Emily Smith Profile picture
Aug 1, 2018 12 tweets 3 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Today at #DnD club, three 13-yr-olds defeated the monster by asking him how he was feeling, and then sitting him down to a group therapy session. They were on about 3hp each, out of spell slots and healing potions, and they beat the monster with the Power of Empathy.
Let me set the scene here - two girls playing tiefling siblings, a rogue and a ranger, and a boy playing a hulking paladin in skull-themed armour. They are climbing a wizard's tower in search of their missing elven benefactor. They have had an extremely long day.
I have quite literally thrown every trap in my DM playbook at them. They've dealt with magical sewage, kenku thugs, a box of crawling claws, flying swords, ominous foreshadowing, invisible floors, and trapped tiles that spit fire or magic missiles at you. They're barely standing.
At this point I've tried dropping hints that they may want to rest up and regain some hp, because the heartiest of them is on 5hp and they're fresh out of spell slots, class abilities and potions. I like these kids, and I don't actually want to kill their characters.
But they decide to press on, so I sigh, resign myself to helping tearful kids roll up new characters, and start describing the wizard's laboratory on the next floor - and the Nothic, lurking inside it.
The Nothic is a particularly sinister #DnD monster, who possesses partial telepathy and can rot you with a gaze. As the Nothic, I taunted their characters with their past failures and their darkest secrets. I was going for creep factor. The kids LOVED him.
They, in character, start firing questions at the Nothic. How long has he been there? Does his mistress check on him? Does he ever go outside? Isn't he lonely? Now, this beastie is telepathic and thus can sense their sincerity, and it knocked the legs out from under him.
A Nothic is created when a mage, hungry for knowlege, undergoes a horrible transformation. So I'm realising as the kids are treating this monster like a lonely apprentice that that's precisely what he would have been - a lonely boy, apprenticed to a great wizard-
- and desperate to impress her, confused by her increasingly erratic behaviour and distant attitude. So he plunges himself into research, trying to find the trick, the lore, the spell that will catch her attention. He grows obsessed and it consumes him.
Fast forward fifty years and suddenly a couple of battered tieflings and a limping aasimar in armour are asking, genuinely, how he feels. If this has been hard for him. Then they sit him down in a circle, and share their feelings to show solidarity. It was BRILLIANT roleplay.
Tiefling rogue: "We gotta show vulnerability to show him it's ok. I'll go first. I'm Motcha, and all of my family except for my sister are dead."
Tiefling ranger: "I'm Rynn, and Gnolls destroyed my entire village."
Aasimar Paladin: "Eli Ironsides. I like pink. And baking."
The Nothic was impressed with Ironsides' comfort with his masculinity and willingness to discard confining traditional gender roles.

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