and why it pays for your PC to have friends!
It’s really hard for me to believe, but our home Steymhorod game is coming to a close! In case you’re not yet familiar with our work and worlds, Steymhorod is the setting for our Land of Vampires campaign, which we launched into three years ago at our home table and which has since blossomed into a campaign you can play at home too!
This second half of our arc—we took a break during the first two years of the pandemic—will become its own Land of Vampires Part Two in time, but these campaign endings don’t come along very often.
As Jonathan and I have been reflecting on the end of this campaign, we’ve noticed something special about my PC, Briseras. Though she may have a prickly demeanor, she has so many powerful friends. And those friendships are paying off for her in Steymhorod. Briseras, more than my other PCs, understands what it is to have to fend for herself. She knows what it means to face impossible odds, enemies she can’t defeat on her own power. And so she’s been making allies this whole time!
Allies are really what this post is about, how to take advantage of them in your duet game without clogging up the table or the plot. Instead, we’ll look at how allies can help your PC focus on their most pressing concerns and what matters most to them.
Why We Have Allies
To illustrate how allies can help your PC achieve multiple goals at once, I’d like to offer a more specific look at our home game.
Briseras has been building up her stable of allies since she arrived in Steymhorord. It’s a strategy she’s leaned on more recently as we’ve gotten to higher levels and the enemies are even harder to defeat. They’re more powerful than the small band of my PC and her companions can manage on their own.
Now we’re seeing dividends from this plan as Briseras’s cadre of allies has allowed us to divide our forces and work on multiple goals at once:
- she’s retrieved a vampire ally who will go out and take on the nightwalkers (a task Briseras cannot manage on her own and survive),
- her closest companion and his new werewolf friend are going to beseech Arduenne’s help with raising her last two sisters,
- and Briseras is going to venture out into the Shadowlands to find Lord Draego and bring him back to Steymhorod
In order to work out the narrative portion of this part of our game and keep our story focus moving in the most interesting direction (following Briseras), we’re leaning on summary for the other narrative arcs. This strategy is great for keeping the narrative momentum moving toward climax while also allowing us to tie up the loose story threads still dangling about Steymhorod.
Summary in the DM’s Toolkit
In fiction, summary is a tool we keep in our writing belt to pull out when we need to move the plot along. It helps to clue readers in to information they need but perhaps information they don’t need to see happen live.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and how it applies to our D&D games. How often do we turn to summary as a tool to get our characters from place to place? To perform a similar task or action to what we’ve performed before?
This is a question I get pretty often from new GMs; they don’t want to skip over the player getting to know different NPCs, but there’s a fine line between full immersion and the story beginning to drag. So, if you’re wondering if summary might be of use to you in your game, try asking yourself the following quetsion:
Is there part of my game where I can summarize events in order to create a more interesting problem for my player and their PC to solve?
Summary in Combat
Summary is also something Jonathan and I turn to when the stakes of a combat have fallen and we know the party will be successful. We don’t need to play out every last damage roll (though of course you can if it’s fun for you!) and instead, we can use that time to delve into an RP that might otherwise have had to wait until the next week.
As an example, we recommend DMs of Land of Vampires use summary after the first few zombie attacks after the party no longer find them to be a challenge. Yes, everywhere they go, they’re facing zombies, but it’s not always necessary to play out the combat.
Summary, in Summary
For me, summary is best when the narrative stakes are low or when we can gloss over a not-so-interesting problem and lean, instead, into a much more interesting problem.
And that returns us to the question of allies.
Back to Allies
At the end of a recent session, Jonathan and I were talking over what our different party groups were going to do, and he happily proclaimed, “That’s what allies are for!”
Because Briseras has spent so much time building up her list of allies, she can do the one thing that only she can do: Bring Draego back.
She trusts her friends to take care of the tasks that they’re best suited for, just like they trust her to take care of her mission. It’s one of my favorite fantasy themes in action in our game and, just as Jonathan said, that’s what allies are for 🙂
Do you see places, especially as your party nears the end of their time in a particular location or a campaign arc, where you could lean on summary and allies to increase the stakes in your game?
We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!
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