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The Better Part of Valor

Fifteen episodes into our second season of The Roll Seekers & The Legend of Nabell, one thing has become abundantly clear: right now, our heroes are in way over their heads. In fact, these last few months, my character spent almost as much time fleeing from danger as he did confronting it.

And I’m not complaining. After all, my PC, Whisper, is a 22-year-old rogue, raised in the trade by his grandmother. Up to now, he’s been nothing more than a decent “second-story man” with a big mouth that gets him into trouble more than it gets him out of it–not exactly the stuff that legends are made of. And for all the words of wisdom his “ol’ Gram” taught him, he’s wildly unprepared for dealing with the court intrigue, ancient evils, and divine forces buffeting his life. 

Sometimes the best thing he can do is sheathe his dagger and run away.

The importance of retreat is one of the more unexpected elements of playing in an epic-style campaign like this one. Many stand-alone modules, or even published adventure paths, carefully scale encounters to match the player-characters’ capabilities. “Balance” matters, with a clear progression of advancement and difficulty. And this is fine! As an RPG writer myself, I playtest my adventures to make sure they encourage player creativity and resourcefulness, allowing them to be heroes who can overcome what seem like incredible odds.

But that’s different from starting off as a 1st-level character in a living world, where the choices your characters make can easily lead you face-to-face with antagonists far more powerful than you are. They don’t simply arrive when you’ve reached a level high enough to survive. During my time playing as Whisper in land of Tyve, I’ve learned that sometimes my initial player instinct–find a way to fight or improvise my way to victory–is just not the best way to go. Sometimes discretion really is the better part of valor. 

And strangely enough, this brings me back to my earliest days of roleplaying–long before the other Seekers were even born! My friends and I relished facing the strangest, most terrifying monsters we could, and sometimes making a wrong turn led you deep into the deadliest dungeon–ready or not. 

Our PCs died–a lot. Or we fudged some rolls. (We were kids!)

So here I am, decades later, learning that Whisper’s story only gets told if he survives. And that means, to quote some words of wisdom from my own childhood, I have to “know when to walk away, and know when to run.”

[Be sure to catch Whisper walking, running, and more on The Roll Seekers and the Legend of Nabell!]

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