Fear the Well-Meaning

I have come to realize, after yet another D&D session that ended with Kevin holding his head in his hands and moaning as the plot jumped the rails, went down an embankment, and burst into flames, what precisely the problem with our D&D group is.

We mean well.

This is what gets us into trouble.

When there are straightforward bad guys, we kill them. Occasionally we flirt with them and then kill them. We’re complicated people. But the situation is hardly ever straightforward, and if the NPCs say anything—or god forbid, Kevin attempts to provide a little local color—it’s all over. We begin to sympathize. Unless they’re mindless zombies or malicious demons (the paladin belongs to a demonslaying order) or abominations (the druid has issues) we have a bad habit of trying to work out the best possible solution, because damnit, we are all well-meaning, basically decent people. (The rogue has a heart of gold. Really.)

So we rescue the little caged monster because it Looked Sad, and we joined the local adventurer’s co-op and we bend over backwards to make sure that Lawrence, the artificer’s spirit-toad familiar, never finds out that he’s not a real toad, to the point where we started buying ghost-cicadas on a ghost-stick to feed him.

In this most recent extravaganza, we were fighting a wood-woad, and it occurred to me to ask it why it was so angry. Kevin, who had not actually expected us to talk to it—it’s been sending wasps to poison the water supply—summoned up his growly wood-woad voice and said “Uh…humans take water supply! Humans cut trees! Always cutting trees!”

Well. What can you do? Clearly the wood-woad had been wronged!

The paladin wanted to find it a nice new home, the druid thought it was an invasive species and wanted it killed. It came out that it had slain all the local beavers, which was enough to enrage the paladin. We beat on it for awhile. Finally:

PALADIN: Can we ask it to surrender now? Offer it terms?

DRUID: It’s a wood-woad! It…y’know, sure. Fine. See if it’ll accept terms.

PALADIN: (Rolls natural 20 on Diplomacy roll.) Excuse me, Mr. Wood-Woad, sir…if you stop now, no more of your little wasp friends will be hurt, and surely we can work something out where nobody will take your water supply again…?

DRUID: (sighs heavily)

GM: (weeps into hands)

So now we are traveling to an orchard owned by the paladin’s order, with a wood-woad stuffed in a half-barrel full of potting soil, which is tied to the back of an elephant, because the rogue happens to own a wondrous elephant. Y’know. Like you do.

Mind you, being well-meaning also means that we have put several towns to the torch, sowed the fields of one with salt, tied a priest to a bed on at least one occasion and spent much of last week trying to figure out how to burn down the sky. And don’t get us started on orphanages. There is always something evil going on at orphanages. It is better to simply burn them down preemptively before they get all Children of the Corn on you. No good ever comes of sparing the orphanage.

I have been in other campaigns where we did not Mean Well quite so aggressively, and they were not nearly so much fun. On the other hand, since apparently killing the wood-woad was kinda a plot point, Kevin is now scrambling to figure out what to do next, but hey, that’s the GM’s life…

  • reply Joel ,

    Thanks for the post – it made me laugh. I wonder if I can convince my players to be well meaning?

    • reply Meghan ,

      Sadly, I don’t play as I haven’t found a group of people local to me to join, but I sent the link to this to my former DM. He responded that it “speaks to [his] soul” and he felt as though you had written it just for him. I’m not sure if that was a positive assessment or not though because his tone seemed rather mournful. Ah well. My character still maintains that that one dwarf insulted his own mother and the riot that followed was not her fault.

      • reply Theresa ,

        I couldn’t stop giggling at this post. Thanks for making my day (as I too have been one fo the “well meaning” adventurers before. And I think I’d have to heartily concur about orphanages. 😉

        • reply James Kilbride ,

          Your DM needs to revel in well meaning players. These will be the stories that stick with you. As a DM and player it is the well meaning acts that are remembered by my friends. Like the time the players rescued a bear cub from goblins, but only after it’s mother was killed and the rogue and wizard decided to adopt it, and then it ended up intelligent(high int than the rest of the party) and being taught practical jokes.

          In fact this type of thing happens so often that I make sure that there IS a side plot available for as many possible sidetracks, and my parties now enjoy the side plots often more than the main plots.(Current game the party has adopted two baby green dragons(who’s mother they butchered and turned into jerky) and an imperial princess and at one point they adopted the succubbus sent to spy on them and corrupt them and instead ended with her falling in love with one of the players and sacrificing herself for them.(Diplomacy much folks?)

          • reply Overheard at D&D - just one anna ,

            […] D&D group can best be described as a comedy of errors. In fact, it often reminds me of Ursula V’s D&D stories, though ours are as often as not related to non RP conversations as RP stories. I usually keep a […]

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