Friday, December 5, 2008

KendAAAGH


I know, I missed another deadline and this blog updates slower than the short bus reversing up a hill, but hey, I have an excuse. Exams. And Wrath of the Lich King. But mostly exams, honest.

I still hate kender as much as I ever did.

I haven't played Dragonlance, mind, I'll freely admit that. Nobody I know seems to want to, and with kender in it, I don't want to.

This is from the Dragonlance book. If there aren't enough simple pictures in bright colours for you, feel free to skip ahead and post "tl;dr":

"To the other races, kender are the child-race of Krynn. The diminutive kender have short attention spans, intense curiosity, and a fearlessness that serves them well in battle, but often lands them (and those travelling with them) in danger."

Okay. Not too bad yet - enough to make you wary, yes, but still. Child-races are fine if done right. Some people despise them and even anything that is Small and potentially cute, but those people are arseholes and like shitty things. No offense to my arsehole friends.

But like the first few pebbles before a rockslide, or the grunt of a fat man as he prepares to rest his buttocks on a chair that won't support him, things are going to come crashing down in a minute.

"Kender live a carefree existence where every new day is a day of wonderful secrets just waiting to be discovered. Their most defining character traits are their insatiable curiosity and their utter fearlessness, which makes for a frightening combination. All dark caves need exploring, all locked doors need opening, and all chests hide something interesting."

I can still give them the benefit of the doubt since they're very clearly a rogue race and -- you know what? Let's just skip ahead to the horribleness.

The next few paragraphs are about how kender have this urge to wander the world exploring new places which is pretty much an excuse to have kender adventurers. After that, well...

"While kender have a modicum of instinct for self-preservation (...) their propensity to act on impulse at the expense of common sense makes them reckless in dangerous situations - a volatile addition to addition to any adventuring party. Boredom is the kender's arch-nemesis, to be conquered at any cost. It is said that nothing on Krynn is as dangerous as a bored kender or as terrifying as hearing a kender say, "Oops!"."

What? So kender get bored easily and deal with it by screwing things up on purpose in situations where they can get someone killed? What an amazing addition to your adventuring party.

"Kender are creatures of extremes. Nothing can be as infectious as the laughter of a giggling kender or as heartrending a sight as a grief-stricken kender. With their short attention spans, kender rarely focus on any one thing for too long. It's when a kender is bored that a kender is most feared. A kender who can't find anything interesting to do determines to do something interesting, often with dire consequences."

Basically the last paragraph repeated again, apparently just in case you didn't get that they're supposed to be played like the halfling's mentally damaged little brother, except now we get the first hint that people are supposed to like the kender. Personally, if a kender I know is grief-stricken, it's because I just set him on fire.

"The unquenchable curiosity of kender drives them to investigate everything - including other people's personal possessions. Kender appropriate absolutely anything that catches their eye. Physical boundaries of notions of privacy are both alien concepts to them, while the monetary value of an object means nothing to them. (...) Kender are never happier than when their hands are in the pockets, pouches, or backpacks of those around them."

What the balls?

These are supposed to be playable. By people. Presumably ones with self-diagnosed Asperger's because holy crap, this is a stupid idea. I wonder how many kender have ended up on the business end of a fellow party member's sword over the years after delving into people's stuff.

It gets worse, though. Oh, so much worse.

"Kender do not consider such appropriation to be thievery as others understand it (kender are as contemptuous of thieves as the next person). Kender term this "handling" or "borrowing" (...) Kender are at best bemused and at worst outraged at being accused of theft or pick-pocketing. Kender always give perfectly reasonable explanations for just about every accusation leveled at them."

Amazing. Really. A race that can't understand boundaries and privacy can still understand what a thief is and act outraged if accused of being one. Or like a smug, smarmy cunt, if they prefer. Or they can act innocent, grinning like idiots at the party as if everyone is supposed to find their antics hilarious.

There's a list of "favourite" kender explanations for why they have everyone's stuff, but most of them are shit and many of them are obviously outright lies, because apparently kender are also fine with that.

Summary of the next few paragraphs: Only the kender can understand the difference between what they do and stealing but there is one, honest, kender are fearless, kender form lasting friendships easily... there are a couple snippers from that last paragraph that are worth noting:

"Kender (...) can feel fear for their friends, and this has often led to the tempering of kender impulses."

Yeah, thanks for that. One little redeeming bite-sized chunk in the family-sized shit pudding that is kender. Don't worry, we'll be back to the entire paragraphs devoted to how stupid kender are in a moment.

"the sight of a grieving kender can (...) reduce even the most cold-hearted person to sympathetic tears."

If you haven't spotted the pattern emerging here, it's spelled out for us in the end.

Oh yeah, and apparently kender are great at figuring out someone's insecurities and masters of the taunt and insult. Good for enraging your enemies, or chewing out your party for getting mad when you lift someone's wand of healing and get someone killed.

That was just the "Personality" section. We aren't done yet. tl;dr, I know.

The good bits of "Physical description":

"Aware of the value of first impressions, a kender's first instinct upon meeting someone new is to straighten his clothes, brush himself off, and introduce himself with extended hand."

I don't think it's possible for anyone to make a good first impression when everyone knows theirs is a race of giggling delusional pickpockets. Go eat a bag of shit, new kender.

"Kender cannot keep secrets to save their lives and happily blurt out intensely personal information about themselves or anyone else."

A drop in an ocean of piss, I know, but every bit of awful design is worth noting. Kender truly are greater than the sum of their parts.

Finally there is the Relations section, which takes any doubts I had about kender being the worst race I have ever encountered out behind the shed and shoots them in the head.

"Kender get along with anyone and everyone they meet"

No you don't, fuck off.

"Members of other races are not as fond of kender as kender are of them, however."

NO, REALLY?

Afterwards there is a list of various races and their thoughts on why kender suck, and I think the dwarves are the winner here - they call the kender "good for nothing, lazy doorknobs" and "a race of thieves", immediately winning back any respect I lost for them after countless people whining about all elves being nature-loving wet dorks, then rolling bear-swilling axe-wielding beard-wearing elf-hating Scottish dwarves and not seeing a problem.

It refers to humans who hate kender as "close-minded." How about "intelligent"?

Suddenly, slipping in at the end like a knife in the groin:

"The truly wise of all races know that kender are the innocents of the world and that the world would lose something precious if kender were ever to leave it."


AARGH.


(Somebody call a doctor! The blogger has been killed by stupidity!)

This part gets me every time. The rampant thievery and general bad behaviour of kender isn't even the worst part, it's that everyone is expected to like them. If you're smart you sympathise with them and find them endearing, and if you're really smart you know they're just plain super kewl and the world needs kender, and their kleptomania is just so damn cute.

There's some mary sue bullshit afterward about how kender are incorruptible and I don't care.


I think the thing that really gets me is how it's written. 3.5 has plenty of things that are easy to screw up and play in a way that hurts everyone else if you read them wrong - paladins are a good example. Played wrong, which they oh so easily are, they turn into jackasses trying to impose their moral code on the party rogue or cardboard cut-outs who charge into any situation with an evil NPC or people in trouble the DM dangles in front of them with no regard for themselves. I can live with things that are hard to play well. The solution is to get good players.

The problem with kender is that you play a shitty character that hurts everyone else if you do them right. There's next to nothing about kender that is redeeming or endearing or any other nice word that ends in -ing. These are terrible people.

Kender are banned from all my games ever.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Rejected


It's that time again! I am pretty much out of commission for a while due to essays and exams - always am, this time of year - so no games, no comics.

I am sure all nine of you are upset.

In the meantime, here's a filler comic about an old game of mine. Slightly better context: This is a campaign the players dubbed "Fiendbusters", about living in a Lawful Good theocracy and hunting and slaying devils and demons and such. One guy (frenzied berserker) cuts the arm off a fiend and insists that he should thus get a massive discount on a fiendish graft which will up his damage because it's "awesome"; the graft would have to be done in a nearby evil magocracy which is firmly opposed to the theocracy they work in. The other players objected and he seemed genuinely surprised that what they thought mattered. (Then again, he did spend a lot of time telling them how he could kill the party with his Leap Attacking berserker, and his proposed solution to paladin-types they associated with objecting to the idea was killing them.) The answer, of course, was 'no'.

The hellbred is a story for another time.

I've sort-of typed up some proper blog posts already, but I tend to reject them a lot. I mean, this is mostly just for fun - I'd still be just posting comics regularly on /tg/ if a) I wasn't convinced by pals this was an okay idea b) I didn't take a months-long hiatus when 4E came out due to the trolls and 4E White Knights tearing apart the place - but if I just wrote pages of "DURR... DURR..." I would be getting "geez, die with dignity already!" comments.

The following is an incomplete list of post topics I've rejected over the months.

  • A sequel to “Elves elves elves” in which I wonder what the deal is with crying about the “sissy” generic elves and then ranting about how awesome playing Beardaxe McAxebeard the bearded beer-drinking dwarf fighter is, then imply those who think so are closet homosexuals (we all know this already)
  • A post about people who play evil characters and/or try to control/sabotage/backstab the party in which I wonder how ruining the game for everyone else for fun is supposed to be awesome (the day I wrote this up a much better discussion popped up on a forum)
  • An in-depth discussion with graphs and charts on implementing Darwinian evolution and population dynamics in a magical environment (even I fell asleep)
  • A philosophical treatise on the ethics and morals involved in using the polymorph any object spell to transform inanimate objects into humans and vice-versa (I couldn’t avoid making a transformation fetish or TG joke. Thanks, 4chan!)
  • Statblocks for creatures I have created or would like to create (pending my actually getting off my ass and statting them, or at least the Living Power Word: Disco)
  • A post describing my usual campaign setting (is becoming a post about how my usual campaign setting is annoying me, since I would like it to be more unique but have trouble retconning)
  • A post describing my steampunk campaign setting (words words words, who cares)
  • A post pitching a bunch of other campaign setting ideas I have (the two most fleshed out being basically “grimndark McDonald's” and the other being “Rock-Paper-Scissors is serious business”. Yeah.)
  • Statting Pokemon d20 (Mewtwo is too broken)
  • Why I’m Too Lazy To Run 4th Edition (Why would I want the black-and-white knights here?)
  • Something sarcastic and trollish about social diseases (Bolt tells me I should find something better to do with my free time)
  • Making fun of OotS even though I like it (Rich Burlew scares me)
  • Making fun of Erfworld which I like but not as much (See previous)
  • A post about how lazy I am (I couldn’t be bothered finishing it)
  • Revealing where the title “CR 25 Hypermitotic Dungeon Master” comes from (IT IS A MYSTERY)
  • Posting all the requests several people are entitled to make for that bard thing (maybe if you made any)
  • A post about how much I hate kender (THERE ARE NO WORDS)
I might throw up one of these if I get some free time this week, which I might. Remember what happened last time I said I'd make a post within the week? Don't hold your breath.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roll Dice, Receive Friends


RAW is one of those things I like to pretend doesn't exist, since most of the time it's a code word for "this is some pretty stupid bullshit I'm doing that goes against the intention of the rules and probably also common sense, so I need to give it a false sense of legitimacy" and most of the rest of the time it means "interpreting the rules in the way that benefits me" and then usually loops right back to the first one.

Sometimes, though, I have to partially blame the rules for being pants-on-head retarded.

Enter Diplomacy.

We all know this one. Someone rolls a "diplomancer", pushes their Diplomacy score up as high as they can get it, and basically throws Diplomacy rolls at everything until they get their way.

Usually there's no effort, so you end up with people saying "I roll Diplomacy!" and hurling dice down in the middle of a heated battle with a unit of orcs, or making a rushed Diplomacy check to try and end the conflict with the pit fiend possessing the party paladin's body and escaping across the planes in a magical dune buggy by telling it you think it's cool.

Yeah. No.

That's normally when I point out the part that says "even if the initial Diplomacy check succeeds, the other character can be persuaded only so far, and a retry may do more harm than good." The rules for Diplomacy are still marinated in concentrated stupid sauce, but at least it's a concession to common sense.

On the other hand, I get enough people going "durr hurr, you're a railroader" without actually railroading anyone, so the rule now has me in an awkward position: That line is basically palming off the problem to me, and now Diplomacy works based on whether I feel like it. It's a hard road to walk, or at least a pain in the ass.

I'm only playing with one diplomancer right now, but we've talked about it and I'm pretty sure he won't try to be a foolhat with it, so we're cool so far. It's not that hard, really: Most people can roleplay well, or at least properly, and it can't be that hard to see where and when Diplomacy can work, right?





Bards still suck.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

My Error


How do I explain gently and tenderly that you, my not so gentle reader, are not your character? How do I convey the proposition that when writing, I expect to be read by corporeal entities and not by fictional, abstract manifestations of those corporeal minds? How shall I make it clear that the use of the second person pronoun, i.e., "You," was implied to mean the individual whose corporeal eyes might chance to glance upon the screen and make sense of the words being used?

The above, hoity toity as it sounds, has been a carefully wrought collection of nouns, verbs, adjectives and so on, meant to convey an accurate message. The hope would be that through the use of large, specifically assigned words from the English language, they might be less misunderstanding. A vain hope, I'll grant...but being accused of vanity would be the least of recent accusations.

You, the poor, wounded reader who has come to this page and felt much maligned, are the reader of this text. And you, poor reader, are--

No, wait, that's not right.



So, people keep asking me if I've really been DMing since 1980, what with me being so hip and all. Well, no, I was screwing around. Check the comments page on that post.

We'll return to your regular self-important rambling sometime this week.

That is all.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Maybe It's Just Me


Incidentally, when I said that thing about the bard I actually meant "new abilities to give the bard base class", but hey. Anyway, I decided everyone who posted wins, just because, and also Bolt (one of my players) for suggesting giving the bard air guitar. Make requests and they will happen (before the end of the year, honest!).

Incidentally, here's what happened in my games while I was out:

First is a steampunk 3.5 game I've mentioned here a few times. Basically, only two of the players have been able to be consistent. One of them kept missing sessions because of his girlfriend (or a storm in one case, I believe), and another made it to a fair few sessions but also suddenly disappeared (occasionally while still connected, so it took a while to notice) halfway through them, for various reasons.

Also fine, except he ended up quitting; his main reason was that the game was too focused on the two PCs who were doing most of the adventuring by virtue of actually being present. Gah.

The game stagnated for about a month because people the players tried to bring in to fill the gap couldn't make it, and the third guy was still missing games. Happily, just before I was about to replace him, he finally got his shit sorted out and we picked up a fourth, so we're doing pretty well now. Now you know what the "strip"'s about, though.

The next two are BESM, so the anti-Japanese can skip.

Anyway, the real BESM game I run is actually a detective game set in a modern Earth with lots of hidden things like magic, gods, aliens, immortal pirates, talking Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems, etc. (I use BESM because it's easier than cramming this into d20, you see). That one's actually going well. Therefore, I have nothing to complain about. Moving on!

Sometime in the last month or so I was semi-asked by a bunch of pals to run a BESM game... about Pokemon. Which was fine, I guess. I was partially running it because one of said pals had been wanting to run one and was pretty mopey about nobody being interested, so I bet I could totally stir up interest. I did.


We didn't play.

Oh, I put in the effort - sheeted things, helped others with their sheet, woke up at 8AM since I wasn't near the same timezone as the others - but it didn't work out. First week, one player was unavailable without warning, a few others hadn't finished their sheets and another didn't bother because he was hoping others wouldn't be ready. Mostly fine, so I waited until week two, when the same player was unavailable, another was busy, etc. We had just enough to go anyway, until one of them declared he was tired and went to bed. So I waited until the third week, when only one person showed up, and cancelled it there and then.

Not too big a deal, since I was running freaking Pokemon, but still. Maybe it is just me.

I'm going to do some research and see how good a DM I am, apart from all the words words words and whine whine whine.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

You're Not a Fucking Hero


I must confess, some of this post was inspired by a post by JM, master of "Call of the Dungeon," which I shall get around to adding to my links when I am not quite as lazy as this.

His post is about NPCs as heroes and the player characters who are compelled to love them, among other pertinent issues. I would like to make a slightly different point.

None of my players is a "hero" in any sense of the word. Being in my campaign, and having really no requirements on their person to DO anything beyond what they have a mind to, most of their personal motivation tends to be towards A) wealth and B) gaining another level...A being somewhat helpful in acquiring B.

As a DM, I am supposed to be A) appalled and B) bored. I'm not, actually. There are so many interesting ways to frustrate a party's interest in either of their goals that I am rarely bored. As for being appalled, I have no idea why. Is not the goal in Monopoly to gain wealth and land and wipe out your competitors? Isn't that the goal in life? I don't see the problem.

I have been running campaigns since 1980, and I have had my basic philosophy about being a DM since pretty much day one...though it took years to hone it to a fine edge. I don't want to tell players what to do. I understood from the beginning that my role as DM was referee. A referee does not play the game. He or she does not tell players how to play the game. That is why there are different words to define the different roles involved.

I have never known a single player to express any desire whatsoever to forsake either wealth or experience in favor of making an NPC's life more rich and full...that is, to risk death to free a village. I have met a few players who were prepared to forsake wealth and experience in order to be an enormous jackass, mocking both the game and the other players, and they have been ejected from my campaigns as necessary. But really, I don't think it fills anyone's heart to know that somewhere, in someone's imagination, there are a bunch of make believe people living happier lives, although I had to sacrifice my sixteenth level paladin to make it so.

What a bunch of fucking HOOEY that mindset is.

There are those who play obstensibly towards such goals. Because they are FORCED to, by DMs who think in terms of story lines and who doggedly drive their players through campaign after campaign with carrots and sticks. And because it is well recognized that a player would be royally pissed off should his paladin die for some bullshit paper village, such DMs are absolutely required to ensure that when a player dies (if ever), it only happens outside the door of some enormous carrot...*cough, cough*...I mean treasure.

Such players in such campaigns are not heroes either. They are pawns, slaves, dupes, addicts (how else do you explain their willingness to continue in such campaigns?) and woefully uninformed. But they're not "heroes." They are not self-sacrificing themselves for anything.

This whole fucking hero perception of the game is a deep, sickening disease, one that has single-handedly created 4e and which distorts hopelessly the majority of the participants not just in D&D, but all RPGs. The rise of the mythology of the hero has kept step with the same social disease which says that none of us are allowed to live for ourselves except in terms of how we pretend to live for the sakes of other people. Oh, we can gather treasure and get powerful, but we have to do it on the sly, we can't just slaughter for pleasure...we must pay lip service to the greater good.

WHAT is this fucking social religion doing in my D&D game? And what is the greater good in a fantasy setting, except the myopically programmed vision of a DM who can't think for himself, but must follow the never ending deluge of shit texts poured out from the mind of corporate games designers?

No heroes, please. Let's all be pillagers, like the game intended.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Super Guest Time Go: "Awesome NPCs, Part 1"

My next semester at university has begun, so I am temporarily swamped. In the meantime, have some MS Paint and a guest piece written by my friend V. That isn't his name or even his nickname, but it's cooler than both.

Awesome NPCS - Part One

Many DMs don't fully appreciate the role that NPCs can play in annoying the ever-loving shit out of your players. One of their more useful abilities, however, is their power to punish your players. Not their characters - your players. If you dm for a varied crowd, you most probably have run into players who just don't seem to get it, or who fail to appreciate your masterful game design.

This article is a ..guide, of sorts, designed to give you a few ready made NPCs, capable of being dropped into any campaign under pretty much any system. Adaptable, useful, and more annoying than almost anything else you can dish out as a 'good' dm. None of them are railroaders or obvious self-inserts(god help you if they are) or DMpcs. Think of them as 'non-combat encounters'.

Mr. Exposition

Most players are used to npcs as fonts of exposition. They sit there and wait for your poorly-written spiel about whatever to finish before moving on with the hacking and the slashing. Mr. Exposition plays on this tendency by never running out of words. He introduces himself as the friend/lover/brother/mother of your so-far established BBEG, and then spills the beans.

All of them. He tells the players every single detail of what they have gone through, as well as their opponent(beyond what the players know, however, he doesn't have to be telling the truth). He just ...keeps on going. He should also pause occasionally to make sure the pcs are listening - maybe asking if he should repeat himself, or quizzing the players on what he's told them so far.

He will explain the local, national, planetary, cosmic, universal, multiversal significances of the actions in the campaign so far, their hidden meanings and subtext, the motivations of everyone involved, the effects that it had on others, the other plots and intrigues that it has launched, etc etc. He's not stopping. If you run out of material, see if you can segue into some well-known monologue from somewhere else and just copy and paste it into your speech. John Galt's diatribe from Atlas Shrugged is a great choice.

Mr. Exposition doesn't shut up until the players kill him or move away. He just never stops divulging plot information. He works best when the players have some sort of time-critical objective up ahead. Of course, he doesn't have to be used like this - just drop him in when you think your players need a lesson on what's actually important.

If you're stumped for inspiration. a great example of this type of speech is the epilogue of MGS 4 - a character slowly dying and revealing far too much information over 25 minutes. He shouldn't be too tough to defeat in combat, either - having him die after one or two hits will probably make your players think "Oh god. We weren't meant to kill him. Now we have to pony up the cash to revive him" or some such nonsense.

The Dumptruck

The dumptruck is an npc who is in a position to help the PCs. She has a very high intelligence score/value and a *lot* of expertise in her field, a powerful position in the local government/church/corporation etc etc. Even better, she will help the players, and will give them substantial and material bonuses. She may hold the solution to a quest(or at least a red herring).

What she does not have, however, is any tact at all. She will constantly insult and berate the PCs, pointing out their shortcomings, flaws, mistakes, stupid names(chances are your players have a bunch of these), backgrounds, race, class, religion, alignment, faction, equipment choice, spell-choice, taste in clothing, social graces, etc etc.

As the DM, you know the mistakes that your players have made, and the obvious solutions that they have probably missed. You also probably know what ticks your players off. This character does that. The first game I used this npc in, one character had a nervous fit, and several of the players planned to return when they had enough power and murder her before razing her home to the ground.

Remember, this NPC actually has a powerful position in the world. She is important, and she knows it. She should actively help the players - give them free board and food, help them with their quests, give them healing, etc etc. She's just completely impossible to deal with. Not that she knows it of course - she often wonders why people don't come and talk to her more often, or why people don't hire her as a negotiator, etc etc.

Don't worry about making her a hypocrite - whenever a player points this out, have her simply insult him in return (or explain how it doesn't apply to her, etc etc.). This NPC is more for stress relief, than anything - if your players have been 'good', they should have little to fear from her.


That's all for part one, folks. Next up is The Rope Merchant, and another, mystery npc!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Like Powerflaming


I do most (well, all) of my gaming online. Unfortunately, that means most people reading this (five people and counting) are my players. So when I mention shit they’ve done, they’ll probably read it, let me know they’ve read it, ask if I’m referring to them, lodge complaints, etc. This is fine as long as they don't drag it into the comments section (or give a running commentary without any context on what they’re reading, let alone what parts they’re referring to, yes I’m looking at you). Nor am I surprised – even before they were posting “Hi Ettin!” in all my goddamn threads on /tg/ they were “stumbling across” them on the WotC forums.

But this time, I’m taking a breather from poking fun at the usual suspects and saying something about powergaming, because it only applies to two people who don’t read this shit.

My views are more complicated than I can be bothered explaining right now, but basically, I don’t mind it as long as you don’t cross the line,


It’s a very vaguely-defined line, and it varies from person to person, but I can tell you the usual triggers that set little alarm bells ringing in my head:

  • Trying to pass off rollplaying advice as roleplaying advice. If someone is trying to make an archivist with a certain theme (that isn't "I want to be powerful" and probably even if it is, too) in mind, cleric builds copy-pasted from CharOp are only going to take you so far.
  • Any character sheet which is obviously 100% crunch and 0% fluff. I don’t care if you’ve gone crazy with splatbooks and made a character which does hundreds of damage to certain creature types a round or whatever, as long as your backstory is better than “my Saint once saved an orphanage from a paragon undead balor, or something”.
  • An “it’s just a name, nothing more, hurr bi durr” attitude towards "prestige classes". I don’t care what you take, but if you want one with fluff that doesn’t fit at least bother to do something about it. Hell, I’ll write it.
    • Similarly, don’t cry if you have to roleplay taking it. Thralls of Demogorgon don’t just wake up one morning and pull their devotion and powers out of their arse, you know.
  • Sometimes, certain words or phrases. Partial list: Referring happily to your character as “so powerful”, “borderline overpowered” etc., the words “build”, “min/maxed” and “Gatorade”, wanting to use the game to “playtest” homebrew material, complaining about losing spell progression, complaining about having to roleplay... it depends on the person and their intent.
Things that are not necessarily powergaming in and of themselves but can be very irritating:
  • Treating the Monster Manual like a Big Bumper Book of Races. Playing cool-looking races is okay. Playing races because they work well with your class is okay if you don’t overdo it. Trying to play a giant on a pirate ship, what the hell.
  • Splatbooks. I actually allow pretty much anything that’s WotC material if it’s run by me first (and will at least consider 3rd–party stuff), but for some reason people keep either forgetting or misreading the “run by me first” part. I’m not even sure exactly how you can take that to mean “it’s okay to show up with an Archivist/Shadow Sun Ninja/Champion of Gwynharwyf elf paragon, and yes, I know that doesn’t make any sense.”
  • Asking for flaws. No, fuck you.

Seriously though, like I said, I’m not that picky. I’ve let most of these slide a few times, and I am much more lenient (read: hypocritical) towards those I know and trust, such as myself. Just treat roleplay as something other than a formality and we're good. (And I recognise my playstyle isn't the only way to play, but in my games you better get used to it.)



Oh, and the bard? Yeah, fuck that guy.



Let's end this post with something new: A competition Someone suggest some ways to beef up the bard a little and I’ll draw (and/or post) requests for the best ones. Comments page is fine, but I accept other forms of communication. Try for balance, but I’m not picky as long as it’s cool. I’m talking defeating enemies with The Power of Rock and such, here. (It doesn’t have to be rock music. I would also accept a bitchin’ poetry jam.)

Oh, and if you’re a player you have to say “Hi Ettin!”.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Seriously Guys, What The Hell



And more than one update a month! Two in a day, even. And it's not filler.

I'm going to cut right to the chase: If you are cybering with your characters, nobody needs to know.

I play online, can you tell? I like it, actually. I can play NPCs like Xaviana the elf princess without feeling silly. Still, sometimes you run into things you just don't want to see. Or exist.

Normally I don't care if you're homosexual or asexual or a transsexual with self-diagnosed Asperger's or you make your girlfriend dress up as a bear when you do it or whatever, but you don't have to be a pervert about it. I've described this before as "This Is My Fetish", the act of forcing your personal "tastes" on a game. Now I'm expanding it to players.

I don't mind sex in games. I personally enjoy romantic interests (particularly as plot devices) and the like, although I make a point of fading to black if and when the bedroom antics start. And if you want to actually cyber with the other PCs, sure, whatever. Not in game, obviously.

However, there are some huge "NO"s I think should be adhered to lest some big whiny hypocrite draws a stick figure cartoon about you:

  • Your character does not need to be defined in terms of a fetish. Your PC is not an "elf shota". I know what the word means, go to hell. Similarly, "gay dwarf warlock" is a little unnecessary. You can play it, but still.
  • Stressing the "deep and complex relationships between the PCs" if they are there is all well and good, but not to the detriment of the actual game, particularly if by "deep" you are referring to how far you have penetrated the party cleric. I personally prefer it when you put the adventure on hold to mount each other outside the session.
    • On that note, if you can remember all your PC's sexual relationships but not what happened adventure-wise three hours ago, there's a problem.
  • Don't discuss it in public. Augh. The above actually happened, though not to me. My DM friend in question has been actively avoiding finding out the details, but it's a little hard when his players are sitting around in a public IRC room justifying the paladin putting it in the "loli psion". And when one of his mates is giving the paladin constant shit about it, but I digress.
If you want to make babies with another PC, it's your prerogative. Hey, maybe we can do a campaign set in the future and you can play their kid. Whatever. Just... don't make a big deal out of it.


Of course, I won't outright ban that shit if it somehow seeps in, because I tend to allow things I don't like and let the rage levels rise until the grudge NPCs come out of the woodwork instead. The only things I'll outright ban are the stranger things such as furries, incest (which is reserved for creepy villains, thank you) and pedophilia.


Yes, I have to specify. God damn it, Internet.

In Which I Am Also Racist


Yesterday one of my games folded so I decided to try a new setting with some new players. I don't know what it's called yet but so far it's been described back to me as "Arcanapunk". It looks like some kind of Schizo Tech setting to me so far, and yes, I am going to tag it every time I link tvtropes.

Anyway, as far as not being Tolkienesque goes, the races (so far) are a bit of a step up:

  • Generic humans ranging from "dapper steampunk gentlemen" to "theocratic steampunk (dapper) paladins" to "evil devil-worshipping dieselpunk gentlemen (who may also be dapper)";
  • Vaguely Icelandic arctic elves with an approach towards technology which is apparently "Orky" in hindsight;
  • Actually-Small dwarves with "beer, mining and axes" replaced with "biology, nature and medicine" and a "mad scientist" bent";
  • Tieflings with the old draenei 3rd Edition look because I liked it and a backstory partially taken from 4th Edition, without the eyeshadow and "deep" personally-selected names;
  • Killoren pinched from Races of the Wild because someone suggested it was an okay idea;
  • Neogi minus the spaceships and with Glukkon-esque commercialism.
See? Slightly better. We're not just taking a cardboard cutout from Tolkien's trash bin and giving it a paint job, we're cobbling together our own cardboard cutout with bits out of other people's bins.

Too bad I'm still apparently incapable of putting in humans who aren't white dudes. There's still plenty of room in this setting for me to play Diablo II draw on more exotic and diverse real-world cultures in order to add new peoples, though, I guess.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Which I Reveal I Am A Massive Hypocrite




A real update will probably come soon when I am sober. For now...

Basically, I looked at my last post about how sticking to stereotype is just as bad as whining about elves being "mary sue faggots" or whatever it is this time, and then I looked at the races of my campaign setting. Let's review:

  • Humans, which (as usual) come in all kinds of flavours from "medieval fantasy" to "urban dungeon punk" to "Greeks" to "Amazons", i.e. the usual stuff. Only in hindsight do I notice all my humans are white.
  • Dwarves. Beards, beer, live on mountain slopes, etc. Dwarf women have favoured class: wizard, are in short supply, and can take multiple husbands. They like fire and fire magic. This is the extent of their originality, since I haven't fleshed them out much. (They are still better than Deegan dwarves, I guess, which I will not link to for the sake of your eyes. Let's just say "dwarf women with beards" and leave it at that.)
  • Elves. These come in two flavours, depending on whether this is Western Human Continent or Eastern Exotic Continent. The latter (the "main" elves) are dinosaur-riding jungle-dwellers who come off as Amazonian when they are not more or less acting a lot like humans. The former are basically boring standard elves for those who want to play that, only they live in giant mushrooms. Truly, I am a creative genius.
  • Gnomes that live in a swampy land and have a lot of the dungeon punk technology and magic, like floating cities.
  • Mutant half-elves spawned from Eastern Elves and what is basically Thay, with minor random magical powers. These half-elf X-men are found everywhere but some of them have a pirate city somewhere.
  • Elemental humanoids spawned from demigod elementals that went all explodey. Look like humanoids with fairy wings and some genasi-ish traits. Earth ones are so far the only recorded instance of a brown-skinned race.
Now we're getting into the "secondary races" that don't get much screentime, by the way.
  • Halflings, because I can't find a climate and a hat for them, so to speak. Naturally, I still feel entitled to make fun of 4E and gnomes.
  • Orcs which vary wildly between "pirate slavers" and "noble savage" depending on where they are, my mood at the time, my horoscope...
  • Demon-worshipping goblins.
  • Generic evil kobolds, plus some good and optimistic ones from the Grand Nation of Koboldia (population: 200).
  • Demon-worshipping gnolls who live between Eastern Elves and the humans who live on that continent (who are also white, by the way) and harass the elves a lot.
  • Drow. Yeah.
  • "Naga", four-armed deformed humanoids with snake tails that worship demons and were mostly created from elves. Ahem.
  • Sthein, elves with snake tails. Stolen from Bastards & Bloodlines with the naga from the MM replaced with the above naga.
  • Some others I might have forgotten.

I'm an unoriginal, racist hypocrite who steals from everything and I should kill myself.

Well, maybe not that bad. It strikes me as a little weird, though. I guess being "out there" is great if you can do it (Hello, Beyond Countless Doorways), but the familiar is comforting too. And I suppose throwing in "unique" races for its own sake can be fucked up just as easily as introducing an old race and applying the Stereotype template. Where's the line and what side should you be on? I don't know. Maybe it's a matter of personal opinion.

Christ, am I waxing philosophical about this? Okay, we're done.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Elves elves elves


I'm busy with exams and such, but I decided to filler you guys up (all two of you), so I'll post a couple of the ones I did before I did this blog.

This one is based on a tale narrated to me by a friend. It was a game I'd been playing in, as a drow paladin of Moradin (tee hee), but I had to quit for schedule reasons; they decided they needed a healer and at some point roped in this other guy, who agreed to be a healer and then made said half-dragon elf cleric and proceeded to launch himself merrily into combat instead.


Eventually, the story goes, the party got heartily sick of it and when he happened to be in the way of a potential target, well, the sorcerer didn't hold back.

Instead of resurrecting him, they made a necklace of his ears and moved on. Apparently he still rolled a new character after that...


Now if you'll excuse me, I'd like to ramble.


What is it with people and noble, nature-loving white-skinned prettyboy elves? If those ones turn out to be a "dying race" or one whose "time has passed", I am going to shoot myself.

At least it's better than Gorean orcs.

Really, what is it with them? A forest-dwelling nature race is not a bad idea. It is actually good to cover all your bases (well, an entire setting of mountain races has its charm as well, but usually...), but really, that doesn't mean you have to shit all over them.

There isn't anything inherently bad about most common elf traits unless you're the kind of person who associates everything with its worst stereotype and is secretly worried they're gay. In fact, fuck those guys too. I've played with people who will patiently explain that elves will "always" be arrogant tree-lovers which they hate, and treat them as such in every setting from Warhammer to Dark Sun. I've played with people who will introduce their own Mary Sue homebrew race into a setting, and write their own ham-fisted retcon of its history to make elves evil Nazis for its own sake. (This is particularly annoying if it is your homebrew setting). Anyone who takes it this far needs to grow up.

And it's still not as bad as this.

I'm not saying throw everything out entirely and make a completely new elf - my homebrew gets along fine with dinosaur-taming civilised jungle dwellers with a small "vanilla but no arrogant elf" country for the lazy.. Just.... no more Tolkien-esque oh-so-perfect haughty jerks. We've had enough of those.

Oh yeah, and no more of this subrace rubbish. You don't need a different kind of elf for every climate, class, culture and bucket. Where are the aquatic dwarves? The dark orcs? The star goblins? The evil aquatic gnomes who turn into sharks? Unless it works in the context of your setting, please give some thought to the other races or just stick to one kind of elf. Or two. And maybe drow.

And cut this shit out too.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How To Annoy Your Players: Campaign Creation


So, now you know how to wage psychological warfare with your DM before the game even begins. It’s only fair if the DM gets a few pointers too, though…


The art if annoying your players as the Dungeon Master is not a fine one, because nobody wants to be the DM. If you are absolutely fucking terrible and a player, it’s not actually that hard to remove you if your DM and/or fellow players aren’t pussies. If you’re DMing but possess the skills and likeability of cryptosporidiosis, many groups won’t have any alternative.

Then again, it’s always worth learning to do it properly just in case your players really do find a replacement (or someone finally sucks it up and falls into the trap of declaring “Fine, I’ll DM”, sealing their fate as a non-player for the next ten years). With that in mind, here are some handy strategies you can use at any time when the game is still being set up:


Cookie Monster Versus The Pirates

Shit yeah, this is awesome! See, it’s like Sesame Street, only kind of gothic-steampunk! Also there are pirates and ninja! The players ride around on penny farthings and wield rocket launchers and the BBEG is Al Gore!

Now try running it.

See, a lot of games suffer from the same problem that most gaming webcomics suffer from – assuming that things that sound “cool”, like ninjas and pirates and furbies and astronauts and road workers who only look like they’re standing still doing nothing because they’re telepathically going to the Moon to harvest moon cheese, are a substitute for entertainment.

It has been done before. Dr. McNinja is actually pretty fucking sweet, or at least I like to think so. But there’s a difference between doing it well and just sticking it in there and expecting it to write itself.

Do the latter, you know you’ve always wanted to. Go ahead and have Earth invaded by aliens who love disco, or shoehorn that pirate NPC into your campaign. End your first encounter with OH NO NECROMANCER-NINJAS ARE LEAPING THROUGH THE WINDOWS THEY ARE RESURRECTING ALL THE GOBLINS AS SKELETONS AIIEEE. It’s like I Can’t Believe It’s Not Plot – it will solve any problems you have with making your game interesting.

Right?


This often goes hand-in-hand with Exotica and can be eerily similar to This Is My Fetish.


DMPCs

Admit it, you know you want to.

If you REALLY want to deal with the players on their side of the table, what's to stop you? Forget that "You're the DM, you play the rest of the world" crap. Yeah, you play the rest of the world, but the rest of the world doesn't fucking matter unless you get to play the hero or villain that messes with it on a large scale.

Since this is about how to create the game, we won't go into details like how to make it, but it's a good idea to hype them up because some players have this really low opinion of DMPCs for some reason. Tell them about how he is a silent badass whose backstory they will have to discover for themselves (that'll get them interested), or just attach it to the campaign notes you give them if you want to focus on the action. Telling the players that they will start under the leadership of the DMPC to promote the party getting to know each other is also pretty good.

Remember, your DMPC is awesome. Be sure to help your players see this before the game begins!


Exotica

Things that aren’t the norm are just attractive, sometimes. It’s why there are so many half-humans in RPGs – lithe and hairless with pointy ears? I’d hit that. Green and strong with tusks? Sure, why not! Blue skin, hooves, horns and a tail? Yes, I also enjoy the company of mary sue tieflings. A horse? Someone is giving birth to centaur right now.

In real life, this basically extends to foreign cultures. Especially Asia. It’s apparently hard to be part of the gaming-slash-anime-slash-what-the-fuck-ever subculture and not have yellow fever. Not knowing anyone like that is almost impossible.

So, why not inject a little bit of Japanese love into your game? Tell someone the best fighters come from whatever Asian continent you know you have because they have “awesome martial arts”, or give them the best magic, or whatever. Have asian NPCs thumb their noises at the dirty foreigners. Hell, just go ahead and run BESM for its intended purpose, maybe use it to run Neon Genesis Evangelion (bonus points if you decide you actively hate your players and make the second half of your campaign God-awful.) Trust me, your gaijin players will only thank you for opening their eyes to the awesomeness of the land of the rising sun. ^____^

Works well with Make Their Character For Them. Mortal enemy of Not In My America, but if you can somehow do both in one game then you are a god among men. Usually turns into Cookie Monster Versus The Pirates once the ninja get involved. DMPCs are good for driving the point home.


Fuck Your Magic

Most commonly seen in games following other games that were beaten via clever (or just abusive) use of magic, particularly those run by DMs who had no idea how to handle it.

The easiest way to do this is pick a handful of spells – maybe magic missile, or illusion spells, or healing spells – and nerf them in any way you can. Make magic missile require a ranged attack roll, or ban the spells upright, or shift their spell level up by one or more. Insist that this is a “fix”.

If you’re feeling hardcore: Pick a magic system. It can be one you don’t like. If you don’t hate any setting, here are some stock reasons for picking any one magic system. Keep in mind that “stock” doesn't mean “reasonable”, so you should probably avoid explaining yourself if you can:

  • Vancian casting: The idea is stupid. The system is inflexible. Arcane casting blows because you can’t wear armor.

  • Arcane magic: There are way too many spells and arcane casters usurp all other class roles. Even spell failure chance can be overcome by casting the right spells!

  • Divine casting: All divine casting classes are either terribly broken (Cleric, Druid, Favoured Soul) or terribly underpowered (Ranger, Paladin). Casters shouldn’t get to wear armour, people!

  • Psionics: Fuck psionics, even Gygax didn’t like it! It’s broken and shitty and is basically an MMO version of magic with all the checks and balances removed.

  • Tome of Magic: Oh look, WotC testing out 4E houserules by making us buy them. Binder? More like glorified factotum. Shadowcaster is a reskinned sorcerer and truenamer is a bad rendition of good fluff.

  • Tome of Battle: FIGHTERS SHOULD NOT GET SPELLS AUGH

  • Magic of Incarnum: Who actually uses Magic of Incarnum?

Now that you’ve got your reasons, hit your casting system and hit it hard. Make Spellcraft or Concentration checks required just to cast in any conditions and bump the DCs up, or give everything really high spell resistance, or only give new spells every other level. If it’s psionics, limit the amount of PP you can use in any encounter, or make them roll saves vs. stunning for some reason.

Then not only waive every single one of these houserules for every NPC in the campaign world, but have another casting system feature prominently and unchanged.



Make Their Character For Them

Players are incompetent fools and need your guiding hand to help them make characters that work well in your game – after all, it’s your game. Who else would know better about how to make something that fits well? You might as well Make Their Character For Them.

There are two ways to go about this – the Roleplayer and the Rollplayer. In the Rollplayer, you look over the player’s shoulders all the time and insist that they should focus on their build rather than their gnome barbarian idea everyone thought was pretty sweet. Constantly bug them about ditching their current sheet and starting over with a warblade, taking this maneuver and that stance and combining it with these feats so you can go into this prestige class in three months’ time, it’s so powerful… The idea is to see how many players cave in and how far.

The Roleplayer is basically the same, except instead you tell them to “stick to your concept” and accuse them of powergaming if they try and make a character that’s interesting and effective, because you are fucking stupid if you think there is no dichotomy between these things. Constantly bug them about ditching their current sheet and starting over with a Fighter with Power Attack and Skill Focus (Cooking). Obviously, the idea is to see how many players make characters that wouldn’t last a night in The Grand Nation of Koboldia (population 200), let alone a real dungeon.

There are variants, of course, mostly to do with forcing the player to conform to some aesthetic standard – good strategies you can combine this with are Cookie Monster Versus The Pirates, Exotica, Not In My America, No That Was Last Week and This Is My Fetish.


No That Was Last Week

The best storytellers are constantly coming up with new ideas. Anything can give them inspiration, from a book on Roman Catholics to their Baywatch image gallery to that dead cat by the highway.

Sometimes, there’s so many you can’t settle on just one.

No That Was Last Week is when you change your mind about what you want to run. Often. The important difference between this and the usual conceptual stage of any campaign is that No That Was Last Week is when you change your mind somewhere between the moment everyone perfects their character sheets and the start of the second session. You want exchanges like this:


Unnamed DM: Eberron campaign! Who is interested?

Me: God damn it, another one?

Unnamed DM: Honestly, I don't feel like fleshing out my Greek setting yet...


And that’s fine, you know. Sometimes you have an idea you realize is crap later and you want to do something else. Sometimes that “something else” turns out to be crap as well. Sometimes you come up with a third idea and realize you liked the first idea better. It happens. Any player not willing to make character sheet after character sheet for you is a dick.

Since a lot of ideas are used up in this, Cookie Monster Versus the Pirates often creeps in, and Straw Master or Exotica can get a decent look in as well.


Not In My America

A natural reaction to the aforementioned yellow fever.

Sick of all this whiny weeaboo foreign bullshit? Patriotic and in love with your great free democracy? Do you just hate n*****s? This is the game for you!

Anything that isn’t white and Christian is barely tolerated at best. Tome of Battle is banned because some of the maneuver names are kind of like something you saw in one of those gay Japanese shows once when your little sister was watching it, and you should scream and flail your arms like a chimp if someone mentions it. There’s a lot of Japanese influence on gamers these days so it’s vitally important that you stamp any trace of it out before they start gaining weight, wearing Naruto headbands and reading Megatokyo.

If you are some kind of mentally retarded s racist, this is the perfect time to give human-only templates for the master race, the blacks, the Jews, Muslims, etc., and have the players be the former and shoot the latter. If not, just go for terrorist attacks. I don’t care if you’re playing in Eberron. Make the gnomes bind fire elementals to bombs while wearing towels on their heads.

Mortal enemy of Exotica. Obviously goes well with Straw Master.


Straw Master

The Straw Master is a peculiar kind of DM who believes in something strongly. So strongly he wants his players to believe in it, too.

Christian? Make paladins special warriors who fight for the One God, and turn Heironeous and Pelor and all that into false gods whose fake followers get gimped caster levels and hunted down. Don’t LIKE Christians? Do a flimsy caricature of their priests that secretly summon demons and all have INT 6. Dungeons & Dragons? More like Stockades and Soapboxes!!!

Of course, it’s not just religion you can push on your players. Push your views on politics, on vegetarianism, on industry versus nature, on how Microsoft is worse than Hitler and everyone you know should convert to Linux because it’s so much easier and better. And do it right. That is, do it horribly, horribly wrong. Stuff like Planescape, Bioshock… hell, even Oddworld can be ‘deeper’ than most games, but unlike them you are not obligated to offer alternative viewpoints or make it interesting in any way.

Bonus points if you either allow everyone to play what they want – elves, dwarves, myconids, whatever – and then pidgeonhole their character into a role they don’t want after they’ve made it (suddenly dwarves are an allegory for Nazi Germany! Your malconvoker is a horrible sinner against God and all paladins detect you as evil!), or force them to play certain characters (“You’re an evil corporate sell-out and my girlfriend here will be the free-spirited aasimar teaching you a lesson in humility!”).

Obviously a good friend of Make Your Character For Them and Not In My America. DMPCs can help.


This Is My Fetish

Oh my god, I have to explain this one?


Okay. Pick a fetish. Transformation, zoophilia and its best friend the furry, BDSM, whatever. You don’t even have to have it. The important thing is the players must think you do.

Then, you must make them play a setting in which that features heavily. Bonus points if one of your players is also into it, and double bonus points if he is obese and always smells like turkey or something. Don’t go overboard, because you want them to keep playing – no FATAL, no Black Tokyo, no Forgotten Realms.

Watch your players squirm, and enjoy.

Incidentally, bunnygirls and anything related totally doesn’t count.

If you glorify it, it’s Straw Master.



That's all I can think of right now. Stay tuned for next week next time eventually, when I will probably post about something or other.

Monday, March 31, 2008

How To Annoy Your DM: Character Creation

(click for a larger image)

Well, first entry. Writing it about character creation would be fitting, wouldn't it?


On the other hand, if you need someone else to tell you how to make your character you're either new to the game (in which case, go buy the books) or you're retarded (in which case let Wizards sell you the Hero Builder's Guidebook).

Slightly more seriously though, there is one thing I can help with. See, character creation is something you should learn yourself, but like everything else in D&D, it's really a form of psychological warfare. If you're going to use it, use it properly!

With that in mind, the following is a guide on pissing off your DM before the game even begins. Use it wisely.


Communication Is Key

Don't do it.


Seriously.


Not only does this add an aura of mystery to your character (and as we all know, auras of mystery are totally fucking awesome), but not telling anyone anything means they are less likely to steal your ideas and make something that overlaps with your character. This includes things like when you rolled your dice, what you got, what books you're using and your entire concept.

You have to reveal it eventually, but hold off on it – studies show that the likelihood of your sheet getting approved is inversely proportional to how much time is remaining before game time. For maximum effect, presenting your character when you show up a few minutes before the game is the best option; bonus points if it's incomplete or just a concept, because making the DM either wait for you to sheet it or let you sheet it while you roleplay the character just makes it more likely that he'll allow it!

This goes the other way, too. There are only three things you need to know – the ECL and the starting gold, and when and where you're playing. That's it. Fuck the setting, fuck what everyone else is playing, fuck the players, fuck the house rules, and fuck you. Those things just cramp your style.


Concept

Okay, maybe knowing that stuff is useful – if you really want to be annoying, you have to take advantage of it. Think of them as restrictions, ones that need to be broken through to teach your DM and fellow players a lesson in true, free D&Ding.

First, you need your idea. There are a number of ways to go about this. Here are some of them; try to get at least one in, but go for more if you can.

  • Find out the setting, then take stuff from another setting, because good DMs treat setting books as just more splat. If you're in Eberron, be a Red Wizard. If you're anywhere other than Eberron, be a warforged artificer and build a spelljammer. Bonus points if your backstory actively references the campaign setting you actually took this shit from.

  • Better yet, study the setting in-depth and use that knowledge to make something truly terrible. If you try hard enough you can justify a kalashtar that tries to get pregnant constantly and uses divinations to decide whether or not to abort, you know.

  • Find out what everyone else is playing, then make a character with the least fitting alignment possible. If anyone complains tell them it worked in Order of the Stick. Lawful to neutral good crusaders? Go chaotic evil! Chaotic neutral to evil rogue types? It's paladin time!

  • Hell, just be a paladin. Odds are good nobody at the table has any idea how to play one properly.

  • Or just be chaotic evil. If the DM doesn't back down, make it chaotic neutral, then act chaotic evil. If he doesn't let you be CN, be true neutral and act chaotic evil.

  • If your class choice isn't tied up in one of the other ideas, either pick one that won't be helpful at all given the party makeup, or pick the class everyone wants you to be and then make it as hard to play with as possible. Since most groups probably need a healer, you could be a cleric of a merchant deity and charge for heals.

  • Use as much psionics, incarnum and Tome of Magic stuff as you can, especially if the DM doesn't allow it. Good defences are “Well there has to be a first of everything” and talking about how much Vancian casting sucks for twenty minutes.

  • Openly rip off a character from a work of fiction. The older the better – if you try and make Wolverine the DM is going to notice, but is he going to figure it out if you make one of the Street Sharks? (If your DM doesn't watch anime, you are obligated to make Goku or something and see how long you last until he figures it out.)

  • Pick a race that just doesn't work. Half-golems are a good idea.

  • Pick something one of the other players is playing and make a character that really really hates that thing.

  • Make up your own campaign setting fluff. Works best if the setting is the DM's own. For maximum effect, make up your own nations and insert major world-changing events into the setting's history. If the DM has a race or god he particularly likes, write things that paint them as genocidal rapists or something. If you're inserting a homebrew race as well, give it a Mary Sue past.

  • Name all your characters Tim.

  • Make your character a spelljammer captain.

  • Make your character a Good-aligned drow. (Bonus points if he is also a spelljammer captain.)

  • Hide your concept from the DM, so he doesn't know that powerful fighter is actually a misogynistic, anarchist serial killer until you meet the queen. If he asks questions (eg “You say he's a merchant, but what does he sell?”), dodge them as much as you can (“All kinds of things. He has an amazing sense of what can sell.”)

  • If the DM has any kind of rule on what kind of character you can make (e.g., “you're all going to start as merchants” or “normal people thrust into extraordinary circumstances”), you're basically obligated to violate that as much as possible. Everyone else is going to make boring people, so they should thank you and your shark-wrestling anthropomorphic gorilla barbarian for spicing things up.

  • Say your character has amnesia. Actively avoid discovering your past because you're “just not interested”. This allows you to avoid pesky things like “backstory” and “character development” that just slow you down.


Creation

So it's time to make that character. This part is one of the more difficult ones to annoy the DM in, because you want to be allowed to play, but push it as much as you can. Maybe you even have one of those new/pushover DMs who will allow it anyway – if that's the case, clearly they deserve everything you give them. They should have expected this stuff.

  • Roll in secret if you can get away with it, with your own “preferred rolling system” if possible. And by that, I mean write down the numbers you want.

  • Dip into as many splat books as possible and don't tell the DM which ones. Works best if the DM wants everything non-core approved first or something.

  • Homebrew stuff. A new elf subrace with all the bonuses you need and penalties to your dump stats is perfect. Better yet, get the DM to let you “playtest” a homebrew PrC of yours. Or base class. Or both. If you can get this to happen and don't take advantage of it you are a terrible person.

  • Look at what the other players are doing, then make something that does exactly what they do – only better. What's more annoying, playing an abjuration wizard alongside a conjuration wizard or playing alongside another abjuration wizard with higher DCs?

  • If the DM puts house rules in that go against something the Dungeon Master's Guide says (like setting the starting gold to half of what the wealth guidelines say you should have) and it doesn't benefit you, make a fuss about it. Imply that not following the DMG is bad DMing.

  • Argue about the rules. The best way to do this is to pigeon-hole every alignment (insisting all Lawful Good characters have to follow the paladin's Code of Conduct or equating “Chaotic Neutral” with “Insane” is a good start), but any place where the rules could be misinterpreted if you're an idiot works. Bonus points if you not only insist this is the case, but roll your eyes and patronise those who disagree.

  • Invest points in as many Knowledge ranks as you can and bring the Monster Manuals to games.

  • Enthuse to the DM about how much you love whatever class or race you're picking because it's so overpowered. Do this from the moment you start coming up with the character concept to the moment you begin to play it. Say “borderline overpowered” or “powerful” instead if you're a pussy.

  • Once you've made the sheet, scrap it entirely. Make a completely new sheet with a different concept. See how many times you can do this before the DM tells you to make a decision. (Bonus points if you stick with your very first sheet after all.)

  • Make something amazingly underpowered or just plain weird (paladin with CHA 10, a sorcerer with more feats invested in wielding a spiked chain than spells). If someone tries to stop you, call them a powergamer, tell them you're ”roleplaying” and roll your eyes. Bonus points if your character is allowed and you get killed in the first session and act surprised.

  • On the other hand, you could make an amazingly broken character, and I mean really broken. Don't even try to hide it, just go ahead and slap on “LA -” templates under the assumption that means “LA +0” and not “This isn't a player option”, make a paladin with Knowledge (the planes) and spend all your money on candles of invocation, whatever. Sure, anyone not stupid is going to ban it, but then you do it again and see how many sheets you can make him read before he caves or kicks you out.

  • Edit things on your character sheet. Change “Intimidate” to “Rape Face”, “Diplomacy” to “Seduction”, your alignment to “Chaotic Awesome”, etc.

  • On that note, make your alignment as vague as possible to avoid pesky detect spells and justify killing the party later. After all, clerics don't need gods, why do you need alignments? They're getting phased out in 4E!

  • Of course, you could make a completely okay character with no problems at all, either to make the DM suspicious or to wait until you're actually playing to “surprise” everyone.

  • A neat trick for making die rolls go your way – get the DM to witness you rolling dice at least a day before the game. If you don't like the result, sit down with the DM the next day and claim you “forgot” your results (or lost the paper they were written on if the DM made you record them). Reroll. If the DM remembers or has a copy, reroll before he tells you. If you like your new rolls, insist on taking them instead. Bonus points if you eventually insist on “compromising” by taking all the good bits of the roll you want to keep and combining them with the bad bits of the one you don't.


Justification

To go the extra mile, remember to come up with justifications for everything you do. They don't have to be good ones. Filling your backstory with vague excuses, like being in or at least near the local wizard's guild to explain your Red Wizard, works well enough. In a similar vein, picking a long-lived race allows you to choose whatever spells, wild shapes, etc. you want, even ones that only exist on the far side of the world or another plane altogether, because there's a possibility that sometime in your long life you might have been somewhere near that place for a few days.

Justifying the bizarre can be a good creative writing challenge, but even the silliest excuse works if you can deliver it in a completely calm and confident way. Here are some examples:

  • Being several levels higher than everyone else (“I thought the party could learn from my example”)

  • Being a soulborn when incarnum does not exist in the setting (“I could be the only one”)

  • Playing a beholder with penises for eyes (“I come from the Far Realm!”)

  • Drow paladin of Moradin (“I was abandoned beside a dwarf outpost as a child”)

Finally, attaching “it will be an interesting roleplaying challenge” increases the believability of your justifications by a factor of 10.


The Game

(You just lost it.)

If you've followed the first part of this guide, the players won't know you have problems showing up. The trick is to spring them on everyone no later than an hour before the game.

Good problems are a chronic inability to get there on time, a need to go home early, having to bring your little sister to babysit, or scheduling conflicts with your World of Warcraft raiding guild. If you're playing online, make sure they don't hear about it until someone asks why you haven't responded for twenty minutes or you suddenly quit the game.


The End

And that's all the secrets I can be bothered sharing with you! Remember, any DM who doesn't let you do any of these is probably a faggot or something. Fuck those guys with their rules.

Stay tuned until next time, where I either give the DMs among you tips on how to annoy your players or, perhaps, actually complain about something instead of being facetious about it. Until then, feel free to tell me your own D&D stories or maybe suggest things you want to hear about!