Munchkinland

By Shamus
on May 8, 2007
Filed under:
Tabletop Games

During my Fear the Boot interview last week I mentioned that my experiences with D&D were pretty smooth and low-key. In 9th grade, I watched a game every morning in the school library. Even though I didn’t join in, I developed a fascination for the game while watching those guys play. There was a certain degree of rules-lawyering and the DM stuck relentlessly close to the prepared module, but looking back I’m really impressed at how well those fourteen year old kids got along and made the game fun together.

Almost twenty years later, my younger bother and some of his friends came to me in the hopes of starting up a game. I ended up running it, and we had a pretty good time. I’ve never run into some of the awful, munchkin type players that I occasionally read about. No grief players. No drama queens. No vindictive DMs. I guess I’ve been lucky. I’ve never even met people like that.

Until last Saturday.

lollipop_guild.jpg
I don’t usually go to the geek store (New Dimension Comics, Clearview Mall in Butler) on Saturdays, so I saw a different crowd from what I was used to. The upstairs area (where the gaming tables are) was filled with these sorts of players. I thought I must be Dorothy, because I’d just landed in Munchkinland for real.

It was disturbingly fascinating. I pretended to browse the comic books while they chattered and I got a look at the “other” side of tabletop RPGs.

They were all in their late teens / early twenties. They were sitting around the table, waiting for the rest of the group to show up so they could start. A couple of them were casually discussing their plans to murder another one of the PC’s in the game next time they played, more or less because they didn’t like the player himself. Another kid was describing all the humorous ways in which he’d managed to thwart or subvert the DM’s attempts at building a story. He said this with pride. To him, this was the heart of the game: To keep the DM from building a story. He seemed to derive great pleasure from this, the same way a cruel child might enjoy toppling the blocks stacked up by a smarter and more creative kid. Their campaign was thus a formless string of pointless encounters and plotless conflict. The large group of players had scattered within the gameworld, leaving the DM to play with with one or two of them at a time while the rest sat around bored, and amused themselves by planning their own acts of narrative sabotage for when their turn came around again.

I could pretty much extrapolate the rest from the little I’d heard. These petty acts of harm done to one another are most likely a constant source of hurt feelings, frustration, and of course endless teenage drama. I could see their game was polluted with all of the things geeks normally play RPGs to escape: Pecking order, bullying, teasing, and a thousand petty injustices visited on them by thoughtless peers. It was like High School without the education.

I remember during the interview I said that “There is no wrong way to play this game.” I’ve said this many times in the past. The hosts were quick to assure me that there was, and so I was amazed that less than a week later I got to see exactly what they were talking about. If those kids in 9th grade had acted like these childish punks, I never would have been interested in the game.

Part of me burned inside when I saw this scene. A couple of the kids were quiet. They were probably the punching bags of the group, the butt of all the jokes. I wanted to rally these kids around me, “It’s not supposed to be this way! You’re heroes inside! Follow me, and I’ll lead you through a story of legend! Live or die, you will do deeds worthy of remembrance! Villains shall flee at your wrath, evil shall be struck down, and your deeds will set the world aright. You know, instead of cultivating teenage angst.”

Poor kids. I hope they stick with the game long enough to find some human beings to play with.

LATER: I guess I should make it clear: When I say they are playing “wrong”, I don’t mean plotless games are wrong, or that hack-n-slash is wrong, I mean having fun at the expense of others (and the DM putting up with it) is the wrong way to play the game. If a player is sabotaging a story everyone else wants to play, or murdering characters because of stuff external to the game, then that player should go. The DM has enough to worry about without needing to babysit someone else’s defective kid.

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From the Archives:

  1. Yahzi says:

    You should have offered to run a game, Shamus. It’s your civic duty!

    Now I feel like I should do the same thing, at my local geek shop. How are they gonna learn if we Elders don’t pass on our Lore?

    :D

  2. The Pancakes says:

    You’re right, Yahzi. A well-placed game here and there could really help out the hobby. I’m going to start looking around for places where the bad games dwell.

  3. AJ says:

    I’ve played with the full on munchkins before, and hated every second. At first I just tried to play out what my character would do in a story, but alas, I realized that I was stirring up trouble.

    It would seem that for the first group I played with, there were two critical parts of playing. The first was that their character be the most powerful of all the characters in the group. It turned on that no matter how many campaigns we played, that always fell to the same guy, no matter what everyone else did. I found the whole idea frustrating, so I took a different road, inspired by my secondary (now primary) gaming group.

    When I build a character, I defined every last thing about their personality in my head. Then, when situations arose, I asked myself “Ok, all plot-driven gamist tendencies aside, what would this character do here?” More often than not, the more “real” I made the character, the more they interfered with plot. For instance, we’d discovered a nest of thieves in a city and my character’s immediate reaction was to call in the local constabulary. The locals had proven more powerful than us already, and greater in number, so that seemed the safest way to stop these criminals. But alas, that was not heroic, and so after I was much berated by the players for being a sissy and a loser, the DM kept things railroaded by having the entire group of policemen slaughtered once they entered. This drove my second action which was to very logically point out to the group that a larger number of people, more powerful, more knowledgeable, and better equipped than us was just decimated. Going into the den was suicide at best, and stupid at the least. I was promptly made fun of, embarrassed, and then told to leave the game if all I could do was “ruin everyone else’s fun”.

    Sigh. I much prefer my current group, which evades plots with a skill unseen in modern times, much to my chagrin when I’m the one running, but at least the character interactions are always wonderful.

  4. The Gneech says:

    The problem is that in every “centralized location for geeks/nerds to get together” there are always many more of the obnoxious variety than of the cool variety — because the cool ones see how full of dorks the place is and leave.

    When you’re on your own and searching for a group, this means going through a lot of rough times until you find the one cool person in this location, then the two of you enduring more rough times until you find the one cool person in THAT group, and so on.

    The good news is, when you -do- find one cool person, they can often suggest one other, who might be able to suggest a third. Each cool person you find increases the chances of finding another geometrically.

    But yeah … the jerks are out there, most definitely. *shudders*

    -The Gneech

  5. Retlor says:

    Personally, the worst campaign I’ve ever played in was one where, when one of the PCs died, almost everyone laughed at them. Not as in ‘chuckle, sorry, hard luck’, but more like ‘OMG U NOOB URE CHARACTER DIED ROFLOL.’

    I gave up after a few sessions. None of them had any idea what a roleplay meant, they just built character after character until they found one that suited them using all the exploits they could find.

  6. Telas says:

    I’ll have more later… lunch first.

    But I had to point out that there’s a good reason these social rejects are commonly found at the gaming store – no group worthy of the name will have them. The gaming store is their “last resort”, and some of them are too dense to realize that even their patience is quickly dwindling.

  7. Will says:

    Stat optimizing I can understand, but constant plot sabotage would drive me nuts after a while. I’m often glad I never got into the gaming hobby for these reasons.

    It’s odd you brought this up today, because I got a huge chuckle out of seeing Munchkin on the shelf in the local Borders over the weekend.

  8. Bowmore says:

    What is very satisfying is when you get a single munchkin in a group of real roleplayers… and the real roleplayers are much, much smarter than he is. This was the case for about 4 years in one of my gaming groups. While roleplaying, we were always able to play off each other and have a group dynamic going. There was always a witty retort or a sly one-liner following up everything said.

    Yeah, the munchkin used exploits and loopholes endlessly to make godly-powerful characters, and was always asking to use random splatbooks for his ridiculous combinations of abilities. Every time, however, he was ostracized and was told things like “Just play the damn game,” and “Do you even know what role-playing is?” and “This isn’t World of Warcraft; these characters have personalities.”

    It got to the point where he left the group because, and I quote, we “Weren’t hardcore enough.” This got a lot of laughs from the rest of the players, and we continued on our merry way with the game, playing through stories with depth and intrigue and interacting with NPCs who had personality.

    I want to end it on a happy note by saying he returned and tried to end his munchkin ways, but he didn’t. He found another group of munchkin players who treat the game like an MMO, and persisted in his faggotry. (it should please you to know that he didn’t find the other group until a whole year after leaving ours)

  9. Henebry says:

    Faggotry?!?

    I agreed with everything you said up to the moment when you went homophobic on the munchkins. Really, come on. Gay men are MUCH too cool to be munchkins.

  10. Dev Null says:

    Actually, given the medieval nature of most of the games and the wooden-ness of their roleplaying, maybe he meant bundles of sticks? (Well, I tried to put a spin on it…)

    The GM of one of the better games I played at uni used to turn up to the first couple of meetings of the roleplaying club and run a game… which would last for a month or so – just long enough to find the players he wanted to invite to his _real_ game. Thats how I found them, and I’ve always been grateful that he performed that public service. I’m sure there must be good clubs / game shop groups out there, but generally I think the role-players are overwhelmed and chased off by the munchkin hordes.

  11. “He found another group of munchkin players who treat the game like an MMO, and persisted in his faggotry.”

    It really is disconcerting to be nodding your head in agreement with someone and then, with a single word, to have them prove that they’re actually a pathetic and prejudiced idiot.

    I’ll take the munchkin over the homophobe any day of the week.

  12. Carl the Bold says:

    Shamus says: It was like High School without the education.

    There was education in your HS? Seriously?

  13. Gotelc says:

    Goodness Laughing at a player because his character died? thats so stupid. One of the Best DM’s i ever had the pleasure of playing with was absolutely phenomenal. Sure he was a rules lawyer to be sure but he ran a tight game, and absolutely no one no matter how powerful a character they had could ruin his plots, mainly because they were so intricate in order to get out of one you would have to get into another. But this man would let anyone play and being a Munchkin helped you survive only maybe 1% more than a normal player. His games were very death heavy though there was never an instance of a TPK (total party kill, for those that may not have heard that before) I probably went through more Characters in his Star wars game than any other player, my best freind on the other hand was the only player to survive in that game from start to finish. I cant imagine how those Munchkins would have survived one of his games, the main way he would kill people is through their own flaws, mostly cockiness, understanding when to run was more valuable that any magical weapon or stat value.

  14. Dan Hemmens says:

    In defence of the “munchkins” since you weren’t *actually* at a table with these guys, it’s difficult to say how much you can tell about their playstyle from a few out of context snippets of conversation.

    For what it’s worth, I’ll do everything in my power to stop the GM “building a story” – if you want to write a story you write a damned book. I’d much rather play a series of unconnected random encounters than have my character play witness to a series of prescripted cutscenes.

  15. drow says:

    man. ninja dragon dieties attack.

  16. Telas says:

    I think Martin hit something on the head here… the element of, “It was like high school, without all the education”.

    Some people learn that being bullied sucks, and they’ll never engage in that kind of behavior. Others seem to learn that “bullying” is the normal social relationship, and it’s just better to be on top. (I blame absent parents, but that’s beyond the scope here.)

    So, how to deal with it? Play the game the way you think it should be played. Meet fire with fire; if killing someone for no reason is what your character would do (a massive cop-out, whenever it’s said), then what my character will do is not going to be pretty.

    Homophobe? Fear of same-ness? Sign me up, because you PC types are all alike… Too thin-skinned. :P

  17. Cenobite says:

    I don’t worry about munchkins too much. Because it seems plain to me that the MMORPG has replaced the paper-&-dice RPG.

    Instead of hunting down character sheets, car-pooling, looking for a place to park, cleaning up space for a gaming table, worrying about drinks and munchies, or synching personal schedules, the set-up process is now as simple as switching on your PC and logging in.

    Instead of a cranky DM lugging around 40 tons of books, the game is now run by a remote server.

    Instead of griefers and whiners practicing their rules-lawyering against each other and ruining a well-designed module, the griefers and whiners are now flaming and trolling on the MMO’s official forum. (You knew they had to keep on venting somewhere.)

    Instead of going nearly bankrupt when the rules are updated, the new modules are published, or the source books revised (to say nothing of the costs of miniatures, maps, and terrain models), payment is automatically billed at a set fee which never changes.

    Instead of the traditional gaming circle, players are now organized into guilds (which aren’t limited by geography or time zones).

  18. Shamus says:

    “It really is disconcerting to be nodding your head in agreement with someone and then, with a single word, to have them prove that they’re actually a pathetic and prejudiced idiot.

    I’ll take the munchkin over the homophobe any day of the week”

    Using faggot as an insult != homophobe.

    Let us not stoop to base name calling against other commenters here. Keep in mind that people comment here from all over the planet, and while “faggot” in some places is now verboten, an awful slur, and a no-no word, in other places it just means “guy who lacks spine”. Even if in this case the poster was using it to mean “homosexual”, it STILL doesn’t mean the person hates gays. If I tell another guy to “toughen up and stop being such a little girl”, it does not mean I have some sort of irrational hatred of little girls.

    And you called him prejudiced because he used a word in a way that you did not like. Let us ponder this.

  19. Rick the Wonder algae says:

    I think you’re being a little too harsh on Munchkins.

    You weren’t wrong when you said “There’s no wrong way to play”. Well… I suppose if you consider “playing in such a way that you intentionally cause misery to others” to be a way of playing, then there IS a wrong way to play, but there’s nothing wrong with any of the rest of the things you describe:

    Building uber-powerful characters that are just a collection of numbers, loopholes and broken feats is a perfectly valid type of play. It stimulates the same enjoyment centers that get off on solving a good math problem or determining complex probabilities.

    Playing mindless strings of random encounters with no story, plot, or point other than “kill the next baddy, take his lewtz!” is a fine style of play. Lest we forget, it what we ALL played back in the late 70’s early 80’s and it’s what some people still enjoy to this day.

    Playing games with a monoply on the DM’s attention is fine. We ALL love attention. There’s plenty of stories of two people pairing off and running games for each other and having a blast doing so. In fact, you get a lot more personaly attention and, depending on what you want to get from it, a more satisfying experience that way.

    So the real meat and potatoes of the issue here isn’t that these “munchkins” are playing the game “wrong”. It’s that instead of making the effort of finding a group that enjoys playing the way that they do, they’re trying to manipulate an existing game into the playstyle they want, and making everyone else in the group miserable as a result. This isn’t a bad playstyle so much as a need to grow up a little, learn some empathy and some consideration for their fellow gamers.

  20. Shamus says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ll do everything in my power to stop the GM “building a story” – if you want to write a story you write a damned book.

    No, you talk to your GM and say what you think. Tell him what you expect out of the game. Maybe the other players will side with you. Maybe they will side with the GM. Most importantly, the GM will see what everyone is expecting. If you want just random encounters and such, fine. Join or start a plotless game. But don’t join a game where the GM is trying to weave a story and wreck it for your amusement.

  21. Bowmore says:

    To clarify, I’m not a homophobe. I just spend way too much time on imageboards where such words are in common usage, and I didn’t think about what the word meant to other people before using it. I think a better word to replace “faggotry” would be “idiocy.”

    We should drop this line of conversation and get back to talking about how tired we are of munchkins!

  22. Soris says:

    For what it’s worth, I’ll do everything in my power to stop the GM “building a story” – if you want to write a story you write a damned book.

    From my point of view, I want the DM to write a book. That’s the reason I got involved in RP’ing anyway. So I could be in the story!

    Haven’t you ever read a fantasy book and wished you were in it? Wished you were the main character and slew the dragon to save the princess? Wished you were the kid who grew up to be King of the World after finding the magical something or other, overcoming overwhelming obstacles, and killing the bad guy?

    Or is it just me?

  23. Devin says:

    I’m inclined to agree with AJ (post #2) to an extent. I have a tendency to really delve into a character’s background, and a lot of times I have “runaway” characters that I’ve played for a long time. I really get into these characters, but they end up meeting a grizzly end by doing something totally in-character, which would make no sense to do if you’re just a player.

    I remember playing the new Ravenloft game shortly after it came out: it’s a dark land ruled by Straad. At one point, my character (Lawful Neutral) posed the question, “Well… what if he’s just the rightful ruler of the land, and all these ‘slayings’ are peasant rumors based off of disagreement and not wanting to pay their taxes to their lord?” The players just stared at me like I had just said the dumbest thing imaginable, and then one retorted, “But he’s the bad guy!”

    I remember a day and a group with which I could roleplay.

    My current group can best be described as munchkins. They refuse to play anything outside of “combat-based d20” and seldom refer to other characters by their character names, or even speak in character. There is a wrong way to roleplay… and I think that glossary Shamus posted calls it “rollplaying”.

    No gamer should ever have to have to see the Dark Side… it’s a horrific experience for anyone who knows the truth of RPGs. My apologies, Shamus, but don’t feel bad for turning away… most of them are already too far gone to ever see the light of day again.

  24. Wow. Yeah. I’ve had precious little experience with these kinds of players in the past. Some – definitely. In fact, those are worthy of some stories.

    However, in most of them, it was a mixed group. And the Good Guys Prevailed. Well, except once. That kinda sucked, but they were never invited to a game again.

    I never quite figured out what motivated griefers like this. I still haven’t figured them out in MMOs.

  25. GEBIV says:

    The closest I ever got to playing an RPG was back in High School when I asked a group of my friends if I could sit in on one of their sessions. They were playing some sort of modern combat game. (AK47s and Rocket Launchers…) I had watched them play before and thought it might be fun to join in.

    Well, they rolled up a quick character for me that according to their interpretation of the numbers was 4’10”, weighed 280lb and had about 4hp. And had the charisma of Gollum. (Laughing all the time) The only contribution I got to make was catching an RPG-7 round in the chest about 10 seconds into the first fire-fight, protecting everyone else from shrapnel.

    They still stayed my friends afterwards. But I never asked to sit in on a session again. Or even bothered to watch them play.

  26. Daktylo says:

    GEBIV,

    It’s that type of sloppy elitism that turns people off. It also starts those seeds of hatred for roleplaying where roleplaying begins to equal violent and unsocial behavior to people on the outside looking in. Too bad.

  27. Andrew Cory says:

    I once played a game of 7th sea wherein my Character tried to spark the “French revolution” I figured the easiest way to do this would be for things to get really bad…

    While in the employ of a local Duke (NPC), my character suggested that he ought to slaughter a local peasant or two– just to show that he meant business. Totally in character, would have worked, but everyone in the group recoiled in horror that I could even think of such a thing…

  28. Alex says:

    Andrew Cory: I can’t imagine that there’s much room for improvisation in an RPG about playing chess with Death!

  29. Andrew Cory says:

    Funnily enough the mechanics are identical to a chess game. But you have to be in character to make comments…

    Hm. Why is the anti-spam word “zombie”?

  30. Nanja Kang says:

    You know I DM a game, I am 24 and the rest of my players are in their 30’s. I have one guy who is all about the battle and after 9 years of gaming he is finally coming around to role play a bit. The rest are about 50/50 already. I have seen the scene you have seen. (

  31. MintSkittle says:

    My friends and I don’t play D&D, but we do play Shadowrun, so some things carry over. I GMed this one game where one of the players (The Munchkin) who seriously considered butchering a little 10 year old because he saw them breaking into a power transfer station. The other players finally convinced him to let the kid go. It’s kind of hard when I’m trying to make sneak oriented missions, and one player just wants to kill things.

  32. Thad says:

    I am very much for the GM building a story, as I like stories and am keen to see What Happens Next. (Which is also why I quickly end up cheating when playing computer games. I don’t want to spend a lot of time hitting X minions, I want the next part of the story, dammit!)

    That said, the story needs to be comprehensible. Nothing means ‘excitement’ like a GM who has this grand plan that appeals to him but goes completely over the players’ heads.

  33. brashieel says:

    Just so you know, this site is ruining my life. First I started reading “DM of the Rings.” Then I started checking every update day to see if there was a new comic up. Now I’m reading all the other entries. This thing is turning into a real time eater.

    But yeah, there are DEFINITELY wrong ways to play D&D. Generally they involve being a complete jackass.

  34. DocTwisted says:

    Soris gave the comment I wanted to make.

    I remember one rather fun play group I was in, we were doing a far-future GURPS campaign, and my character was a demolitions expert, and TWICE I threw the GM off his rails by rolling a crit fail at some crucial point. I felt a little guilty, but that didn’t stop everyone from laughing because I had just caused the place with the clues to go “Ka-BOOM.”

    On a side note… does anyone know the best way to form a gaming group in a very small town? :/ We have one comic shop that doubles as a sports memoribillia store. I’m itching to get a campaign going, but have no fellow gamers close enough to join in (that I know of). What’s my chances if I ask the shop owner to post a sign-up sheet?

  35. AJ says:

    Andrew Cory:

    I run a 7th Sea game as well and I would have said “absolutely, thank you for the npc! What would you like to play next?”

    The reason is that the game is specifically a cinematic game of heroics. There’s no death mechanic, and it’s all about characters doing the right thing, sometimes when they didn’t mean to, and always being the good guys. Good guys don’t kill innocent people.

    The genre of a game makes a huge difference. In Shadowrun, killing a couple of random folks doesn’t mean a thing. As often as not it’s collateral damage in that game. D&D has the range of character types via alignment, but as often as not, the game doesn’t lend itself to social interactions since it relies very heavily on player charisma. Thus it was relegated to mostly combat driven/epic battle style stories. We could go on and on with various examples, but I think a lot of folks forget that each story has a genre it’s written to exist within, and not knowing it is a sure way to make a character that won’t mingle with the game.

  36. Thijs says:

    brashieel Says: “Just so you know, this site is ruining my life. First I started reading “DM of the Rings.” Then I started checking every update day to see if there was a new comic up. Now I’m reading all the other entries. This thing is turning into a real time eater.”

    Same here… I am getting more addicted to this site by the minute. Now I even start posting!

    To remain on topic: I play a ranger who is quite triggerhappy: he gets annoyed by being in town, and with a lot of conversations (to react on AJ, our DM really drains our conversation skills sometimes). But as a player I can really get bored by endlessly firing arrows etc… So for me a good 50/50 combination works anytime!

    I’m just getting to know the game by the way

  37. Daniel says:

    One thing I did when I ran is to take a quiet player and give him the good stuff and the lucky breaks. When push comes to shove they can defend themselves in the game and on the other had it is nice to have a powerful character in the game but if it is a quiet player then it is not so annoying. It is a way to reduce some in game conflicts.

    Having a muchkin in a group can be entertaining too. Just let them be outnumbered by at least 4 to 1. The roleplayers will keep them in line and occasionally they can serve as comic releif. I remeber a group wher ewe had one guy that was a munchkin but everyone else wasn’t it was entertaining to see him play but there was only one. A majority of players liek that woudl be a nightmare. Eventually the munchkin might change his ways and get into the roleplaying aspects.

    One thing that changes the game too is a GM/DM that actually has no fear of killing characters. A lot of players complain about killer Gm/DM’s but they add real risk to the game and keep inter character conflict down. Also if a player knows their odds of suvival greatly diminish when breaking off from the party then well it won’t happen as often.

  38. Mordaedil says:

    4chan has a bad influence on the weak-minded.

    Everything has a time and a place, much as diverse as the game we play itself as plethora of genres in books and movies. Neverwinter Nights incorporates many of these types, supporting them of a wide scale. You have action servers where being in character can be optional (and being IC makes you looked upon as a pretentious elitist asshole), arena servers, where the goal is to make as powerful and diversely able character as possible to win in PvP against other players. There are caps on items, gold allowed and levels. Roleplaying in character isn’t much used here. In PnP this is akin to what DM’s do for balancing-testing. Except these people think it’s fun.

    Then there is the plethora of strict RP servers. There are MANY of these and many are also very wide in category and setting: Social servers, for those depraved souls who desire more adult entertainment, such as rape. Persistent Worlds, for those wanting a free MMO with a little less variety, for a lot more focus on each individual player. And then you have DM modules where DM’s log on to eventually host a game for a group of players at set times.

    I am personally in preference of the latter parts, even though I think I could do well on any action/arena server, I don’t really like the attitude of the kids it attracts.

    This whole post got a bit longer than intended. I’m just going to cut it here.

  39. Lifestealer says:

    With the groups I’ve played in, generally the plot ends up being thrown out the window fairly early on and improvisation starts (this is covering a fair number of groups, regardless of who is running it in the groups where multiple people have run the games)-this is largely due to the players (all of us) wanting to roleplay our characters more, and really being against any railroading. It makes it harder to GM until you are used to it, but all of us have a lot of fun (so far covered 3 cities due to moving etc with all of this applying-although not anywhere near as many years as many of the other comentors, although several of the other people in the groups have). As long as all the people involved understand that the story being written isn’t the one the GM was expecting at the start, it seems more fun to me and those I’ve RPed with for there not to be the definite plot and for things to occur based on the characters actions, which are defined by their personalities at least as much as by the events happening normally.

  40. Vegedus says:

    Eden is a place where there is no biggering over the rules and everyone is there to play the same game.

  41. Poet says:

    We’ve had one or two players like this in our group, but never to that extent, and we’re pretty quick to simply boot them, or tell them how much their behavior is disturbing the group. But one person in particular was a thorn in our side for quite a while, and we couldn’t do anything, because it was both him, and his wife, and his wife is probably one of the best players I’ve ever met. This guy would rules-lawyer to the point of annoyance, quoting word for word passages from various books–SOME OF THEM FROM PREVIOUS EDITIONS. And he claimed Psionists as his own personal class, having the only book anyone bothered to pick up, since the rest of us had made the call previously that it unballanced the game far too much. Very often he would pull moves that had him rolling 10 or more dice for damage, and the rest of us would just be sitting there going “It would be nice if *we* could kill something for a change, thanks.”
    At one point, he even–and this had earned mocking for months after–said the words, and I quote “Well, if this were MAGIC, I could do it the way I want to.”
    I believe the general consensus was that, were it magic, he’d have his deck shoved into one or more holes on his body.

  42. d4b3ll3z says:

    Wow, reading over that it almost reminds me of some of the people I’ve had teh “priviledge” of playing with. Most specifically, the two years I spent in MO. Of course I had to pick someplace in the middle of nowhere, so when I finally found a group of ppl who actually played PnP I had to join. We played a few campaigns, and when I say ‘played’ I mean started until one of them got bored and we went on to the next one. It wasn’t until about the third session that I really began to regret my decision.

    I know that sounds horrible, but when the only people in a five-county radius are a rules-lawyer, a munchkin, and a DM who doesn’t fully understand the rules, you start to lose faith in the game. Most of our sessions were debates between the rules-lawyer and either the DM or myself about why he should/should not be allowed to do something. Luckily, we decided to start rotating DMship. Not that our DM was a bad storyteller, but every session was just the other two players stepping on her story. The rules-lawyer was a slightly better DM, but the munchkin was horrible.

    When my turn came to DM, I thought “OK, I’m going to give them an in-depth story with intrigue that will keep their attention for more than three weekly sessions”. It lasted four. At that point I pretty much gave up. The group dispersed when my working life starting taking over my playing life and I’ve yet to play tabletop since. I have a excellent surrogate in Neverwinter Nights and have had very fruitfil and rewarding RP using it, but I long for a decent game of PnP.

    Go back there and save those kids, Shamus, so they aren’t jaded and give up.

  43. Retlor says:

    There is a clear difference between someone doing something unexpected and forcing the GM to think on their feet, which is perfectly fine so long as they are in character and the GM is good at what he/she does, and actively trying to smash down a story that the GM has made.

    Any good GM can work around the first one, and I know from experience they you can actually use it to your advantage in furthering the story. The second one is griefing, pure and simple.

  44. Talitha says:

    I just realised to my horror that I’m probably a munchkin by your definition. My NWN1 ranger has multiclassed into a rogue because I got sick of having to wait for Tomi Undergallows to open the locks for me, and his trap location is appalling. I’m taking levels in both rogue and ranger in turn, but it’s still multiclassing for the sake of getting new class skills of search and open lock.

  45. Scatty says:

    I’m a semi-munchkin. For our latest campaign endeavor, I’ve created a 7-page Cerebremancer character, with enough gadgets, items, magic and utilities to pretty much run the group himself. He can do triple the damage of any other group member, can almost never die, is immune to just about every nasty ailment that could halt the whole group (but I can let it down as plot dictates), and overall I can save the group from anything at any time if I wish.

    Then we play. Antu’Alaren of the Gray Elves has ventured from his citadel and family, to try and prevent a great evil that has been growing in distant lands. Normally a mentor to his leaders and peers, he now uses his vast experience and abilites to bring the same wisdom and joy to others. In combat, he will save allies over defeating enemies, even when he can incarcerate or destroy them all in a moment. A voice of reason and knowledge, he analyses every scene and attempts to derive a lesson from it, whilst solving any issues that have arisen.

    I am the ‘best’ player in the group I’m in. I have the most dedication to the game, the most knowledge of the rules, and overall the greatest ability to ‘become’ my character. I have a role to fill – I need to be a very powerful character, so that if our DM pits us against something that we struggle against as a group, I can save us or defeat it anyway. However, I also need to roleplay, and set the example for others. I could Munchkin out, win initiative every combat, kill every enemy as soon as they appear, and just go on Cruise Control through the hack’n’slash elements of the game. But that would just be SO boring. I enjoy watching our ranger try and shoot the Tarrasque in vain MORE than taking half of its health out with a quickened Power. Even better is when he rolls the natural 19 for threat range, and manages to deal some damage and feel proud. From there, he can guide us through the forest, even though I could teleport.

    I make sure everyone has fun, including me. I keep the game on track, and don’t let the DM’s basic story get derailed by foolish player actions where necessary. I’m like a DM’s tool for newbie players in a big game, and at the same time I love our campaign’s plot and characters. Its a good system for the semi-Munchkin.

  46. Ravs says:

    Wow, after your rise to fame with the ‘DM of the Rings’, I’m surprised that you can still go to your local gaming store and remain anonymous. You’re lucky the staff didn’t grab you and put you on display in the front window.

    Ravs

  47. Mordaedil says:

    “I just realised to my horror that I’m probably a munchkin by your definition. My NWN1 ranger has multiclassed into a rogue because I got sick of having to wait for Tomi Undergallows to open the locks for me, and his trap location is appalling. I’m taking levels in both rogue and ranger in turn, but it’s still multiclassing for the sake of getting new class skills of search and open lock.”

    You aren’t really going out to harm another player, though I can sort of relate. A better is to drop Tomi and bring Daelan along, that way you have someone on your team that can something you can’t: Be a meatshield. Oh sure, he’ll charge into traps and get burnt, but at least you can stay back and fill the enemies he is fighting with arrows.

  48. Tom Zunder says:

    I am an anti-Munchkin, I don’t chase the tweaks, the loopholes, the uber items. BUT I also can see that a ‘role-player’ can be as disruptive as a munchkin sometimes. Carefully building a role that is counter productive, that doesn’t fit the style of the game (such as a level headed pragmatist in a heroic epic game) can be as much of a pisser as a magic sword collector.

    It took me some years to realise that the team based, epic fantasy, heroic game requires some responsible roleplaying as well as not too much obsession with rules and power.

    So, cast not the first stone..

  49. Talitha says:

    “I just realised to my horror that I’m probably a munchkin by your definition. My NWN1 ranger has multiclassed into a rogue because I got sick of having to wait for Tomi Undergallows to open the locks for me, and his trap location is appalling. I’m taking levels in both rogue and ranger in turn, but it’s still multiclassing for the sake of getting new class skills of search and open lock.”

    “You aren’t really going out to harm another player, though I can sort of relate. A better is to drop Tomi and bring Daelan along, that way you have someone on your team that can something you can’t: Be a meatshield. Oh sure, he’ll charge into traps and get burnt, but at least you can stay back and fill the enemies he is fighting with arrows.”

    Since multiclassing, I’ve been taking either Sharwyn or Linu along. My ranger/rogue can act as either meat shield or archer (with belts and cloaks swappable mid-fight to suit the changing roles). My pet wolf Timane is also a great meat shield for up to three rounds, so I often act as an archer until Timane snuffs it, then wade in with double longswords once the enemy creatures are already damaged by six arrows and three wolf bites. It’s probably the height of munchkinlander, but I get bored playing the same role in the party every fight, and I’m playing the single-player campaign, so if my character can do it, why not?

  50. Roxysteve says:

    The problem with having a non-munchkin in a group dedicated to the opposite view is that the others push the challenge rating up. Pretty soon the non-munchkin is eschewing all the feats and skills not directly associated with the three A’s: Armour Class, Accuracy and Ammo Delivery Rate.

    A while back I was roundly castigated in these pages over my comments on a sorcerer I played. The list of things I had apparently done wrong (apart from being a lousy player which I will readily admit) involved not having every spell for every occasion, not misusing the rules on spell slots and not purchasing ultra-high bonus items (which our DM had made off-limits unless found).

    It never occured to my detractors that I had themed the character either. He could manage a very specific subset of the available spells (Fire, Fogs (and not all of them), Defensive walls) because that’s how he was gifted. Cones of cold, Necromantic nonsense, all were closed books to him.

    Yes it was limiting, but not terribly. Yes he died a lot in the epic levels of the campaign, but usually because of the preponderance of undead anti-us things with a “fort save or die” attack (something the PHB sorcerer character has no “natural” way of blocking). The only complaint I had was that there was too much “slash to victory” and not enough “let’s finesse this” in the game.

    In the next campaign I took a PHB fighter. When it looked like the clerics were going to have problems turning up on game nights, I cross classed a munchkin Cleric level. I never felt entirely comfortable with it but I missed with Mr Axe so often I needed the heal spells.

    We hates the dice.

    Steve.

  51. Deoxy says:

    Off-topic, and not really a fair comment, probably, as I stopped reading the comments at #18, but Shamus, that comment number 18 was BEAUTIFUL. The reaction you were addressing galled me as well, and I was going to try to write something about it, but you did it SOOOOO much better than I have ever done (and I’ve trid 3-5 other times on the web).

    Mind if I steal it? :-)

  52. Shamus says:

    Deoxy: I shall now release comment #18 under the creative commons license.

    I’m kidding. Help yourself if you find it useful.

  53. Shamus says:

    And to be fair, I can see where Justin Alexander is coming from. In some places the word “faggot” is very similar to the word “nigger”. In those places, You Just Do Not Use It among strangers where its usage could be misunderstood. Suddenly seeing the word deployed in this contex can cause all kinds of misunderstandings.

  54. Scatty says:

    Curse the interwebs! Different contexts and cultures clashing! We need a Faggot-Filter obviously.

  55. Roxysteve says:

    No we don’t.

    I just got yelled at by a vendor because a piece of information she demanded last week had still not been mailed to her. Actually, my supervisor mailed the information last Thursday and again on Friday (to be sure). Unfortunately the piece of information was the name of a Cobol field called “XX-XXX-PID” and my guess is that the filter probably thought it was porn. The mail was secretly blocked it with no warnings of any sort sent anywhere to alert the sender that there was a problem. What a policy.

    This is he second time the sneering 30 year old in charge of writing the mail filters has screwed up on this sort of thing. Each time it has been something this 51 year diagnosed immediately as a badly built filter (along with exactly where the filter was mis-hitting). Of course, what do I know. I use mainframes and so cannot possibly understand how regular expressions work….

    No filters! I am unanimous in that!

    Steve, the unfairly over-filtered by evil, lazy, underskilled young persons.

  56. CyberGorth says:

    Hey, I just want to try to clear one thing up: Roll-player does not automatically mean munchkin. I know this, becuase most of the guys I game with are very much roll-players. The roll-player builds his character around the game mechanics, he knows and focuses on the rules of the game. He usually tries to do his best to make good use of them. He does NOT go around trying to break the game mechanics to create an unstoppable death-machine. Granted, he probably does want to BE a death-machine, but in a way that uses the rules, not twist and exploit them. Roll-players usually also follow along with the plot the DM sets before them, even if usually in a 3rd person “OK, so the king guy wants our characters to go off and slaughter a crapload of goblins” kind of way. They tend to see the plot as just an excuse to get to the actions and earn rewards, but they go along with it becuase….well….it’s what they have to do to get to kill things and earn loot. They tend not to try to disrupt the plot, but can get irritable if the talking portion takes too long. Usually becuase during these moments their characters are the ones standing in the background listening to the role-players interact with the quest-giver. They’re very passive when it comes to actual “role-playing”. Usually it’s best with these types to have the NPCs approach them and force their hand.

  57. Andrew says:

    DocTwisted Says:
    On a side note… does anyone know the best way to form a gaming group in a very small town? :/

    I might suggest Craigslist for a larger town nearby. My group’s got one fellah who drives over an hour each way once a week, thanks to rural NH’s lack of interest. Perhaps social networking sites — I see you’ve already got a MySpace account (I don’t or I would’ve left this message there), or you could use LiveJournal’s interests and location searches. The local public library and a store that sells or rents video games are also possibilities for posting a note. Check bookstores for both writers’ groups and sci-fi/fantasy bookgroups, either of which could readily include a person or two who games or who knows someone who does.

  58. Matt says:

    I quit the last campaign I played in after a player was allowed to play a body-building fighter with a lisp who made ambiguously gay non sequitors all the time. I didn’t find it amusing. If he’d said his character was black, tremendously endowed and loved watermelon and fried chicken he’d have been asked to leave. When a characters stereotypical elements are obviously part of the player’s real-life prejudices, I can’t help but take offense in real life, which brings me right out of the game.

  59. Tera says:

    I don’t game with Munchkins, per se, but they do enjoy the powerful characters. Usually they are powerful because the DM makes them powerful.
    As for players who try to derail plot, its our groups way of initiating new GMs. If they can work with us, instead of railroading us, then they usually start having a lot more fun than just running us through a story.
    It also helps if you know your players have a penchant for derailing plot, and come up with things that surprise THEM after they do something that should have been unexpected…

    Also: started reading this site at 10:30pm last night… It is now 3:17pm and I HAVEN’T SLEPT YET! Damn you, Shamus Young, DAMN YOOOUUUU!

  60. Alter says:

    I am sorry to say I have seen a lot of this behavior before and personally I don’t have a lot of patience for it. I tend to run online games where I am sorry to say a lot of people value numbers over quality players.

    This drives me batty because it ruins the game for everyone. we had one player that seemed to be quite certain if his character wasn’t causing conflict we all must be very bored.

    It Holds up plots it ruins fun for everyone not just the Munchkin(I have heard of munchkin players saying when they choose to randomly hate another pc it only makes things hard for them If I had my Italian Noble women react negtively because She was called a whore it is me being selfish.).

    It has gotten to the point where I inform players they are required to at least be able to operate with the other player characters to be allowed to join.

    However one of the things I don’t get is why it seems to be seen in a bad light for throwing out players who cause issue to the plot. Or killing off characters who don’t fit into the setting.

    I ceased to care long ago about what people think when I kill a problem character for acting like a moron or booting a player who just causes issues for people running the game.

    However I would like to see online gaming communities take a stand against this negative role playing. As it was said earlier it is like freakin High school all over again.

    Sorry to be so venty I love the Site Shamus please keep up the amazing work I haven’t seen this problem summed up quite so well and I intend to link to this page so the players I play with can read it.

  61. FlameKiller says:

    if a player is giving you grief then before a game starts call him and tell him that the group can’t get together for whatever reason. also, tell the others that no matter what, don’t tell the guy that the group is on and not to listion to him. then find a way to get a new peson in and hope for goodness sakes that he is not a h**lraiser to.

  62. Susie says:

    I know I’m dredging up an old post, but what the heck :-)

    I’ve played RPGs with three different groups now, the first (a Palladium variant) was by FAR the best, as we were all on the same page and good friends. Well, half the group (and the DM) moved away, and I had to wait another year before finding someone else to play with.

    The next group was D&D/Forgotten Realms and was *supposed* to be all about good stories, plots and interaction – but was ruined by the fact that the DM is a power-gamer with control issues .. I haven’t figured out exactly what’s wrong with him yet .. he’ll kill off characters who he feels are too powerful and so on. The last two games have ended with a huge yelling match between him and the rest of the players. I’ve rolled up seven characters so far, and only one of them has had a proper death. I wrote out the progression to aid my memory, I’ll leave it here for your amusement:

    gnome rogue (eaten by an ettin – 10ish sessions), air-genesi factotum/warmage (mind controlled by a dragon to try and get another player’s character killed – 2 sessions), human cleric (DM started a new game – 2 sessions), Human Wizard (DM started a new game – 2 sessions), Human Bard (killed by a dread wight thing in the first session – 1 session), Sprite something (made right after my first character died, never actually played, so I’ve forgotten its class), Human Monk (current character, been to two sessions, haven’t played yet due to player/DM strife)

    Next, I tried playing a min-maxer’s dream homebrew of D&D with another group all of whom are power gamers of some sort. Funny enough, having a good DM, even with players who are obsessed with having a powerful character, made all the difference. The games were mostly battles, sprinkled with some amazing story telling. When one of the players killed a young demon child because it was trying to get away, the DM had the local authorities deal very harshly with him, giving us more reason to stamp out whatever was causing demons to posses children. I actually had fun while playing, even though my own D&D skill was far below theirs.

    Okay, my point … there are worse things than caring too much about the rules and fighting a lot. Of course, I wish I could find a group like the one Shamus ran … instead, if the next gaming session ends in another yelling match, I’m going to DM a game the way it ought to be done (I’ll just have to get someone to help me with the rules, since I’ve not even played every basic class yet).

  63. Trae says:

    In the comic Knights of the Dinner Table, three of the main characters actively believe that the DM is there to screw the PCs over and do everything they can to jump off the rails. I don’t think the DM has ever successfully finished a campaign, or even very many scenarios, the way he wanted it. The players do everything from stealing from the royal banquet, killing various kings, looting every object from dungeons (including furniture and in at least one instance the doors), and forcing the DM to literally erase one of the towns off his map after they killed everyone, burned down the buildings, and salted the land.

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