DM of the Rings LXX:
The Needs of the Many

 By Shamus Mar 2, 2007 110 comments

Forced march.

Forced march.

This is exactly the sort of behavior you get when players stop role-playing. Metagame thinking is poison. I played this for a joke, but from my own experiences and from comments others have made I know this isn’t that far-fetched. I’m beating up on the players here, but you could make the case that stuff like this is the result of a DM who is strict about rules and lax about role-playing, which is about the surest form of self-sabotage a DM can do. If you adhere to the rules with meticulous authority and fill the world with generic NPCs, then soon enough you’ll have players treating your world like a place to mine treasure and farm experience, and not like a place where an epic story is taking place. The last thing you want is to end up DM’ing a game of Diablo.

A Hundred!10110 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!


1 2

  1. Akatsukami says:

    Any player worth his salt (which Aragormless is not, I readily concede) could re-cast his meta-gaming as roleplaying. Gimlet (oops, I mean Gimli) should easily be able to do. Shucks, even I could:

    “My friends, my umpety-katrillion years lived as a Ranger of the wilderness leads me to think that we cannot travel to Helm’s Deep without coming under attack by the foul armies of the White Hand, or even wandering brigands, and in such encounters some these poor folk would surely die. Even though it will bear hardly upon the aged and sick, therefore, we must begin a forced march…”

  2. Windblade says:

    I remember my first experience was with a painful metagamer/munchkin who rarely acted in character, and was a deeply selfish player. He was supposed to have been my characters bodyguard, but he avoided fighting wherever possible…

    and peasents… he wanted a small army of peasents to walk with him everywhere and carry everything, and to able to behead any one he liked to keep them in line because he was a samurai, and they were peasents.

    To be honest, i don;t think I ever had a good gaming experince with that player, and I almost lost c haracter due to his behaviour

  3. Earendil says:

    Ah meta-gaming..my worst enemy. Back when I was dming for NWN Wheel of Time server we were very strict with meta-gaming, even gave xp penalties for it if it was bad enough :)

  4. EezaK says:

    lol, aragorn is flippin sick, love it

  5. beriadanwen says:

    forget the peasants!who needs them anyway?

    or…

    why doesn’t aragorn stuff them in his leather tardis?

  6. ZachsMind says:

    “..If you adhere to the rules with meticulous authority and fill the world with generic NPCs, then soon enough you’ll have players treating your world like a place to mine treasure and farm experience, and not like a place where an epic story is taking place..”

    Wow. That hit the nail on the head.

    In a nutshell, I think this is why I stopped paying for City of Heroes, left Anarchy Online even though it was still free at the time, and refuse to install World of Warcraft. A MMORPG is hardcoded rules with generic NPCs reciting stale dialogue, with players who metagame by farming, looting, or otherwise squeezing selfish goals out of the game without paying respect to its epic story.

    Come to think of it, this may be why I haven’t roleplayed recently at all. Either the roleplaying gets so intense it gets kinda creepy, or nobody’s roleplaying at all and you might as well be playing Monopoly.

    A good RPG session is essentially group storytelling. Each person poses as a character in the story. You got one guy who’s weaving the bulk of the environment and participants describe what their character does in that environment. The dice are just there to keep people from arguing with each other, but when the dice become the game at the expense of the story? That’s when it’s time to roll up the bag of Doritos and call it a night.

    I’ve yet to run into a MMORPG program that captures this, and I haven’t found a group like that since college. Everyone seems more interested in boostering a high level character that is then so powerful it’s boring to play.

  7. Viktor says:

    If you look at it, it is in character. Aragorn’s only motivation is to save the peasants. He doesn’t reference “less risk for me” even once. And as to him knowing the numbers, I view those as estimates of actual probabilities. Your characters may not know the numbers, but they will at least have a “feel” for it, the same way you might know which road to take on the way home, and they might be able to guess that maybe a forced march will be less risky in the long run. Granted, the conversation is OoC, at least in terms of word choice, but the GM hasn’t bugged them about that before. I would understand making them repeat the convo, but that seems world-legal. Unless one of them is STRICT lawful good, I doubt it would even be an alignment shift.

  8. Toil3T says:

    “Isn’t that what D&D is? Diablo without a computer?”
    Anon, have you ever played DnD? It’s a ROLEPLAYING game. Computerized RPGs are all combat, with little roleplaying. That being said, Diablo is a fun game.
    I’m not trying to be mean here. If you haven’t played DnD before, give it a go. If you need help finding a group, just ask some of these “experienced” (old) people.

  9. nitefly says:

    By Shamus:
    “Anonymous Fan: Only if you really, really mess up. D&D is about roleplaying – imaginging yourself as a character in a story. Diablo is about killing monsters and taking their stuff.”
    That’s hilarious. D&D is Diablo, you are rewarded for slaughtering people only or for defeating obstacles in your way (traps, riddles etc apart from monsters).

    This leads to the fantastic situation of anyone being even remotely accomplished in D&D (ie a royal dancer, a renowned painter or something) is also a multi-massmurderer. D&D is the best combat table-top game focusing on single characters that I know of but it is not an obvious avenue for roleplaying unless you heavily modify the rules and play with a lot of house rules.

    But the mechanics are solid, easy and allows for a lot of strategic/tactical thinking. I can’t imagine a roleplayer opting to play D&D for the roleplaying potential?

    RuneQuest would be the game I would suggest anyone wanting to roleplay in a fantasy setting as the character system is just beautiful.

  10. Morambar says:

    I wasn’t present (sadly) but a guy I used to game with once told me a story about his fairly high level group (which I personally think an otherwise fine storytelling GM let munchkinize, or at least min-max, itself; it’s the reason OUR low level group went to Ravenloft with a freakin’ Dagger +1…. ) Seems the orc paladin (I kid you not; Flame Knight, no less, who had in is possession not one but TWO class specific swords that acted as flametongues for his order… ) actually DID, at around 10th level, FLEE a RUST MONSTER for fear of what it might do to his shiny suit of full plate. It’s the equivalent of an M1A1 Abrams fleeing a kid with a stick astride a donkey, right down to the part about displaying a humiliating yet shameless degree of cowardice in the face of not just a threat, but a non-lethal one. So much for roleplaying, eh…?

    Also seems to me the PCs in this case would be mostly, if not entirely, Chaotic Good, or at worst Neutral Good; no marching hundreds of NPC strangers to their deaths just because you want to go adventuring but not have too many adventures. I’ll concede the literary versions surrendered their weapons pretty meekly at Edoras just because it was the law, but THESE jokers didn’t….

  11. Morambar says:

    Also, Shamus, you make an excellent point I think most miss (though it was my first thought. ) The POSSIBILITY of an encounter(s) that MIGHT be lethal to some peasants (or maybe there are few encounters and the combat goes outstandingly well; remember what Legolas did to Gollum, and after a couple millennia you just know he has SICK hit dice… ) doesn’t justify the certainty of the (presumably good aligned) CHARACTERS forcing an action CERTAIN to kill a number of them. I mean, if I’m a crofter from Dunland it makes me little difference if I die from an orc spear through my chest or Aragorn sprinting me into the mountains for a day and a half straight. Actually, given my distaste for running, I’d prefer the speed of the spear, but I’m just as dead either way; the only difference is who’s culpable, and whether it MAY happen day after tomorrow (a possibility we all face, really… ) or WILL happen by sunup….

  12. henrebotha says:

    THREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

    yeah.

  13. Zachs mind, I think your a bit off about combat and dice. yes DnD is a roleplaying game, but I belive that if the party never swung a sword or used a spell then your not playing a game, your just sitting around pretending to be other people. In almost all fantasy novels (the basis for Dnd) The characters engage in combat, this doesn’t mean the story is terrible, it just means thiers a physical struggle as well as a mental one. If your games end at the slightest possibilty of fighting then I can’t imagine its very exciting at all.

  14. “Also, Shamus, you make an excellent point I think most miss (though it was my first thought. ) The POSSIBILITY of an encounter(s) that MIGHT be lethal to some peasants (or maybe there are few encounters and the combat goes outstandingly well; remember what Legolas did to Gollum, and after a couple millennia you just know he has SICK hit dice… ) doesn’t justify the certainty of the (presumably good aligned) CHARACTERS forcing an action CERTAIN to kill a number of them. I mean, if I’m a crofter from Dunland it makes me little difference if I die from an orc spear through my chest or Aragorn sprinting me into the mountains for a day and a half straight. Actually, given my distaste for running, I’d prefer the speed of the spear, but I’m just as dead either way; the only difference is who’s culpable, and whether it MAY happen day after tomorrow (a possibility we all face, really… ) or WILL happen by sunup….”

    Hold up, though.

    Taking a bunch of civilians through hostile territory and LETTING them get killed by enemies you are highly certain (if not literally certain – but then again, you’re not literally certain a forced march will kill them either, are you? Maybe they were all track stars) will arrive is just as bad.

    The meta-gaming part is the random encounter table, but the random encounter table is a good OOC representation in this case of an IC fact: Orc raiders and the forces of Sauron are looking to attack the PCs and the people they’re taking to Helm’s Deep. Getting them to Helm’s Deep as rapidly as possible is vital. And any orc raiders could quickly steal away with a lot of people, including the people who are NEEDED for the Helm’s Deep defense: Young-to-middle aged adults.

    War is horrible, and difficult choices have to be made. I don’t know about a literal forced march with no rest for three days, but saying that the group of refugees should move without rest or with one 10 minute break throughout the whole day? The faster they get to Helm’s Deep, the less of them die…

  15. Narfin says:

    Been reading and passing on to my current and past players for a while now. I have to say there are some real words of wisdom here. Not the generic stuff you find in most gaming books. Here’s a guy putting it out there what we all know to be true. Things we’ve either encountered, learned or just plain agree on. this is the kind of thing that should be in a book for the new guys. Rules are fine and the system needs to be taught but the… ‘Philosophy of Play’ or the ‘Pit Falls of the Game’ are something that usually only comes with time.

  16. Gaktak says:

    Ok… I’ve been wanting to say this…. YOUR COMICS R AWESOME!!!!!

    P.S.: and thats the reason DIABLO ROCKS!!!!!!!

    P.P.S.: YAY!!! I got to be Numbah 80!!!!! No one will ever read this!!!!!!!!!

  17. Arazmus says:

    Diablo, well that’s what they finally turned it into with 4th edition. Either that or Everquest.

  18. Sanishiver says:

    Heh, I read it, Gaktak.

    As to Shamus’ points: Well said.

    After all, the game rules are an approximation at best. It’s up to the DM to fill in the gaps and keep things alive (so to speak) in the players’ minds. Rules just can’t do that.

  19. Aena says:

    I just found this a couple of days ago but i love it! Its Freakin Hilarious! ive been wanting a little lord of the rings humor and i acctually found this place by accident but i love it! Nice job Shamus! :) :)

  20. Eorn says:

    Pun Pun is worse than that. He can become truly omnipotent at level 1 (thanks to Pazuzu’s penchant for temptation) OR before birth (thanks to the unholy scion template).

  21. caradoc says:

    Though the strip is dated Mar 2007, I see the comments have made it to June 2009, so I may as well toss out a couple of thoughts. I’ll check back in 2012 and see if I get any replies.

    Anyway, I do understand the appeal of a mindless hack-and-slash treasure hunt, but what a horrid waste of having a real, live DM. You can get hack-and-slash online and in the comfort of your home. But for a social game with the opportunity to take part in an epic story, you need a moderated game.

    Second, the DM has to be a psychologist on top of everything else. You need to understand what your players need form the game in order to have a good time. If someone insists on being a selfish little prick, I try to understand why and find an outlet for that. The worst problem player I ever had fell right into line when I told him that he was supposed to be a traitor to the party. He got off on the scheming and lying — and to pull of his deception, he had to act like a good party member.

  22. sjc says:

    “and we did not bring a whip” made me smile as I remembered a game I played in a while back (eight years ago or so) when I had a halfling thief who had a whip. We were on a quest and ran into a village suffering from ogre raids. I said hey the quest we are on right now is way more important and we should come back afterwards; of course the rest say that that would not be right and we need to help them now. So I climb up to the top of a pile of rubble pull out the whip and crack it to get everyone’s attension and start to bellow out orders. At least one if not two of the other characters yell out “get him down from there!” That campaign was one of the better ones I have been in.

  23. Kel'Thuzad says:

    Wouldn’t the players want the XP from the fighting though?

  24. [...] #3650 (permalink) of 3650 If only I knew how the hide tags work. Also, this page from DM of the Rings seems pertinent to our earlier discussion. [...]

  25. Sir Yegudo the Ascender says:

    Heh heh… Can anyone else hear some orcs singing ‘Where there’s a whip, there’s a way’?

  26. Techan says:

    As a DM, I generally try to avoid meta-game thinking and conversations. I entirely agree with the idea that if you encourage rule hounding, that’s what you get, people thinking about the rules and not the game. That being said, I used to have a pretty amusing (to us anyways) running gag with my old D&D gang where their characters would try to roleplay out a meta-game explanation of something.
    For instance this actually happened once:
    A sorcerer named Rudin is trying to determine the worth and power of a magic sword that his fighter companion Rillian is about to buy. The sword in question is a +3 Icy Burst Longsword.

    Blacksmith: This here is a fine blade indeed. Impossibly sharp, balanced, and enchanted with magical frost that will turn your enemies to blocks of ice!

    Rillian: That sounds great! How much damage does it do?
    (DM: Seriously? In character guys!)

    Rudin: Right, so If I were to apply a numerical value to how much harm this weapon would cause someone, relative to a similarly derived number that would represent how tough that victim is, what would that number be?
    (DM: *slapping my forehead* Damn math majors, FINE!)

    Blacksmith: It’s about 3 levels of craftsmanship above your average blade.

    Rudin: Okay, and lets say that both the physical and the magical damage this sword is capable of were to be represented by two separate and randomly selected variables within a confined set of parameters. What would those parameters be?

    ((I honestly can’t fault him too much for this, his character was like a medieval scientist who had an obsession with quantifying everything. An interesting character quirk, but one that I still wonder if he made simply for this purpose.))

    • WJS says:

      You can certainly refuse to let him get away with it. Simply have nobody have the slightest clue what he’s talking about, and if he persists have them tell him to piss off and stop wasting their time. Just because he can propose damage quantification in-universe doesn’t mean that anybody else will understand it, and there certainly won’t be a pre-existing standardised scale!

  27. Dre says:

    Ironically, a roleplay-heavy game set in Sanctuary can actually be breathtakingly beautiful and loads of fun.

  28. joesolo says:

    “we didnt bring a whip” yea, that sums up most players

  29. Nacata says:

    HAAAAHAAAA! LOL!

  30. Vorsilder says:

    I’m surprised that no one in 4 years time didn’t mention “Where There’s a Whip, There is a Way”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YdXQJS3Yv0Y&feature=related

  31. Luigifan says:

    Legolas or Aragorn should have pointed out that the whole point of a forced march is to make the trip shorter.

  32. this happens to me in every campaign, I feel like looking at the charaters and telling them you chose your alignment not me

  33. K says:

    You’re talking about D&D. Every game of D&D is like DMing a game of Diablo. It comes with the territory. If you want actual roleplaying and not Hack&Slay, you should play a game that supports roleplaying, not just (barely) tolerate it. Face it: If you’re using a rule set that has approximately a billion rules for winning bloody combat and about two throwaway lines for everything else, guess what the players will fixate on?

  34. Arkanabar says:

    This is one of the reasons I really like Earthdawn. Instead of XP, it has Legend Points. The GM passes out awards, which vary from about 1/6 to 1/3 what you need to improve an average-ranked Talent by one rank. He awards them for:

    Survival (1 award)
    Meeting session goal (1 award)
    Overcoming challenges (1 award)
    role-play (1 award)
    Moments of Awesome (1/2 to 1 award each)
    Meeting story goal (1-2 awards)
    Combat (1/2 award)

    Typically, you get around 5 awards per session. It’s actually pretty easy to apply to D&D. Just change an award to about 0.05 level of XP, for the lowest-level character.

  35. WJS says:

    It’s probably worth noting (which I don’t believe anybody has) that a forced march in D&D merely refers to walking for more than 8 hours per day, and only deals nonlethal damage. They want to stay as far ahead of the orcs as possible, so they should certainly be doing some forced marching; the question is whether to push until the peasants start dropping from exhaustion before resting or to give them reprieve sooner. (As an aside, does anyone else find it strange that these horse-people are traveling on foot? Are they called horsemen merely because their soldiers are all cavalry? We don’t see a single wagon during the entire sequence, just the odd handcart)

1 2

One Trackback

  1. [...] #3650 (permalink) of 3650 If only I knew how the hide tags work. Also, this page from DM of the Rings seems pertinent to our earlier discussion. [...]

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *

*
*

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!