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.