You know what I mean. That totally screwball idea, that thing that blindsides your GM from nowhere.
See we love it when everything goes to plan, right? We GMs love setting up a moment that goes off without a hitch, seeing the thing develop from point to point until the party are where you want them and the story point pops off. Sure, it's been a little bit hairy here and there - maybe there's been a couple of times where a little handholding was necessary, and perhaps some clues were missed...
...but you got to the bit you needed to get to, and you get to deliver the blow that you had up your sleeve the entire time. And hopefully the party enjoy - or at least appreciate - it.
The stuff of legend, though, is when you go so far off the beaten path that at least one person is helpless through laughter and half of the campaign notes suddenly seem bone-crushingly inadequate for what you are dealing with.
Two examples I will quote include when myself (a sickly but heavily-armoured cleric of Pelor) and my travelling companion (a dashing spellsword) got to the castle of the evil lich in a D&D 3.5 campaign, took one look at the front gates, and flew up onto the roof to go in through the top of the tower - getting the drop on the final boss of what was effectively a dungeon, and having to clean it out after he was dead...
...and the GM of that game pulling exactly the same trick in a Pathfinder game, going into an overrun guard bastion in the first campaign book through the roof. Dropping in, murdering the big bad, getting mythic power, and then liquidising the rest of the fell creatures present like a BlendTec commercial.
Most recently, this happened to me. I was the GM in the driving seat. I've been running a game of Eclipse Phase for a few months - you've probably seen a couple of my blog posts about it, but if not, look here and here, that will clue you in - and I have been typing up each session as a read-along that you can read here. Take a look - it's called Before The Devil Knows You're Dead.
This particular thing is some kind of murder mystery. The party are putting together some clues as to why someone was killed, and they discover that there's a lot more to it than random acts of violence - in fact they have a short list of other potential targets, and one of them correctly guessed the inciting agents within minutes of seeing the original crime scene (much to my combined joy and nervousness).
So they find out the identity of one of the other potential victims, and go to talk to her. One of the characters is highly social, and is also a genuine psychic. So I get ready to provide some snippets of information before the inevitable happens...
...and then the way it gets played out - the interview turns into a confession, which turns into the party smuggling the potential victim (who isn't so innocent herself) off of the habitat in a body bag assisted by octopoid gangsters, stealing her identity, and using it to accidentally incite a couple of stampedes before finally turning the murderer against a mob of gangsters, resulting in mutual destruction.
What started out as being some kind of Maltese Falcon sleuthing ended up like using a laser pointer to direct a cat into a pile of action figures.
And I had genuinely not really planned for that, at all.
But it did the job!
(Meme not technically accurate cos people totally got killed but:)
Fellow Game Masters - I know it's scary when the party go off the rails. I know. But sometimes it will actually add to the world you are making. For me, it produced another long-term NPC that I can use, and some long-term problems that I can bring back down the line. And even if it doesn't add anything - who cares? Sometimes, we're here to laugh like idiots at the dumb things we just did.
That's what the hobby is about, right?
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