Two of Thirty-Six from ZDL's blog

Continuing in the series I'm calling The Thirty-Six, based on Georges Polti's The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations (original version and a modernized take), today's situation is "deliverance" in which an "unfortunate" is rescued from a "threatener" by a "rescuer".


In contrast to SUPPLICATION, in which the victim of a threat seeks to find succour from someone in power, in deliverance the Unfortunate, while under threat by a Threatener is helped by a Rescuer without beseeching such.  The victim in this case is more passive, and the motivation of the Rescuer is motivated by something extrinsic to both of them, requiring no pleading to take action.

There are two main forms of this situation:

1. Rescue of the condemned.

2. Rescue of someone in dire straits by someone who is indebted or otherwise related to the victim.

What makes this situation ripe for RP purposes is the mystery of why the Rescuer is taking action on behalf of the Unfortunate.  Why is the outlaw gang rescuing the hanged man by shooting out the hanging rope (as is a common trope in western movies)?  (Maybe the outlaw is on a personal quest of vengeance against corrupt and vicious authority.)  What has prompted a group to return a deposed queen to her rightful throne?  (Perhaps it is the children of the queen who seek to restore her.)

And of course the PCs may have their own reasons for becoming Rescuers: anticipation of reward, say, or repayment for past good deeds received, or payment forward for the good deeds of others.

It's a bit trickier to have the PCs as the Unfortunate, however.  Played with a light hand, especially if backed by prior RP (like, say, they gave hospitality to a wounded knight and nursed him to health), it can be a powerful moment, but played clumsily, without a good reason established in advance to call back to, it can come across as stripping players of their agency in regard to the threat.  (A lot of the hatred of the dread GMPC stems from GMPCs being transparently used by the GM to show how awesome that character is by doing what the players can't.  Continually.)

Of course, taking a turn for the darker, the PCs can be the Threatener, hunting down someone (justly or not) only to have a third party intercede and interfere.  Will the interference be successful?  Will they justify the threat they present and make the Rescuer back off or even switch sides?  It could go any way with a good bite of tasty RP!

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The Wall

Dec 19 '21
Sometimes the DM has to send a rescuer to avert a TPK. This can seem like the hand of God tweaking the PC's nose. So, best if the rescuer fits into the narrative, somehow, and it's also best if the rescuer helps the party survive rather than single handedly waltz in and save the day.
Dec 20 '21
Yep. It can be done correctly, but it's very easy to Tom Bombadil a rescue.
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Added Dec 9 '21


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