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Episode 1914: You Can’t Chandler the Troops


Author Raymond Chandler is known, among other things, for this piece of advice to writers:

When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.

He was specifically thinking about pulp crime fiction, and scenarios where the author has written themself into a corner and doesn't know what to do next. However, the advice can apply in many other occasions, including when running a roleplaying game.

If the action has crawled to a stop, or the players are too interested in discussing something else, spice things up by throwing in a quick combat encounter with a suddenly appearing thug with a weapon. You don't need to think too much about why this is happening - the very fact that it does happen is interesting enough immediately, and then the players can wonder about who sent this thug and why. That leads to mystery, and investigation, and hopefully more plot elements that will get the game moving again.

Critically, the encounter has to be with someone who is clearly looking for the heroes. It's not a random encounter with wolves or goblins or whatever. It's a person with a motive for stalking and attacking the heroes. What's the motive? That's for the players to figure out.

Commentary by memnarch (who has not seen the movie)

Only two troopers? That hardly feels like a proper squad. At a minimum, we'd need double the number of troopers here for it to be a squad, and preferably a lot more. Maybe they split up to talk to more locals, so Rey and Finn will end up running into the rest of the squad as they flee from these two. Having more troopers converge on the area would work very well as a tool of the GM to encourage the players to stay on track while going somewhere else.

I wonder if these locals were related to the pair that tried to beat up Rey and kidnap BB-8. Or maybe the quartermaster decided to encourage Rey to skip town and stop wasting his time by having some flunkies follow them around and look to stir up trouble. Either of those would be great justifications for having the PCs pointed out, assuming that comes up as a player complaint later. No reason to help customers that don't play ball with the prices, right?

Also, the last panel was a little confusing at first, but now it's hilarous! Finn and Rey are running away in the background, and here's BB-8 trying to catch up while their head is completely backwards. It's like the poor spherical robot is so startled by the attack, they can't help but watch in horror as the blaster bolts come flying in! And in the meantime, the body knows it's time to cheese it and starts rolling away on its own, with the head somehow hanging on!

Commentary by Keybounce (who has not seen the movie)

Hmm, this seems very similar to a scene in Episode IV, when the stormtroopers are going through Mos Eisley. Or, you know, the off-screen case of V with Lando pointing out the main cast to the troopers.

This "Chandler's Law" is an interesting law. Lets see how many stories can be improved by this.

So if you have people in a low-tech fantasy, you should have someone charge in with a sword drawn. Imagine if The Princess Bride had that happen - oh, wait, we did have a sword wielder there.

Alright, then how about Star Wars - oh, right, all the random blasters.

Hmm, The Fifth Element... never mind.

Lets go way off the rails here. Back to the Future. What would that movie have been like if someone charged in with a gun... right, the second movie. And the third movie. Hmm... Oh, right, even the first movie had those terrorists with a gun.

Oh!... No...

Aha! Anything on Hallmark. Can you imagine those "Girl finds boy, girl loses boy, girl makes up with boy" movies getting a gun? That would be like a sappy high-school romance turning into a mass shooting.


GM: <roll> BB-8, you spot a pair of armoured troopers, talking to some locals.
BB-8: Uh oh. Hey guys, we have company!
GM: The locals point, and the troopers look in your direction.
Rey: {grabbing Finn’s hand} C’mon! We have to get out of here!
GM: The troopers give chase, firing.
{Rey, Finn, and BB-8 flee through the souk}
[SFX]: Pow! Pow!
BB-8: We could really use some down time to process everything that’s happened just now.
GM: As Chandler’s Law says: When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand.
GM: I have a lot of doubts about the ability of you guys to stay on track.

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Published: Thursday, 05 November, 2020; 01:11:18 PST.
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