Monday, July 25, 2011

How To Annoy Your DM: Actually Playing The Game, Part 1

Looking through blog stats to see what kind of searches have led people here is enlightening. For example:

  • Variations on "challenge rating 25" and "cr 25 dm" (in 7 of the 10 top spots, meaning I should have named my blog something better(
  • Various phrases with the name "Kurlianchik" in them (different ones now that there's an entirely new clusterfuck dramabomb that isn't about his rape posts)
  • my little pony marathon
  • dungeons eastern europe
  • how to read 1.4e+10
  • strahd von zarovich posters
  • rich burlew is an asshole
  • how to annoy your dm

That last one shows up a lot. In fact, How To Annoy Your DM: Character Creation is still my most popular, apparently, even more than How To Fix Planescape and the one where I scream incoherently at kender.

So what the hell, let's finish that series.

Going Into The Game

So you've created a character thanks to my handy guide and, since that was written three years ago, you have almost certainly played him, her or it in a game. And completely muffed it, because I wasn't here to show you the way.

Let's fix that.

Let's say you're going into a new game. Any edition, it doesn't matter. 2E, 3E, 3.5, 3.5 Pathfinder, 4E, a completely different game because let's be honest D&D is nowhere near the only game in town, whatever.

First things first, you need to deal with the Game Master (or local equivalent). Here:

The GM is your enemy.


Sure, some people might say it's a collaborative effort, that the GM's job is to make sure the game is fun for everyone, himself included. Some people have even claimed this in their sourcebooks, treating the sacred bond of GM and player like they're playing some kind of game.

Well, that's horseshit.

This is a competition. You play to win.

It's best to assume the GM is out to get you at every turn - personal experience suggests this will be true eventually. Houserules? Keeps the power and the cool things in the GM's hands. Restrictions at character creation, on basic things like your level? A sham. (It's best to play along as much as you can at the start, though.) Not letting you do things, like when you kill quest NPCs and guardsmen show up? Choo choo, all aboard the railroad!

Just... try to keep a straight face until the game starts.

The Opening Sessions

This is when the fun begins - the DM sets the scene, everyone introduces their characters, and haha, no, I'm just kidding.

This is where you set the scene.

The GM's job is to paint the backdrop. You're the actor - the lead actor, to be precise. It's your job to write the script and set the props. Don't be afraid to fill in a few details the GM might have missed, like important elements of your backstory or major NPCs in his setting you have probably interacted with (I am assuming you're running the standard world-famous hero adventurer; if you are going with a lone wolf or other good character, disregard advice as appropriate.)

Pay close attention to the GM's opening speech and take notes as necessary. Don't be afraid to make suggestions if you don't like the content, plot hooks, tone of voice, setting, genre or system. Even if you're here to win, that doesn't mean you can't help.

Establish your dominance by appointing yourself party leader. If anyone else wants to be party leader, or doesn't want you to be for some reason, continue arguing in favour of your character leading until they give in. Leadership should go to the person who wants it most, after all.

After that, look at your starting situation and find a way to take a few things out of the GM's hands. He doesn't need to control everything - he should thank you, really. This is something you're going to have to do yourself, because different situations call for different responses, but here are some pointers!

  • Are you being hired to perform a quest? Demand triple the reward. The DM has to say yes, or call off his adventure.
  • Do you start in prison? Try to break out. Attack some guards.
  • Are you being given a task you don't like by a king, mayor or someone else in a position of power? Use your character's contacts (which he clearly should have) to influence world politics, or just start a revolution.
  • Are you in an inn? Seduce the barmaid, wait until the other PCs are done introducing themselves, then let them know you've hired them as servants.
  • Is the premise sound, but there's nothing for you to use as a strong start to establish dominance? Provoke someone into a fight. Quest NPCs are best, but PCs will do in a pinch.
  • Are there kender in thr setting? MURDER THEM.

Knowing Your Party Members

Until the GM agrees to run the solo game your characters deserve, you're stuck with a bunch of jerks. Might as well find out how they can best complement your character, right?

Like the list above, this is something best learned yourself. I can't do everything. But broadly, you want the party to look like this:

  • The leader, decision-maker, etc.
  • The "face" of the party.
  • Most important combat role for the campaign.

Everyone Else:
  • Running errands.
  • Supporting you.
  • Supplementary combat roles.
  • More errands.

If they don't seem to fit, complain to the GM that their character is "ruining your gaming experience" and demand they reroll before a few sessions pass and it's too late. If they almost fit, help the character roleplay: Tell them where to move in combat, what to say, that sort of thing. Just smooth rough edges out. If they fit, well, congratulations!

Closing Remarks (for now)

Above all, take it slow. You don't want to blow your load and win the campaign in the first few sessions. Just bide your time, make sure you're on top, and get a good idea on your head of how you're going to win by about halfway through the first dungeon.

For more on how to win, see the upcoming Part 2! I can't wait!


Anonymous said...

Oh look, that one fucker from our table is an actual fucking wizard! I can only, in the light of our every game ever, conclude that the fucker has been glancing into the future, to this post. Probably after first finding your character creation post and taking it to the heart.

The only motherfucker ever to actually use "this isn't about me enough" as a REAL GODDAMN COMPLAINT in a game.
And not as a reasonable complaint because his character hasn't actually done anything cool at all in any point. No sir-ree, this fucker figured that another character's backstory hook adventure being a lot about that character (HOLY FUCKING SHIT, WHAT A SURPRISE) was a horrible travesty. Cue incredible goddamn amounts of complaining and bitching since his super speshul snowflake couldn't steal the spotlight. Every character had had their own special adventure, and this shit repeated every time it was not his. Still, that time we were finally finished with his shit.

What made this bullshit even better was the fact that the player whose character was getting attention was our new, rather shy and meek guy. He was starting to really get into it, too, what with being encouraged and actually getting those Big Cool Things and Great Big Decisions and What Have You. It was his very special episode, rescuing a friend he had thought long lost and be a hero of his community. And most of us were really happy to see him have a great time, since he usually had a real hard time doing anything. He was coming out of his shell, so to speak.
So naturally, this living, breathing ass, whom I will now refer to as the Omni-Fucker, had to bitch and moan every five minutes. And then he just had to ruin everything.
So, our new guy's challenging a nemesis, saving his friend and whatnot. The big encounter looms. Both in- and out of character, we'd agreed this was his big moment. This was his thing. So, his guardsman turned sellsword turned real warrior and hero challenges that guy, once his best buddy, now a bandit and oppressor of weak, into single combat in front of his men. No needless bloodshed, only two men. Victor take all and all that good stuff.

So, words are exchanged. Nothing comes out of it. The two men, different forks of the same road, each other's sad mirrors, step forth. A lifetime worth of history, to end one way or the other. Do or die, now's the time. It was really good stuff. Swords rise in the morning sun, eyes meet and the last dance of death starts.
Then the Omni-Fucker drops the man, the big nemesis, with a min-maxed crossbow shot to the face. Proceeds to call the other player an inefficient dramawhore and reaches for the spotlight.

And that was the last game we ever played with him.

Anonymous said...

"Rich Burlew is an asshole" is definitely what led me here.

Ettin said...

Jesus. I sure hope that guy found a DM who would run solo games just for him, because otherwise I don't see him getting to play much D&D.

Also, three people found this blog today through the search "rich burlew is a dick".

Turns out this April 1 post is the culprit.

tee hee.