Last time in Numenera GM Intrusions: Creatures, I talked about creature specific action GM Intrusions. But Numenera is about so much more than confronting weird creatures. And so are GM Intrusions. When putting together an adventure like The Sun Below: City on the Edge, I like to give a lot of choices for the players and the GM. Besides action scenes, I like to include a lot of social scenes.
To have dramatic tension, a social scene revolves around somebody wanting something from somebody else. Help, love, shins, numenera, something. One side, the petitioner, wants, the other side has to decide if they grant or deny the petitioner.
The players may want help, captives released, a singing statue, whatever. Or they may being asked for something, usually help of some kind. (Robin Laws made a whole roleplaying game centered on these kinds of social interactions: Hillfolk, it's worth checking out.)
A GM Intrusion is there to make things more interesting. How do you make a social interaction more interesting? You mess it up and let the players figure a way to get it back on track.
Here are some of my ideas, I'm sure you'll have plenty of your own.
- I don't like you: When the players want something , an NPC takes offence to one of them. The King points at you. "Feed this one to the snake people and we can continue to talk."
- I like you too much: When the players are being asked to agree to something they don't think is a good idea, have one of them suddenly come under the sway of the petitioner. The rebel leader's charisma has you mooning over her. No matter how foolish her ideas, you find yourself agreeing with them, and arguing on her side.
- Hero worship: Once the players have proven themselves, but before the danger is over, an important NPC falls in love with a PC. And love is blind. "I'll go with you and keep you safe." You notice a tremble in his voice, how his eyes never leave you. His wife, who has the key you wanted, is not amused.
- Oops: While trying to impress some NPCs, a player makes a mistake. They say inappropriate things, slip on the floor, have to run for an emergency bio break, and so on. Trying to fit in, you crunch down on the tasty hors d'evours, and see your hosts looking at you with horror. You seem to have eaten Mylk, a treasured pet.
- Ouch: While negotiating in a dangerous environment, something goes wrong. Negotiations are interrupted by an action scene. Just as the Krim seem ready to grant you access to their sacred scrolls, one of the wall mounted machines jerks into motion and slams into you, knocking you face first into the pit.
- Mistaken Identity: A PC looks just like somebody else the NPCs know. They have strong feelings about this other person, and negotiations break down while this plays out. The Aeon Priest spins at you. "Thief! I saw you steal the serum!"
- History: The NPC actually recognizes the PC, as they have history that complicates things. You recognize this person. She used to run with your gang in Mulen. When the guards took the gang down, she always blamed you as the snitch who sent her friends to prison.