Digging Yourself Out of a Corner!

by Peter V. Dell'Orto

It has happened. Your PCs are unconscious, dead, or incapacitated by forces beyond their powers. Their plan, good or ill-conceived, failed completely, and their enemy reigns triumphant. How can you save them, and save all the hard work you and your players have done on your campaign? How can you spare them without being obvious about it? Luckily, fiction is rife with examples of ways to do it. History even gives a couple of examples if you know where to look. The purpose of this article is to give you ideas you can use to spare your PCs, as well as how to pull it off without looking desperate or unprepared. Nothing kills the mood quite like an obvious plot fudge. Fudging die rolls to spare PCs or kill NPCs is not addressed -- we are concerned here with Plot Fiat, not Dice Fudges.

There are some obvious ways to deal with a helpless, knocked out group of PCs who are obviously Doomed. Kill them. Sell them into slavery. Ransom them back to their families. But these possibilities are often real downers for players -- "Sorry, the bad guy won and you are now digging in the mines. Your sick grandmother dies while you are away and the bad guys won the war." While slavery, ransom, or turning the PCs into ghosts can be a great change for a campaign, a GM should have other ways handy to spare the PCs and keep the game running.

There are four essential rules to GM Fiat: Digging Yourself Out of a Corner!

This article originally appeared in the second volume of Pyramid. See the current Pyramid website for more information.

Article publication date: June 9, 2000

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