18 April 2013

P is for Parley

A Meeting of Parley
Parley. Not something most players ever use. apparently, Gary didn't think much of it either as there is only a paragraph in the DMG (p. 63). To wit:

Upon encountering another party, the party with initiative can always
elect to attempt some form of communication. This can be a friendly
gesture, a throwing down of arms, offering of treasure, or some spoken
word or phrase. Just what this effect will be is determinable only by the
DM considering the prevailing circumstances. It is safe to say that a group
of elves attempting to parley with a red dragon will find their efforts
generally unsuccessful unless they also have some obvious advantage
which the dragon is aware of. It is common for player characters to attack
first, parley afterwards. It is recommended that you devise encounters
which penalize such action so as to encourage parleying attempts -- which
will usually be fruitless, of course!
The last sentence is not one of Gary's best. Why should parley "usually be fruitless?" Not always, but occasionally it should work and work well. To penalize the players for not parleying and then penalyzing them for parleying is, well, dickish. It's like a game of oneupmanship.
Does that mean that a parley, especially with evil NPCs, should turn into a mutual admiration society meeting? Not by any means; expect the evil characters (and the players too!) to try to jockey for their advantage, possibly stabbing the party in the back just before the conclusion of the pact. I could see a cleric or cavalier of Hextor teaming up with a mostly good party to fight the return of the Temple of Elemental Evil in Hommlett. Said cavalier might be evil but he would have more in common with a Lawful Neutral character than with a Chaotic Evil one. Sometimes, there truly ARE greater evils!
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