Shake My Tree
Posted by Dale Coverpage on March 15, 2013
It was my first time DM-ing and I had only prepared a goblin-ridden fort and the southern half of a town for exploration. The players were all friends, some gamers before, but several new to table top entirely. I was terrified that I had not prepared enough and that the game would be a disaster.
My plan was to get them to the fort as soon as possible. Let them see a reward poster, hear a rumor or something, so that they might get straight into hack-n-slash and let me work on NPCs for another gaming session. I even told them that I had not planned much of the town yet;
"I have this simple dungeon, and it will probably be best if you guys just get there as soon as possible," I said.
So what do they all do at the front gates of the town called Fjord? Split up and explore every nook and cranny. My players chose to question every street urchin I mentioned, search through every menu item at the Red Flagon Inn, apply for loans at the local law firm Dwarven and Dwarven, and explore all the surrounding farmland.
We had a blast.
The highlight of the evening came after about two hours of town hijinks, when the party Druid, named Drust, decided to approach the tree growing in front of the town hall.
"Hello, tree," said Drust.
"Hello," said the tree, in a melancholy voice. "How is it you can talk to me?"
"I am a Druid. I can talk to all the trees and animals."
"Fascinating. I haven't had conversation in years, not since they cut down every tree in the forest. I am all that remains."
"Why is that?"
"They wanted something to decorate their lawn in front of town hall. Its a lonely existence."
After some careful consideration Drust asked, "Do you wish for death?"
I looked at the player in shock, I didn't expect this at all. Then I reached for a D20 to decide the trees answer. Natural one.
"YES! YES! Kill me now," screamed the tree!
And then Drust set him on fire. With magic.
"AAAAAAAUUUUUUGH!" The tree screamed though only the Druid cold hear it. "WHY ARE YOU BURNING ME! IT HURTS!"
"Hey! What the hell are you doing?" It was the town guard. "That is town property!"
What then ensued was a two hour argument between the town guards and every party member as they arrived to persecute or defend Drust, respectively. The party Wizard froze the tree to death in all the confusion as Pwent, the Ranger Dwarf, guided the legal fallout with his ranks in Profession (lawyer). The captain of the guard finally arrived and proceeded to arrest every member of the party for questioning (under Pwent's counsel of course).
The next 45 minutes were one-on-one sessions with each player as they, in character, described what had happened leading up to that point. The captain of the guard made his case against Drust. Things were looking grim for the Druid so Pwent, our Dwarven lawyer, asked what could be done to make this all go away.
"Well.." said the captain.
I thought for a moment, and then it struck me,
"There is a dungeon of goblins that need taking care of down the road," suggested the captain.
To this day that is still the best game I ever ran as well as the story most often told when new players join the group, and whenever I see a new GM get nervous about whether he can improvise I just tell them,
"Go with it. Worst case scenario, the group spends several hours arguing about a tree."