesses is intended to work as high fantasy turned up to ten. The only issue with an adventure of noble and goodly heroics is that the natural state of a player is to be a murderhobo. This is usually counteracted by hard baking morality into the rules through subtle or unsubtle ways, such as in Star Wars or OD&D. My goal with the adventure was to design the introduction in such a way that it would naturally lead the players into a heroic role with some psychology and manipulation.

The adventure begins with three elements, the literal call to adventure, the aftermath of the orc raid, and the ancient warrior-maid Girelda. The call to adventure consists of the Efried calling out for the able bodies among his injured warriors. He says, ” Only you are left who can hold a sword. Go now. The orcs ride to Sanjikar and you must follow”. The important point is that the onus of responsibility is on the players, they’ll either be heroes or cowards. With enough gravitas and a decent delivery, most players will accept this from the GM. For your cynical players or those who can’t accept a hard initial railroad (maybe they expect the entire adventure to be a railroad), the other adventure hooks are provided.

Running the aftermath consists of a series of three simultaneous events combined with the time pressure of pursuing the escaping orcs. The events orient the players into a chaotic world. Strange creatures from the mountain, who speak a foreign language that we don’t understand, came down, killed our men, and stole our women. Forcing the players to immediately make decisions, helping innocent people or chasing the orcs, improves immersion and removes any sense of being a neutral observer. The hidden manipulation is that any decision short of loafing about or walking away from the adventure casts the players as heroes.

Girelda serves an interesting function. The ruin of the village imparts to the players the desperation of the situation while Girelda is the first hint of the tone. She pleads desperately that the dungeon is a pit of evil and despair. While I prefer to run Girelda earnestly in play, I know that the players will nonetheless hear, “Oh please don’t go to this awful place filled with orcs, demons, slimes, a dragon. Ya know, all of the awesome stuff you want to fight in a D&D adventure. You’re probably not capable enough anyway…”. During playtest, the players were confused by Girelda and a bit indignant. Until she finally revealed herself as a woman out of myth, a mystical gifter of magic swords. At this point the party has hopefully been primed for heroics, now they’re tapping into something more primeval.

Of course, your party could go through this intro in dozens of other ways. Regardless, the various events in the introduction should nudge even the most ruthless and cynical murderhobo player.


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