Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Director's Vision, Part 3 (The Wow Scene)

Part 1
Part 2

In this installment of my series on the director's vision, I'll look at the wow scene - the kind of thing that gets talked about weeks or years later.

In my experience, the harder you work on a "wow" scene, the less likely it is to have the impact you want. If you work too hard at it, it becomes forced and feels unnatural. Like the pivotal scene, it's best to work with what develops at the table than to try to force the scene you've wanted to see since before the campaign started.

In another example from the same campaign I mentioned last time, there was a semi-cool scene at the end of a premade module I was running. In it, a forgotten deity thanked the party members for saving his temple and blessed them for a month. I turned it up to 11 after noticing that the deity was supposed to favor the most lawful character in the party. For this party that was the goody-goody gnome wizard who was on the verge of taking the Improved Familiar feat to get a pseudodragon.

So when I set up the hook for the adventure, the gnome was the one who had the visions that led them toward the temple. He spent the entire adventure wondering why a voice in his dreams was speaking to him in a forgotten language. Then when the party got blessed in the finale, the grateful lawful deity also bestowed an axiomatic pseudodragon familiar on the wizard. OK, I stacked the deck in my favor by laying an extra-cool templated familiar on him, but there were reactions of "Ooh" and "Nice" from around the table.

There might have been other things the deity could have done to inspire awe, but I doubt many would have had a bigger impact than bringing the wizard's new familiar into the game with such fanfare. The wizard's player definitely had an extra-soft spot in his heart for that pseudodragon for the rest of the campaign. The other PCs even went well beyond the call of duty to save it when it got in trouble once or twice.

Like with the pivotal scene, I don't have a recipe to follow to cook up a wow scene. But, like with the pivotal scene, it's probably best to just go with the flow - riff off what your players come up with or what they care about. Build up gradually - when something works pretty well, look back over it afterwards, turn it over, see if you can polish it up and morph it into something even better the next time. And when all else fails... give the wizard an uber-kewl familiar.

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