Rule of the Day: Telling Stories

We’re almost at the end of the series of house rules for the campaign Voyage of The Sky Eagle. I am here presenting another Rule of the Day, and it was designed as a supplement for Skill Challenges in D&D 4E. The former rules dealt with flashbacks (both in and out of skill challenges: minor, major, embarrassing).

The context for the rule

Background: The PCs have arrived at a small town in the Emirates of Ylaruam (think Arabian/Osmannic culture – or pick up your Al-Qadim-books) in order to procure supplies for their mission. Gaining supplies for their flying ship is played as a skill challenge. The last part of the skill challenge is a coffee ceremoni at the town-Qadi’s palace. Qadi Ramman is a generous but strict host, and the PC’s can cover their mistakes by entertaining the Qadi with stories.

The purpose: One thing is that I wanted to play a coffee ceremoni, but it is a such difficult, because either everybody needs to have read and memorized the description of the coffee ceremoni, or you need some kind of guide. In this case one member of the party is an Alaysian cleric from Tel Akbir, who holier than holy, so when we went through the stages of the ceremoni, I quickly told the player, what was to be done – as the Alaysian cleric is of the same culture as the Ylari and he therefore knew the ceremoni – and the player instructed in character his fellow players (ofcourse all the players heard my instructions, but they played after those instructions, they received from their fellow player). Each stage was handled with a skill check, where the players took turn risking making an error at ceremoni thus ruining the negotiations with the Qadi.

The Storytelling-rule

Once we started the ceremony, and one the players failed his skill check, I introduced the story telling-rule.

Rule: By telling the Qadi a story you get to remove a failed check. Either a check that has just been failed or one that failed earlier in the challenge.

The player’s succeeded the skill challenge, but they had to tell four stories during the challenge.

Effect: We heard a story about the Darokinian merchant attempting to buy a title a the Thyatian court, though he had no understanding of Thyatian etiquette, and he was only saved by his great generosity. There was the story of how one of the characters met one of the other, when he was younger and had no manners (incidentally since each player has three characters, he used one character to tell a story about one of his other characters. The third story was about an incompetent weather prophet who lost his head, when he failed to predict rain on the day the Emir hosted a grand party. The fourth story was (again about the dwarven-elvish diplomatic meeting) about an accident at the important diplomatic meeting, where the guest wanted to show his good manners, which resulted in an accident and yet the hosts recognized his good intentions and the meeting went on.

The players simply improvised the stories, and simply due to the situation, the players chose stories that worked as analogies to events at the coffee ceremony thus subtly implying that their host should ignore their mistakes, as he is a wise man, and that their errors were in no way intended.

We had a lot of fun with the story telling-rule. It added to the Arabian theme with both the coffee ceremony and Thousand and One Night Stories. The rule worked well, and it allowed us to add details to the setting and the characters’ back stories.

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