How far do you go, as a Dungeon Master, Game Master, or Judge, to steer PCs toward special treasure or effects? Stuff that you probably just as much want to see your friends find (and play with) as you’re hoping they will.
For example, in Sailors of the Starless Sea 2nd printing (for DCC RPG), the PCs investigate the hot pits in H-1, but keep wimping out, not to go down further. This is understandable as it is clearly dangerous, but now they miss any opportunity to acquire the Fiend-Blade or a Blessing of the Slow God. Despite me even encouraging them to return later (I mean, it’s a perfect place to thaw out a decades old frozen Chaos Lord…)
Then, a PC actually pulls the bronze ring in the pool in 1-2, survives, and falls into 1-3, but then never even says anything about “oh, let me look around here”. So, it’s not like the Band of Fire is just going to slip onto his finger (ala The One Ring, although now I think of it, I probably missed an opportunity to play it like that!) I give a little extra description to entice further exploration, but it’s like survival kicks in and the priority is simply to get out ASAP, and so the legendary ring remains in the much covered in hundreds of old skulls.
So, a DM, should be “Neutral”, yet I think we also ought to be cheerleaders for the PC’s.
But like a cheerleader, we cannot actively affect the outcome of the game. Yet, it drives me nuts in my OCD brain thinking of cool things that totally go unnoticed simply because a PC won’t at least say “I want to look X to see if there’s anything there amongst all of the A’s, B’s and C’s you just described as being there”. And, I’ve learned that there’s no fun at all just giving them an uncalled for “passive perception” type of roll to do it for them.
If the item, place, etc. is truly necessary for the game, then I see three options:
- Make multiple way for the PCs to come across it
- Should be rare, but sometimes you have to hit them over the head with it if the DM and PCs simply aren’t on the same wavelength (i.e. if you feel it’s “your fault” and not describing the situation accurately.)
- An option for stellar DMs, improvise around it. The PCs don’t find the widget that saves the kingdom at the last minute? Fine. The Kingdom falls. Tear up the last couple sheets of paper you have in your binder and the DM rolls right into describing the chaos that immediately ensues. Roll for initiative motherfuckers! Muahaha!
However, if the loot or what have you, is not necessary for the outcome of the story, then I believe the answer is to simply keep a poker face and don’t ever let on to the PC’s that they just passed up a Vorpal Sword or similar. If your doodad is extra special and you really want to see it in game, then your option is to just put it somewhere else. Maybe in your next game you create a special little add-on area (that they overlook again… uggh…). Or maybe a villain finds it! The über boss at the end of this adventure (or the next?) is now tougher, richer, and has his own castle because he came across the Deck of Many Things that the PCs passed up!
Any other thoughts?