Friday, March 27, 2009

Natural 21

Onward to part 2!

I sometimes wish I had a perfect group. What a perfect group is for you might be a little different to my perfect group, but the basics should be there - good guys, everyone works well together, et cetera.

Of course, this is pretty hard to get and you'll probably end up with a fuckmuffin or two. It's to be expected - pretty much everyone is going to be a cockwaffle of some description at least once in their gaming career, possibly near the start of it. That doesn't mean you shouldn't play with someone just because they can be a buttcake, though - nearly all the fuckcrumpets I know have redeeming qualities that make it worth playing with them, and with luck they might even grow out of the habits that made them a bitchpudding in the first place.

Case in point, pretty much half of that campaign I mentioned in the last post. I was a years-long game, and people who were huge shitbreakfasts around the start improved immeasurably toward the end. I would play with most of these people again. With that in mind (and the fact that this was a while ago so I might be misremembering details), here we go:

The campaign started with four players, only one of whom made it to the end. (I actually had to stop playing after a few sessions, and picked it up months later with mostly-new players.) Those players were (actual names avoided):
  • Gorgon (unrelated name) who was decent at roleplaying (and might have played D&D before, I forget). This was my first game, so I allowed her to play a chaotic evil character. She stabbed and nearly killed another player over a nonmagical scimitar, which is pretty much all anyone remembers, but the entire game was terrible really so who gives a shit?
  • Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Blog-Post, who played a cleric without problems and was just plain unable to make it again. Pretty cool guy.
  • Sorceress, who will later roll a non-sorceress but I don't care. Played a sorcerer with the intention of going into Dragon Disciple, and thought "chaotic" meant "crazy", but didn't do much except stop the party one time to sniff things. Fairly harmless!
  • Forgetmenot, who played a multiclass wizard/fighter (in a level 1 game! We were new). Aside from being the unfortunate stab victim above, not much happened.
Later, when I evolved from New DM to Newbie DM, I picked up the game again, starting the campaign a few in-game weeks after the last session.

Sorceress had taken the character to a campaign with another guy, who made it to epic level. She had also picked up a host of ego problems there somehow; she rerolled a wu jen, but wanted to cameo her old PC as an NPC who helped hire the new players. And she wanted to use the epic-level demigoddess from the other DM's game plus her fey-with-class-levels familiar. Eventually she "settled" for her original PC, plus a couple levels, and the familiar which proceeded to interrupt the scene with its wacky antics! until I banned it from future appearances.

Oh yeah, and she cheated on her dice rolls and ignored restrictions I put on treasure. I was a newbie. :/

Forgetmenot rolled a half-orc monk, or something. Unfortunately, Forgetmenot has a habit of missing sessions and then quitting games (or at least rerolling characters) because he no longer "feels" the character. This happened fairly early on and he couldn't be bothered coming back. Bah.

New players were:
  • Afk, who rolleda half-fey cleric. He lasted to the end, and was actually a pretty good guy - interesting backstory, roleplayed fairly well (including his character flaws), etc. I have few problems with him, except that his character wasn't awesomely memorable until a scene where his character proposed to another, which was pretty swell.
  • Defias, which was the name of the guy's dwarf character. A WoW player (can you tell?) who was actually pretty cool except for the WoW references (and reads this blog!). He had to stop playing for some reason so his PC decided to stick around the town they were in to pursue a relationship with a minor NPC. That's... about it.
  • Roffle, who played a half-drow soulknife with a tragic backstory who also stayed to the end, despite the fact that his character spent most of the game moping and distancing himself from the party. Actually a pretty decent roleplayer. I will explain why I want to punch him later.
  • Fleet, a pretty cool guy who played a half-orc (or was it an orc?) with a really interesting backstory who sadly had schedule conflicts after the first couple sessions and never played again - don't even know if he played D&D at all after that. FFFF.
Later (I think around when Defias and Forgetmenot quit), we picked up:
  • Catphone, Roffle's sister (I love making up names) who played a were-tiger who was also a lone wolf with no real reason to interact with the PCs or anyone else. (Dear D&Ders: Please stop doing this, or at least stop crying to me about it when you have no in-character reason to do anything.) Catphone missed a few sessions because she was too sad to play, or her cat was sick, or she was sad that her cat was sick.
  • Timberlake, who played a half-dragon fighter and showed up to a bunch of sessions high, or just fell asleep. Yeah.
At some point I decided to run a second side-game with evil PCs opposing the party. It did not last long at all. It consisted of:
  • Georgio, who just took over the halfling villain I had from before. Stopped eventually, though he made some suggestions on what to do with it.
  • Power Samurai, a powergamer who wanted to use the game to playtest a homebrew iajutsu-related PrC he made (again, I was new); he killed the first boss before anyone else had time to act, then quit the game because it was "boring".
  • Revy, who played a thri-kreen and was actually pretty cool. I was sad when we couldn't continue the evil-PC game. I should invite him to another game sometime...
  • Hack, who usually plays melee fighters, and this time decided to... play a drow melee fighter. When the evil-PC game had to be cancelled, his character "defected" and joined the heroes.
Around this point, things got weird.

Sorceress got really touchy about anything bad happening to her PCs. It didn't help that in another game, she threw a literal tantrum at this happening (despite playing a lich. Think about it) and I didn't feel like dealing with that crap. At one point, she threatened to murder another Timberlake's PC for giving her familiar a slap on the wrist for snatching things out of his hands so she could see. She tried to make a semantics argument about how she didn't really mean she would kill him, though later she made a secret "deal" with Hack to kill Timberlake in his sleep. Another time she yelled at me for including "a challenge way over our level" (something about their level I took from the Book of Challenges and toned down) because her character took damage.

Meanwhile, Hack was slowly deciding he was the only genius in this whole fucking business. After deciding Afk and Timberlake both sucked and so did their characters (for reasons varying from "valid" to "fucking trivial"), he at first planned to off them, then quit the game and demanded a solo campaign (which he now demands whenever he quits a game, or whenever I start a new campaign he can't join because he refuses to play with half the gaming group) with dice-rolling combat action and adventures and dungeons planned with as much care and effort as the actual campaign. This did not go as well as he hoped.

At one point, the party (which was about 6-8th level) got a hold of a unique trident from some book (MotP?) It was treasure "for the party", but what ended up happening was that the party fighter sold it, kept the money for himself and commissioned a +1 keen holy frost greatsword. If I had the experience I did now I would have smacked him in the face.

Sorceress heard this and tried to put a small "down payment" on an epic-level spear for her cohort. I said no.

Oh, yeah! There were cohorts. Sorceress' was actually a PC of hers from another game who was mostly remembered for being thick, nearly killing the entire party by doing something she was told not to several times in a row, and blaming it on everyone else. It was also a fighter she was trying to set up to be like an FF dragon. She played it and her familiar like two extra PCs. Timberlake had a ranger, and Afk had a sorceress (mostly to carry his stuff). If you've been counting, you'll notice that this made way too many characters in the one party. There might have been another cohort I forget, I don't remember.

Sorceress and Hack (who hadn't quit yet) brought this up with me. In a dazzling display of generosity, they suggested kicking Catphone and Roffle out of the game. I told them to go eat a bag of dongs and kicked out all cohorts, except for Afk's after he made a good case for keeping it (it didn't do much and carried his stuff).

Timberlake accepted provided he could swap Leadership for another feat, which seemed fair. Sorceress, though, was a little miffed (she has a problem with people touching her PCs in and out of game, she treated her familar and cohort like extra PCs, 1+1=...). Eventually she told me she was "finally okay" with it, and then began to threaten me because she was worried I would remove the cohort from the game by killing it. After being told that she would "react" if I fudged the die rolls against her, I told her I was no longer comfortable with her cohort participating in battle and it was to sit on the sidelines until removed so I didn't have to worry about sudden explosions of anger because someone did damage to it.

She stormed out of the game. Happily, with her and Hack gone, that solved the too-many-players issue.

That left Afk, Timberlake, Roffle and Catphone. At some point Catphone changed characters, and rolled a half-fey princess sorcerer/blood magus who was also very shy and had little reason to interact with people. (!!!) Roffle was still mopey and didn't do much IC - but I forgot his OOC behaviour!

See, OOC, Roffle is (well, was, he's not that bad now) a jokester, cracking any joke or making any pun that came to mind until people told him to shut it up (which he'd ignore anyway). He liked to say he was "MST"ing games. He'd also play World of Warcraft during sessions and we'd have to make Catphone give us his character name (provided she wasn't too sad to play) so we could chase him down and tell him that it was his turn in battle twenty toastfucking minutes ago.

We recruited one more guy - Lewl, a WoW friend of mine who decided to play a(nother) sorceress who was also the sister of a popular NPC. And called Lewl. Heh. Good guy, really.

The final dungeon came up - that one I mentioned last time, which turned out to be too big and annoying. They decided to bring along some NPCs, and Afk and Sorceress bugged me to let her back in. She didn't want to play her wu jen again, no - she wanted to play the familiar from the first session, which Afk's half-fey had taken a liking to. After being pestered about it, I said yes, provided things didn't get silly. Later, I had to correct her when her fey rogue/sorcerer casually talked to the other PCs while trying to stealthily disarm a trap behind an orc guard several corridors away and around a corner.

More dungeon action. Lewl had to quit due to schedule problems. Shitwafers. By this point I had also rejected several requests by Hack for his PC (or his PC's higher-level father) to swoop in and save the day.

A boss battle came up - long story short, Georgio had been brought back again, this time as an undead made out of blood. Since there wasn't enough of his own blood left, the BBEG used a fellow henchman who was no longer useful as bait for the PCs and set up a dungeon which drained any blood spilled inside into a hidden chamber beneath... Oh, and then they used some of it to make a generic "the party must fight evil versions of itself" encounter, except it was "evil undead halfling versions of itself made of blood".

Even though he was a fighter, Timberlake's counterpart was a warblade. He complained about this, because it was important for some reason, and when the next session was due to begin after the battle had started he suddenly announced he "didn't feel like playing", basically ruining any chance we had of running a proper game that day, then stayed around anyway to talk to the others and make remarks that, if read by a grumpy asshole (or perhaps someone who no longer believes "oh but what I really meant was..." defenses), could be construed as snide remarks about said warblade.

So, naturally, I yelled at him and called him a fuck-bánh xèo. And he quit. Fuckbacon.

We trudged on anyway, with Afk, Sorceress, Catphone and Roffle left. Catphone didn't do much except be sad, act bored and shoot of acid arrows. Later, I looked at her blood magus after she complained about being underpowered.

Turns out she thought "+1 level of existing arcane spellcasting class" in the blood magus description meant "you get another bonus spell slot" and hadn't actually gotten any new spell levels since taking the PrC. After pointing this out, she declared that she was too lazy to fix it and quit the game. Shitternational House of Pancakes!

That left Afk, Sorceress and Roffle, who had by this point failed to respond for twenty minutes because he was "Youtubing". The final boss loomed.

I decided to just get it over with (in fact, I cut most of the final floor) and decided to make the boss battle worth it. With that in mind, I planned out a pretty good final battle arena - a multi-tiered 'roof' at the mountain's peak. In this setting, the reason magic-users don't end up dominating wars is because everyone trains casters for counterspelling the enemy's magic, and the excess magical energy from countless dispelled spells (and a little extra magical energy from spells that are cast) eventually builds up in the air and forms a magical storm above called a counterstorm, which eventually turns into a magical hurricane raining random spells and death on all. The BBEG's plan hinged on forcing one of these to appear by making the good guys bring more mages onto the battlefield, then using a magical doom artifact to absorb the storm's energy and focus it into a massive unstable death ray to nuke their capital. The artifact sat in a room at the very tip of the peak, already sucking in a vortex of energy from the storm above. While they fought, zombies and other undead would pour up from the slopes and the rooms below, which the NPCs they brought focused on holding off; nevertheless, the wave of undead would force them up the tiers with each "stage" of the battle until eventually they were fighting the lich mano-a-mano in the artifact's room.

Man, that would have been awesome.

That did happen. The problem was, since it was the final battle, I wanted to set a mood it deserved. So, I ended up wasting half an hour (with the player's permission) thinking up an appropriately epic description of the arena and the lich himself, poised to destroy a kingdom. (It was not long; most of that half-hour was spent silently thinking.) And, since this relied on a certain atmosphere, I accosted Roffle privately.

I knew he had a habit of inserting jokes all the fucking time, regardless of whether it would ruin the atmosphere or just distract everyone from something they were trying to do. I told him explicitly that if the thought of cracking a mood-breaking joke so much as crossed his mind, I would murder his children.

That vital task done, I went ahead and described everything. I described the room. I described the thunderstorm above. I described the lich. He was dark, he was ominous, he was frightening.

"...And he's FABULOUS!!"
The atmosphere crumbled.

After being specifically told not to, Roffle had opened his mouth and made a fucking joke as soon as I had finished.

His excuse?

"But I'm the MST3K of D&D. :<"

I did my best to make the final battle great after that. I really did. And, I feel, I made an awesome finale that everyone enjoyed. But whenever I look back on it, I'll always remember that. And then I'll remember the bad times.

Oh, well. Now that I've gotten that off my chest, I have to admit, overall it was a good game. I was even asked to run a sequel. A few bad moments will never get in the way of a really good game, not in the end. We did it, and it was liked, and everyone who stayed till the end had fun.

And isn't that what matters?


Karizma said...

Part of me wants to offer to try to play in a game to be sane and helpful; I'm sympathetic to your pain.

But the most important thing is that the good outweighs the bad and all that.

I like the idea of Counterspelling having a consequence. I'm going to steal that.

Blastcage said...

Charisma Ettin has several games running now AND I'M ALREADY IN THE QUEUE

also tldr olo

Karizma said...

I said "Part of me wants to" because most of me is apprehensive about online gaming. I've never tried it, and it would be hard for me to get used to.

But I would love to hear about your setting design stuff. (I say that because I know if I say "talk about setting design" I would end up balking about my Great and Awesome Setting That Is Just Too Cool and I already know that I'm the only one who cares, and would rather just pick up (steal) ideas from you.)


Anonymous said...

Your group is an absurdly dysfunctional one, and while your players sound like twelve year olds, it seems to me that a part of the reason is you taking your game way too damn seriously.

Me, I consider any session that doesn't get interrupted by roaring tears-in-eyes laughter every twenty minutes or so a failure. Even in Cthulhu.

Disgruntled said...

OBJECTION!Claiming to be the "MST3k" of a game has an inherent problem.

MST3k makes fun of horrible movies; ergo, to be the MST3k of a D&D campaign means that player is of the opinion that the game sucks.

Ettin said...

You know, I think everyone except him sees it that way. He seemed to think he was just there as some kind of comic relief/unwanted amusing commentary.

I have played with most of these people again, though, and they are only the regular kind of dysfunctional. Who knows, maybe I will even run a sequel!

Chickenpika said...

Dear Gygax, I've been very lucky not to have players like Jokesy McCocksucker in any campaigns I've run or played in. I had one dickhead who didn't understand the ruiles of the game and got pissed when anyone tried to help him, but he wasn't nearly as bad as Sorceress or Roffle.
Then again, I play in-person D&D, not online. People are less likely to be shitstains if you're able to reach across the table and smack them.
Do you live in a really small place, Ettin? Or do you just prefer playing online? I live in Prince Edward Island, the smallest province in Canada, and I was just lucky enough to have enough friends that are as geeky as I am.