As a gamemaster, you must never discount that player motivation will often trump character motivation. Sure, everyone likes to brag about games with “deep roleplaying” and “staying in-character” and most of the time experienced roleplayers have little trouble separating their desires from the character’s. However, sometimes there’s a carrot dangling that no player can resist breaking character to grab.
In our last game, the carrot was a handful of Gobstoppers. In the last encounter of the session on Sunday, the party found themselves in front of a crowd of charging villagers who were being run down by marauding orcs. They were tasked with intercepting the orcs and holding them off while a ferry slowly crossed the river to pick up the villagers. To represent the villagers, we used Gobstoppers that one player had on hand since they were plentiful and easily identifiable on the board.
The orcs started right behind the villagers and quickly began their slaughter. As the Gobstoppers were pulled from the table, the players immediately ate them. With this, I set a bad precedent by positively reinforcing the death of the villagers. I think the potential reward of sweets lulled our heroes into laziness, as far more villagers found themselves eaten by players than I had imagined. It wasn’t a complete slaughter, but it was close.
Plus, I barely got any! I should have let the PCs eat the ones they saved and taken the ones the orcs killed for myself. That’s the only fair way to resolve such a fight, right?
Next time we use food as miniatures I think I’m going institute the Riddick rule: You keep what you kill.
As a GM, always keep in mind that you must appease both the character and their player. If you can’t do that and the two come into conflict, be ready for the player’s needs and wants to take precedence.
Alternatively, just don’t use food as a gaming prop.