The Virtue of Emulation
In my Amber game on Saturday, I'd been building along a long slow plotline involving an opponent to the Amberites, a shadowy organization operating throughout the Shadow-Earths. They had kidnapped Flora and one of the PC-Amberites (of a retired player), and the idea was that the players would have to work very hard to figure out what was going on and get to "Earth-0", this shadowy organization's home base.
But then, out of the fucking blue, Jong's character makes the Amber-equivalent of a Wish (walking to the center of the pattern and asking it to take you somewhere) that inadvertently ends up landing him beside the two captured Amberites, smack-dab in the middle of the Shadowy Organization's secret headquarters in their secret almost-impossible-to-get-to Earth-0!
Of course, this is the moment all my GM notes flew out the window.
So how does one deal with this situation?
I think that it is THESE situations which emphasizes the importance of Emulation in the RPG game. If you are just running trough a scripted series of "encounters", then if a player does something unexpected all you can do is either stop the game till you can script something new, or railroad him back onto the scripted path. You could theoretically "improvise" and try to script a new path on the spot, and your mileage may vary depending on just how much of a genius you are.
With a game that is about Emulation, however, where you suppose that NPCs as much as PCs have their own identities and personalities, that you are emulating a living world, then the answer to this kind of dilemma is obvious: you just keep emulating the world and see what happens.
I knew what the Shadowy Organization's motives and interests were. I knew what the NPC prisoners' motives and interests were. I knew what Jong's Dad NPC, Benedict's motives and interests were. And, I hope, Jong knew what his character's were.
And of course, a big deviation from the plot has a massive ripple effect, which if you're going by a script (and not near the end of the script) means you're screwed. But if you're going by Emulation, then you just keep emulating.
Long story short, btw, Jong and the captured NPCs got out. Jong's dad, Benedict (the greatest warrior in the multiverse) got in, and the session ended on a cliffhanger wondering if even the single greatest fighter in the universe could possibly take on an entire shadow full of power-armored super-powered magic-rich trump-wielding conjuration-item-laden broken-pattern-initiate high-tech high-magic psychic-powered mystery men.
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