Diecast #56: Terrible RPG Tales from Professor Rutskarn

By Rutskarn Posted Wednesday Apr 30, 2014

Filed under: Diecast 328 comments

Hey, guys, it’s Rutskarn. This story speaks for itself–it’s about a total shitshow of a GM who ran the most incompetent campaign I’ve ever participated in. It is not the worst campaign I’ve ever heard of, but to clear that hurdle it’d need to involve literal felonies, so never mind.

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, and Shamus.

Just in case your palate needs scrubbing, I’ll be around to answer any questions about running or playing tabletop roleplaying games that you’ve got for me in the comments. I’ve got hundreds of hours of GMing experience (in fact, nearly a hundred hours of experience GMing only at charity events), so generally speaking I know what I’m talking about.

Ask whatever you’d like. I should get to most of them within a day or so, but I’ll plug away until I’ve hit ’em all.


From The Archives:

328 thoughts on “Diecast #56: Terrible RPG Tales from Professor Rutskarn

  1. Dragomok says:

    Is it possible for a person with poor elocution, incredible shyness, bad social skills and very slow reflexes to still be a good GM?

    1. ehlijen says:

      Yes, if you have a group that likes and respects the GM.

      But then, if that’s not the case most GMing attempts are doomed.

      If you have such a group, just give it a try.

      The poor social skills are likely to be the biggest hurdle as that tends to impede what I mentioned above, but the kind of poor that goes with shyness is probably more easily overcome in an RPG environment than the kind that comes with too much outspokenness.

    2. Nathan says:

      It’s possible in the same way that it’s possible for someone who’s 5′ 7” to play basketball.

    3. Nick says:

      It’s a skill, like anything else. As long as your friends are in it to have a good time and participate in a story, and you have a story to tell, it can be fine. If you’ve never GMed before and haven’t seen anyone else do it, then it’ll seem like more of a hurdle than it is.

      Also, off topic – my current GM is called Mike and has a ponytail, but he’s actually good and it’s not greasy.

      1. Dave B. says:

        “If you've never GMed before and haven't seen anyone else do it…”

        When I got into RPG’s a few years ago, I had never played one before, and none of my friends had either. For some reason I became the de facto GM for our games, and at first it was quite rough. I was using some pre-made modules, and had no idea how to direct my players through it or improvise around their unexpected actions. It took a while, but I must have figured it out somehow because they haven’t fired me yet…

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          It’s a bit like cooking, you can learn to cook just from books but your first attempts will probably be a bit more clunky and you will try to stick to the recipe whether it works as expected or not than if you observed someone do it, or better yet had someone who both showed and explained you the techniques and tricks of the trade.

          1. Dave B. says:

            That’s a really good analogy. I guess that makes the Aunty Paladin stream like a cooking show on TV. They make it look so easy, until you try it yourself…

    4. Nalyd says:

      That’s, like, the people roleplaying games are made for.

    5. ET says:

      Sorry for the wall of text.
      I hope this rant can serve as inspiration to go ahead and do some GM-ing, and have fun! :)

      Your list if character traits pretty much sums up me. I’ve only run a single game, and it was honestly about as bad as I could run a game. First, I was hyperventilating at the start for about a minute, from stage fright. Then, the game itself was basically a bunch of combat encounters where the non-combat half of the party was nearly killed all the time, and the fighter-type guys just steamrolled everything.* Story was boring. Took two hours just to finalize our characters before we started, and I had already given everyone templates to work with.**

      However, everyone left the game with a smile, and we had fun. Some of this was because, I had actually spent a lot of time crafting a fun little sci-fi world***, with cool PC species and NPC species, and a neat geography. More of it was because these people were my friends and normal gaming group. The biggest part we enjoyed ourselves was, however, that everybody knew it was my first time GM-ing. So, we all knew how bad it could be, but were willing to help each other out. Heck, two of the players were the brothers who normally take turns GM-ing, and they helped me look up rules on the fly. Everyone else had fun making fun of each others’ characters, and acting wacky. Everyone wanted to have fun, so we made our own fun, despite all the troubles. :)

      * Urg, balancing PCs and monsters is hard, especially when the rulebooks don’t have any examples even close to the species you’re trying to make.****

      ** Basically, it was: human; intelligent, quick-reflex, fly-people; sneaky, stealthy chameleon-people, hard-shelled, laser-fighter***** -beetle-people.

      *** Desert planet with three suns. A pair that orbits each other, and a sun in an outer orbit, like where Jupiter is. Constant dust storms, so all species need hard shells, and communicate visually. Had three other species’ colony ships/escape pods crash in two unlikely chances (one ship had two groups), so there’s four species who can talk, with varying degrees of technology, intelligence, and influence, for each group.

      **** GURPS rules are sooo not made to be easy. Also, the whole set of books could do with a re-balance/power-overhaul. Certain character traits are waaay to cheap, and others are waaay too expensive.

      ***** It makes sense in-story. The beetles need light to communicate, since sound travels so poorly on their home planet, so most of the species on their planet communicate with colour patterns. As the only species to evolve light-emitting powers, they became dominant, with their lasers and morse code. Although they are low-intelligence…

    6. Rutskarn says:


      Not only is it possible, it has a decent chance of actually helping with those things.

      I don’t think it’s a huge coincidence that I’ve a.) been GMing for most of my life because of a rooted interest in fantasy, and b.) exhibit a significantly above-average ability to conduct public speaking and group organization.

      Sure, having any of those things will help. But it’s kind of like asking if you can still play Left 4 Dead if you’re bad at shooters. It’s a co-op game. Get together with a group almost, but not quite as bad as you are and let everyone learn together.

      1. Jeff says:

        Co-op shooters like Left 4 Dead and Borderlands are nice in that they allow gamers with multiple playstyles to put different talents to use.

        I tend to be a slow, careful player while my friends tend to charge blindly onwards. Put us together and I have people who’ll flush out targets for me, while they have someone to cover their backs when they inevitably get themselves surrounded.

      2. evileeyore says:

        I’ve been LARPing for 30 years… and I still tend to freeze up when it comes to public speaking, so it’s not a sure fire way to over come that.

        1. Rutskarn says:

          I think LARPing is a bit different–this is actually an issue I’ve examined personally, because I exhibit assertiveness issues out-of-character that I don’t have in-character. LARPing helps create a sort of dissociated identity where anxiety isn’t an isssue.

          But when you’re GMing, you’re not really playing a role. That’s the key difference. Only about half of the time are you acting in-character as an NPC (in a really story-oriented game), and the rest of the time, you are being yourself.

          It also helps that you have a lot of time to get warmed up around, and used to, one specific group of people.

          1. evileeyore says:

            Good point. When I’ve run games I own that space (even facing down 300+ players in my largest LARP), but when I’m not the ST I still get the “stage frights”.

            In my case it probably an “assertiveness” thing. As an ST I know they want me there and I know my lines (usually off the cuff). As a player I’m trying to play a role and juggle the characters lines in my head.

          2. Tizzy says:

            I don’t know anything about LARPing, but I’ll mention that what I see as a possible difference is that a lot of the time spent DMing is at the social level, managing players and their expectations, reading their moods and so on. To a lesser extent, it is true for players. You’re nt exclusively plying a role around the table, you’re also being yourself and having social interactions.

            I am sure that a lot of people who grew up with this benefited tremendously from that somewhat safe social sandbox to develop their social skills.

      3. topazwolf says:

        However, if you lack basic empathy and willingness to cooperate with your players to build an enjoyable experience together you are not going to be able to GM for long.

        Rutskarn is correct, these are traits that are learned and are not inherent. Kinda shy, well your GM career can evolve in stages with you slowly becoming more comfortable (you will generally go from just describing encounters, to speaking for the characters, to using funny voices, and finally to gesticulation if my experience with new DMs is anything to go by) speaking with others over time. Bad social skills, well the few you need will become clear as you go and you will get better at them. In addition, playing multiple roles will give you the opportunity to perform social interactions differently so you can see how your players react and incorporate what you learn as you go. Slow reflexes? I’m gonna assume you mean improvisational reflex. You will learn to cope with it. I personally just bring a lot of basic material (characters, object descriptions, conversational tidbits, etc.) that can be spontaneously fit into the game as need be.

        Basically what I am saying is that if you’re not an unbearable jerk, everything else can be learned.

        As a side note, I tend to find that poor social skills arise from people developing certain incorrect notions about what is expected of them from others at a young age. Simply interacting with a lot of different people frequently will help a massive amount.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Yeah, this is very much true, just get a group of players where you all have fun interacting with each other. A GM we have a lot of fun with can often throw a scene description at us along the lines of “in the room there are those things with those other things on them”, she’s not even stumbling for words, she just throws this without missing a beat and carries on. There may or may not be some (friendly) mocking related to this.

    7. Adam says:

      At the risk of offending people, you’ve just described half the GMs I’ve ever played under. Heck, you just described ME. And while they weren’t all great at it, they weren’t uniformly terrible at it either. It’s a skill, more than anything. A synergistic combination of writing, acting, and generally being friendly with people you probably know well, or will eventually get to know better. (And given that I’m terrible at all of that when it’s not being applied to GMing, I’d say it’s possible to be a good GM even if you’re the least sociable person imaginable.)

    8. syal says:

      I don’t think any of those things would get in the way unless you’re trying to attract strangers to the game. If you’re GMing for your friends, well, they already know you.

      Keep in mind, you can make a campaign about going into a cave to kill a guy/retrieve an artifact. If you don’t trust that you can run a major campaign, run a minor one.

    9. Blake says:

      You obviously need to be capable speaking in front of your group, but after that it can certainly work.

      I’ve found campaigns run by shyer DMs tend to work better the more they can let the other players drive the experience.
      You still need to set up the sandbox and give them some sort of goal, but if they’re having fun running off having their own stories, then great.

      The less comfortable you are improvising, the more you need to know the world you’re putting your players into.

      On the other hand, there’s no harm giving players a largely random experience and telling them so, like
      “You’re all in a town trying to steal the diamond”,
      and having the players be like “Are there any bakeries around here?”,
      to which you reply “lets find out!”, roll D6-3 and find there are 3 in that street,
      they ask “Are any run by dark elves?”
      You say “Dark elves aren’t common around here, so roll 18+ for each on a D10, all 3 come up with 20s, so you remark “Must be some kind of dark elf bakery cartel stuff going on!”.
      And instantly you have players engaged with your world, if you find some way to make your dark elf bakers important to the story then the players will love you.

      The best GM’s aren’t the ones entertaining the players with their well thought out story, they’re the ones making the players entertain each other with the story they’re building together.

  2. MadHiro says:

    On behalf of all other Pony-Tail Mikes, I apologize. That sounded like hell.

    1. Destrustor says:

      As an actual, literal pony-tail mike, I heartily dissociate myself from that unrelenting douche.

      1. ET says:

        My AI professor in university was a laid-back, cool, pony-tail-wearing guy named Mike. Like, the total opposite of the guy Rutskarn described. I bet he’d run a good gaming session. :)

        1. Duneyrr says:

          My best friend is a pony-tail Mike. He’s a super cool dude.

          1. Thomas says:

            I feel like the world suddenly isn’t the place I knew it was. Are we all meant to know a ponytale-Mike? Was that just some sort of universal constant that I was clueless to until now? o_0

            1. syal says:

              You actually aren’t allowed to play games unless your name is Mike and you have a ponytail, unless a ponytail Mike is supervising.

            2. Dave B. says:

              I don’t know a pony-tail Mike. Life has cheated me.

              1. MadHiro says:

                We’re rad.

                Except when we’re not.

                Thus begineth and endeth the lesson.

              2. Bryan says:

                I know two Mikes, but neither has a ponytail.

                Now I feel cheated too. :-(

  3. Alexander The 1st says:

    “It is not the worst campaign I've ever heard of, but to clear that hurdle it'd need to involve literal felonies, so never mind.”

    Wait, as in the worst campaigns involved literal felonies? Or as in they stop just shy of that?

    1. Raygereio says:

      I have heard a gaming story that ended with someone pulling a gun and another one that ended in a pencil-stabbing.

      People can be weird.

      1. TouToTheHouYo says:

        Videoga-wait, what?

      2. Mondroid says:

        Critical Hit?

    2. The Other Matt K says:

      My favorite DMing horror story is the one where a man was forced to run a game at gunpoint for a Brazilian Death Squad, who brought in drugs and hookers to supplement the gaming as the night went on. But I don’t think that actually qualified as a campaign.

      1. Cybron says:

        I remember that one.

        You forgot to mention the corrupt cops he was DMing for didn’t really understand D&D and asking who was winning. He had to end the thing with a battle royale between them because he was afraid they’d get angry if they didn’t win.

  4. Paul Spooner says:

    Dear Rutsbad,
    How do you roll dice with boxing gloves on?
    Crap for crap

    Okay, now that that’s out of the way. I’ve been an off-and-on GM for years now. AFAIK I’ve never made someone cry at the table, but I’m guessing I’m not doing great either. Two questions:

    1. How can I tell if I’m doing a bad job? (before it causes problems)
    2. How can I give the players a great campaign without getting burned out?

    Obviously the answers will be highly situational, but I’d be interested in your feedback. I find it really difficult to maintain the intensity and drive that I feel being a GM requires. I’ve tried asking the players, but they will always SAY they are having fun, while being short on suggestions.

    1. el_b says:

      thespoonyone has a few videos that answer these really well.


      1. Steve C says:

        I just watched part of “Dungeon Mastering a Great Game”. Is that a good representation of his videos?

        1. MichaelGC says:

          I don’t recall that one specifically, but All Jedi or No Jedi and If You Stat It, They Will Kill It are shorter and should be fairly well representative. I suspect you already have the general gist, though!

          1. Steve C says:

            After having watched those videos I’d say he’s amusing enough when recanting stories from the gaming table. I wouldn’t take DM advice from him though. As a DM he’s more a movie director than a DM. A common style in many DMs but one I don’t approve of. Players become actors in the narrative the DM is weaving that focuses on cinematic events. All of my worst DMs have used that style. True cinematic events that are fun and remembered by all are the ones players organically come up with by doing weird and/or cool shit.

            1. syal says:

              With the Jedi one at least, he got caught up in the way he thought things should go and missed the opportunity to have the Stormtroopers shoot the Jedi in the back in response. That would have retained that climactic feel while also feeling distinctly player-made. It also undercuts the point he was trying to make.

            2. Tizzy says:

              I was mostly a GM, back in the days, and one ofvthe great pleasures I found was the creative ways in which players tackled the challenges that were thrown at them, so that I could simply place them in a situation, even if I had no idea how they could get out of it, and trust that they would figure something out that would surprise me.

              So I don’t care much for the cinematic style. We can play computer games if we really want that…

      2. ET says:

        I’m half-way through “The Squirt Gun Wars”, and loving it! :)

    2. Valthek says:

      I used to have this exact problem as a GM: running a lengthy campaign and getting burned out partway through which results in it just petering off into terrible.

      I found that planning a few points that you absolutely HAVE to hit in the campaign along with a definitive ending works miracles. But I think what made it absolutely great was that I could foreshadow events that were coming. The players knew more than a half year in advance that they would be involved in some way in the murder of the emperor (Legend of the Five Rings). They even knew the antagonists they were going to face over the course of the campaign (they actually impersonated the weakest of their members after killing him and sat in on one of the planning meetings.)

      This gave the players and me things to look forward to and keeps things interesting.

    3. ET says:

      For #1, I’d say a good tool, would be to ask your players for feedback. It might be a bit weird, but you could even do something as straightforward, as getting everyone to write down their thoughts after each session, on a sheet of paper. Like, really, you’re there to run a game, so everybody has fun. Yourself is included in that list of people, but I (personally anyways) would say the players come first. So, if the groups wants to play a loot-heavy game that plays like Jeopardy had offspring with Diablo II, do it. They want a narrative-heavy, dice-light game? Do it! If it’s outside your normal skillset as a GM, it’ll be practice for your skills, and if it’s something you already know how to do, you’ll be that much faster at improving your game. :)

    4. Rutskarn says:


      1.) Telling if you’re doing a bad job isn’t super hard. There’s a few warning signs:

      a.) Are they getting distracted by other stuff, like their phone or a television set somewhere? (Assuming they’re not easily distracted; some players just fuckin’ suck at this.)
      b.) Jokes about the campaign, the session, the NPCs, are normal–but are they at ease when they tell the jokes, or is there a strained, bitter edge to them?
      c.) Do they end the session excited for another one? Do they talk about the parts of that game they liked (“Man, signing that treaty felt real good”) or look forward to (“Who do you think the guy in the mask was?”), or do they pack up their dice and leave?
      d.) Big warning sign: do they often schedule stuff for the same time as game? “Yeah, I have to meet up with my group to work on stuff.” Once or twice could just be an unfortunate scheduling thing, but if done regularly, it’s clear they’re ducking out.

      Now, all of these are signs individual PLAYERS aren’t having fun. If it’s all or most of them, that’s bad news. So let’s talk about number 2:

      2.) This question is determined very much by what’s burning you out…but I’m guessing, as is most common, what’s burning you out is the paperwork aspect. Making NPCs, planning encounters, mapping dungeons, etc. There’s a few things you can do about this, from least to most significant:

      a.) Bring a notebook around. Try to work a little bit on the session during downtimes–lunch, waiting for someone to show up, commercial breaks, etc. Other plus: this lets you record ideas when inspiration specifically strikes rather than sitting down and trying to force good ideas out.
      b.) Schedule games less frequently. Some GMs need more time to prepare, so giving bigger pauses between sessions will help you process adventures.
      c.) Here’s my big trick: improvise more. This might seem like terrible advice (“What, come up with good shit on the day of instead of spending hours doing it? Won’t that really suck?”), but the fact of the matter is that most people are better at adapting to a situation than planning one. Don’t be afraid of letting adventures or even campaigns run from your natural sense of, “Okay, they’ve done that–now in this story, what would happen next?” With a little practice it will be hard or even impossible for players to tell you’re doing this. By the way, this goes DOUBLE for battles and monster stats. Balancing an encounter before a session is hard. Balancing an encounter during the encounter is easy. Are they doing too well? Add some hit points or another monster. Are they doing too poorly? Subtract some hit points but add a flashy special attack (“All of you make a DC10 Will check or take -2 to AC!”) that looks like it’s a nonstandard feature, making them think they’re against a special variant. Basically, what I’m saying is, learn to fool your players and you’ll cut your workload–and stress levels–in half. And they will still have fun. Trust me.

      Now, if your burnout is coming from other sources, that can be difficult to manage. Let me know if this helps, or, if it doesn’t, see if you can give me specifics I can work with.

      1. Akri says:

        Speaking as a player, improvisation can make for FANTASTIC sessions. Some of the greatest moments happen when someone does something on a whim, and then everyone just rolls with it. The campaign I’m in now has lots of improv, and it has given us great moments, such as the time one character scared a guard to death by shouting at him, or the time we accidentally summoned three Khorne daemons (leading to two of the greatest fights ever–one of which involved, at one point, a guy with no arms holding a knife in his teeth and trying to stab someone with it), us attempting to make friends with monsters that we were really just supposed to shoot on sight, and someone trying to rob a guard and ending up murdering another guard and then getting captured and tortured before being broken out of jail and then killing like 50 guards in a massive fight.

        1. Rutskarn says:

          Here’s a succinct way of putting it:

          You can’t plan for everything. But unlike a computer game, you can react to anything. Use that to your advantage.

          1. Tizzy says:

            Gygax was on the record as complaining that computer games had bred into players habits that are not suited to tabletop gaming. He was thinking about things like exploring everywhere or trying to beat every challenge, or even expecting balanced challenges, but I wonder if they also didn’t limit the sense of limitless options.

            This sense that anything goes was one of the feature that attracted a lot of the first gamers.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              One thing I’d like to know, since you bring up balanced and unbalanced challenges.

              If you’re going to run a campaign where the characters are expected to fight sometimes and run away other times, how do you give discerning players enough information to help them realize they’re dealing with someone way out of their league and they should run (or cooperate). I generally want their deaths to be their fault, not mine, so I don’t want to spring nasty stuff on them without giving them fair hints but at the same time I don’t want it to be like they’re all wearing DBZ scouters.

              Like obviously dragons and other big monsters are pretty easy to pick up on. You can probably tell that a solar is way out of your league, but then again the hill giant is as big or bigger than a solar and they’re way less powerful. But how do they tell the difference between the 6th level hobgoblin they can fight and the 20th level hobgoblin that can hand them their asses? I guess detect magic might help. Higher level humanoid npcs tend to have more powerful magic gear.

        2. krellen says:

          I can see I’m going to have to coax more Dark Heresy stories out of Anster.

          1. Akri says:

            The fact that our first Inquisitor was Cuftbert should give you a pretty good idea about how a lot of the campaign has gone :D

            Oh, and that reminds me of another hilarious moment that may-or-may-not have been intended by Anster:

            Cuftbert had a servo skull, Stanley, to which he had affixed a poisoned monoblade spike(leading me to dub him Stabbin’ Stanley). At one point two characters were having a conversation about the meaning of some scarification, while Stanley hovered nearby, and something was said along the lines of “in my tribe we do this to record glorious moments in our lives”. At “glorious” Stanley flies away. We barely pay any attention…until a bit later when Stanley returns, with the head of a guard stuck to the end of his spike.

            Turns out that if Stanley heard the word “glory” (or a permutation thereof) he was programmed to go out and kill whoever would be the most glorious person to kill. Like the captain of the king’s guard.

            Fortunately nobody saw me dump the head in the river that night, though explaining the blood in our room to the authorities took some work.

            1. Kavonde says:

              Frickin’ Stanley.

              Then there was the time that, through a primal scream of rage so incredible that it ripped reality asunder, we summoned three lesser Khorne demons into the middle of a brawl with some medieval bandit types.

              And then there was Gold. If you ever hear PossiblyInsane say the words “I feel lucky,” run.

      2. topazwolf says:

        Personally, I love improvisation. I am very much of the frame of mind that, if I have not yet said something it is not so. Typically, I just bring a folder with the following items in it:

        DA RULES. All my rules I wish to use. This includes notes about changes. Personally, I make it clear when I play a game that I can and will override or change rules to suit the campaign up front. Typically, I make it clear and never do so to the player’s disadvantage. I also note any changes for future records.

        Several fully formed NPCs that are important to the campaign with personality aspects roughed out so I know where they stand on multiple issues and can decide how they would react to anything the players might say. These characters will have backstorys and relations to the plot. Think of these as the main characters.

        A ton of half formed characters who have names, professions, descriptions, and personalities, but no backstory that can be used for interesting random social encounters (I have no love for the DMs that only use combat). Think of these characters as speaking rolls/minor characters.

        A metric ****ton of larval characters who have names, personality archetypes, descriptions, and nothing else. These are the extras on set. Basically, if the player wants to question bandit # 3, this is the pile I pull out of so the players can have a decent interaction.

        Rough maps of geographic areas, which are mostly notes. I love making detailed maps, but they are almost always a massive waste of my time. You should always be able to tell the player where they are in relation to landmarks, anything more is not necessary.

        Floorplans. Many, many floorplans. Don’t let your players get lost in a building that is only two stories tall. Also, don’t assign floorplans to any particular building. When the players enter a house, just grab a good one and mark it as used and where. This adds a lot of detail and makes it feel like you put hundreds of hours into the campaign, when you only put five minutes into printing some floor plans.

        Descriptions of items. Adds a bit of flavor. When player inspect so random frigging item, read off a nicely detailed description that makes the items seem unique. Mark description as used and carry on.

        Encounters. See characters for how these encounters work. Have some plot relevant ones ready for when the players eventually get around to them and some less detailed ones around for flavor and fun.

        Names. Just lists of names for random things like taverns. Stalling to come up with unique names is intimidating and noticeable by the players.

        Notebook. I record every ruling and detail I dished out in the session immediately after, so my game remains consistent.

        The biggest thing about using the above material, is you cannot plan too much ahead. If you have an encounter with a super important NPC that you want the players to have and you tell them to go to Blackwater Castle to make it happen, and the players inevitably bugger off in the wrong direction, bring the encounter to the players. Just leave the encounter vague enough to where you can dynamically blend it into the players paths. Don’t bother building railroads when stepping stones will do.

        Another note is to not be afraid to bring back characters. If one of your larval characters was a hit with the players, don’t be afraid to give him some more details and bring him back when you need a random NPC. Players appreciate being familiar with different NPCs and will actually grow attached to these random people they “discovered”. This goes for items and locations as well.

        As you get better at coming up with such information, you will be able to make it less and less detailed.

    5. Steve C says:

      Paul, the best GMs get a group of like-minded players. That above all else is important for long term success.

      Even if you are the worst GM in the world, if your players are into what you are supplying then it doesn’t matter. If you are a hardcore thespian and your players are enjoying being actors in your play then that’s great. You’ll be a good GM. If you are a hardcore roll-player with battlemaps with a focus on numbers with munchkin-esk min-maxer players then that’s great. You’ll be a good GM. Now take 50% of those two groups and mix them together and both DMs will go from good to terrible. Both campaigns will fall apart.

      I’ve only met a single person who was the perfect GM. He could do all styles and a master of all them and able to switch between anything needed at a whim. You aren’t going to be that guy. Know your style. Know what you are comfortable with and your strengths and weaknesses. Get players that match that style and like your strengths and don’t think your weaknesses were very important to begin with.

    6. Steve C says:

      How can I give the players a great campaign without getting burned out?… I find it really difficult to maintain the intensity and drive that I feel being a GM requires.

      You should not be in a position where you are burning out. The players should be feeding you energy, not consuming it. You as the DM do the reverse for the players and it creates a perpetual feedback loop. If you have a problem with intensity and being burned out I would hazard a guess that you are taking too heavy-handed an approach to GMing. But that is only a guess.

      For #1 I agree with all of Rutskarn’s answers. Problem is that the problems have already begun at that point. A good way to head them off is to ask your players not if they are having fun, but what they want to do. Ask players individually and focus more on the player than their character.

  5. Mathias says:

    How can you introduce a good recurring antagonist?

    I have this problem where every time I try to create a threatening antagonist in Pathfinder, my players usually just end up murderizing him/her and I have to draft up a new one again. It’s almost impossible to create one that actually feels like a legitimate threat to the PC’s.

    1. Valthek says:

      (Not-rutskarn weighing in)

      In pathfinder, this is actually the easiest task to accomplish. There’s resurrection magic, spells like contingency and clone which keep important baddies from staying dead. Mind you: the bad-guy got ressurected and now he’s back for revenge works exactly once. After that, they’ll start mutilating corpses just to be sure. In the shadowrun campaign i’m running, the gun-bunny is putting two additional rounds into the face of everything she kills because I hinted at the fact that one of her victims MAY have survived.

      As for making them a legitimate threat, the best advice I’ve seen for pathfinder is twofold:
      1) (and this works for everything) Give them minions. Lieutenants fighting with the big bad, a swarm of stormtroopers to deplete their ammo. A couple of mooks with crossbows using hit-and-run tactics to deplete their healing. Never let them fight the Big-Bad at full strength. Don’t even let them NEAR him unless most of their resources (spells, potions, HP) are halfway gone or worse.

      2) CR is BS. Optimised player character will blow through ‘appropriate challenges’ with ease and nothing you can do will stop them. Maximise that HP, give them advantageous terrain, and give em an additional HD and a few extra spells/feats/one-use items.

      1. krellen says:

        On 2) Most DMs let players get away with things they aren’t supposed to; resting after every encounter is not the intended playstyle. CR is balanced assuming PCs will face 3-4 encounters per rest. Without that balance, yes, it is bullshit.

    2. ehlijen says:

      How about introducing them in a non-combat setting first?

      Maybe they are advisors to the king only to later turn traitor?
      Maybe the PCs need to ask them for help at first because he posseses the McGuffin?
      Maybe they are honourable and the PCs meet them in parley before fighting their army, but not the leader at this point?

      1. silver Harloe says:

        Non-combat settings only occur when you have a single consistent author who relishes historicity, or in video games that can turn off your attack command. There are no non-combat settings in a tabletop RPG.

        “King OnYourSide has set up a parley with the enemy to see if there’s a way to appease them. GuyWhoAntagonizedYouLastTime shows up at the parley.”
        “I attack.”
        “It’s a parley.”
        “I’m Chaotic Good, I don’t believe in rules, just doing good, and putting this guy down is clearly for the good. I attack.”

        1. Peter H. Coffin says:

          Character jailed forever by King, for breaking the peace of the parlay. Start rolling a new character.

          1. Cybron says:

            Congratulations, now the campaign is derailed AND that guy is going to whine for the next 8 sessions about how you won’t let him have any fun. Punishing players with character death rarely achieves anything. And if you’re not super hamfisted about it, you’re not likely to stop them from doing whatever dumb thing they wanted to do in the first place.

            You can’t really create a non-combat setting, but what you can (try) to do is create a setting where the players don’t want to kill your antagonist. Usually this relates to needing him alive for something or having some other critical mission objective they care about more than him (this usually involves pending doom or a chance to screw over another, even more annoying antagonist).

            PCs are still unpredictable though, so make sure you have a contingency plan in case they decide to abandon logic and go for the guy anyways.

            1. ehlijen says:

              They key is in getting players involved enough in the game so that they don’t want to break the universe rules like that.

              What if breaking the parley won’t just get the character arrested (he can always break out) but also puts their noble family into bad standing at the court?

              What if flaunting the laws will drive allies to side with the lawful evil bad guy because at least they know what they’re getting with them, putting the entire extended family of the PC who happen to live in the ally’s town at risk?

              What if the PCs are undercover and being discovered will risk the lives of several important hostages?

              The whole point of the GM is to adjudicate the consequences of the player actions. (“I swing my sword, do I hit?”). Taking away the GM power to create logical consequences, even for illogical actions, will make the entire game illogical.

              If that’s what you want, sure, but at that point questions of story quality become somewhat academic.

              1. Cybron says:

                Absolutely, creating consequences that the players care about is the best way to go about it, though bear in mind making a player care about something is not a science. It instead resides somewhere at the intersection of art, voodoo, and blind luck

                I would just point out that the consequence of “Rocks falls, everyone dies” is going to derail the campaign even more than whatever you’re mad at the PCs about, and will make the players mad to boot. It should never be your go-to option.

                1. syal says:

                  Letting them know that the pillar they want to knock down is holding up heavy rocks that will kill everyone if they fall is not out of the question though. If the players do something absolutely stupid, you might even get away with pausing the game and explaining all the negative effects that action will have, and then if they do it anyway at least they won’t be surprised.

                  1. Cybron says:

                    I’d ask “what kind of nutcase would do that”, but we’re talking about PCs, so fair enough.

                    1. syal says:

                      Well, just like the parley scenario, they might not realize that the action they are taking is a Major Decision that will alter the course of the game in ways they probably aren’t prepared to handle. (Like when their own army tries to kill them for violating the parley and starting a war. You want them to know that’s what’s going to happen before they set it in stone.)

                      But if they have a way around all of that (like, they bring a thick net to catch the heavy rocks before knocking down the pillar), you shouldn’t stop them from trying.

                2. Felblood says:

                  It’s not an exact science and nothing works 100% of the time, but there are some tricks that you can use optimize your chances of success.

                  In general, tie things the characters should care about in-game, to things their actual players are interested in.

                  Do your players love leveling up? Get a little bit generous with the quest XP for completing major plot points, and don’t be afraid to tell players, “You get XP for accomplishing goals X and Y, and manged to do A, while you were at it, so you get a lot of XP, but you sacrificed secondary objectives A, B and C, so you could have gotten even more.” Games like Dark Heresy build this right into the system, but it’s pretty easy to bolt it onto any RPG.

                  Do your players love collecting loot? Don’t just give them more items and gold, heap them with titles, and accolades. When your players save the dukes daughter from kidnappers, make them into knights and give them small fiefs that pay them taxes.

                  Cunning players may try to turn this around on you and use their levels, titles and lands as tools to accomplish quests, or even start developing their villages into centers of commerce, to amass more taxes. Depending on the player, you might not want to tell them that this was your actual intention. The more time and energy they invest in their towns, the more ready they will be to defend said towns safety and diplomatic interests.

                  Let your player turn Joe the chaotic good fighter into Baron Joseph, a crafty, mighty and respected local power who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty to protect the peace and safety of his constituents. Suddenly, he shares interest with the NPCs, and his chaos can be channeled to your own ends.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Regarding the chaotic good and “PCs are unpredictable” angle. I think it helps to establish certain character guidelines before you start the campaign. I know some people may complain about this limiting their character options but establishing in advance whether you’re playing a complete free for all or, for example, a “it would be nice if you were at least leaning good” helps a lot. Nothing wrong with a free for all but I’ve seen parties disintegrate. or at least some players be marginalized, over internal alingment conflict.

          Also, some players just look for a pretext to cause a mess, I’m a long time Masquerade Malkavian player but I’ve seen dread in many a GM’s eye, and a lot of eyerolling from some others, at the mention of the clan name because it’s so often used by disruptive players.

    3. IFS says:

      Its hard, but in my limited experience often spellcasters work best for this especially the ones that can take action from a distance without getting directly in the line of fire. I made a pair of antagonists for one adventure once, a high level minotaur fighter running a fort and a lower level goblin psion as his lackey, the goblin psion consistently gave the group trouble throughout the adventure and even escaped alive while the minotaur was threatening for a couple rounds until the groups mage blasted him to pieces. Although it is fairly important if you use a wizard as the antagonist that you don’t just make them spam the most powerful spells, a lot of other spells can be much more interesting to fight against (especially when you enter the realm of insta-death spells, players hate getting hit by those).

    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Steal their shit.They wont be afraid of that villain,true,but they will hate their guts.Better yet,have a quest giver offer them wine as a reward,then have them wake up on a slaver boat.They will cross planes and come back from death just to get revenge.

      And whats best about thieving antagonists,you can always end the encounter with them with all your players alive,because the villain can just run away instead of blasting them to smithereens.

    5. Rutskarn says:


      Let me tell you what you DON’T do. Do NOT just come up with a super badass antagonist who kicks the shit out of them because he’s way higher level, then flies away on his magic carpet. That will make the players want to defeat him. That will make the players want to defeat him right now, to offset the burning humiliation they are feeling for being pantsed by some cocky shithead. Assuming this is not possible–and the whole point is that it’s not–then either you’ve got a dead party on your hands or you’ve got players being asked to play a whole campaign just to vent their frustration, and either way, you’ve got unhappy players.

      What you should do is one of the following:

      a.) Introduce them as an allied or otherwise affiliated NPC. This is a great way to do it because it gives the players a chance to get to know that person. My favorite recurring villains are the ones the players understand–when a villain’s actions in the story are for reasons the player can understand, the story tends to be more involving.

      b.) Introduce the character long, long before the players actually meet the character. Wanted posters, rumors, stories from fellow adventurers, legends, reverent but horrified cave paintings, news stories about a massacre or a serial killer…or if you want to make things personal, arrange a non face-to-face meeting via sending spells, holograms, or what have you.

      c.) Create fights where killing one’s opponent is not the main goal (at least, for the party).

      Example: the party is trying to save an airship that is rapidly crashing, because when it lands it will blow up, killing the sapient spirit within it. Meanwhile, the recurring antagonist and his buddies fly up on their magic carpet (“That swank motherfucker!”) and start trying to kill the party so they don’t have time to grapple with the controls. When it’s clear they’re gonna die (~20% health) the survivors (you should let the party kill some of them–more on that later) run off and the party has just enough time to wrestle with the controls and save their ship.

      d.) This is the big one: more than one recurring antagonist. If the villain has a posse of real assholes, and the party gets to kill at least one or two of them per session, they’ll feel like they did some good.

      What frustrates players when a villain escapes is not that the villain isn’t dead, per se. It’s that the fight happened and they didn’t get a chance to affect the status quo at all. To them it feels like the villain is getting free shots at them. Letting the players kill his built-up gnarly buddies (“I’m so glad I got to kill the guy who spat tobacco on our polished hardwood deck”) or destroy his artifacts (“Guess he’s not gonna use that fuckin’ wand on us again”) or even his superiors (“At least we managed to kill his boss. That’ll probably do more for the war effort, actually”) will help them feel satisfied.

      1. crossbrainedfool says:

        I have a fond memory of a campaign where we the DM kept trying to get recurring villains running – but given his strict self-disipline about fugding, and our party capacity to deal stupid amounts of burst damage out of nowhere, this didn’t go well. We only fought two people twice – both survivors from our first combat encounter. Often when the antagonist was just getting within inches of whatever running away threshold, I’d get a crit, or the wizard would land something nasty, or both, and suddenly our recurring antagonist was reduced to chunky salsa.

    6. Steve C says:

      Q: How can you introduce a good recurring antagonist?

      A: You can’t. Not really. Not like in a movie where Hackman beats the living crap out of Eastwood and he returns so they can have a climax at the end. Don’t try that shit in a game. It doesn’t work.

      Best you can do is play a little smoke and mirrors. This can be via lots of different methods.
      1)Betrayal. NPC sells gear to the Players that are cursed. PCs want payback but can’t because they need the curses removed. This can become unfun for the players. Later they can become paranoid and become unfun for the GM. Be very wary of using this. If the players feel betrayed by the GM instead of the NPCs you will fail spectacularly.
      2)Remotely. The PCs never interact with the NPC direct only his minions. This works best when it’s a legitimate authority figure like a Duke or King working against them and their allies.
      3)Misdirection. The big bad guy you thought was the bad guy was framing someone. Our villain is an another castle gets old quick. Use sparingly.
      4)The Organization. You aren’t fighting A guy. You are fighting “the thieves guild” or The Corporation or a group of guys who all have the same goal and working together but are never in the same place.
      5)The Legend. Smaug. The Hobbit’s villian for the entire book is Smaug. They are constantly talking about him. Smaug doesn’t even know they exist.
      6)The Thing. A malevolent entity with no body to be destroyed. One of the best villains I’ve ever experienced was a sentient artifact. We defeated the guy wielding it only to realize that the artifact was using him as a puppet when the next bad guy showed up. If we defeated a bad guy the artifact took a new host like a parasite. We couldn’t simply destroy it because as an artifact it couldn’t be destroyed. We needed another artifact to do that. And that 2nd artifact started to take over our paladin so… ya. Our own paladin started to become a threat.
      7)The Abstract. This kind of villain takes out of the box thinking. For example in the Order of the Stick comic their true adversary is the Snarl. In another campaign it could be something weird like the Plane of Ravenloft trying to get them. Or alien like the Hive Mind of the Borg or mindflayers.
      8)Xanatos Gambit. Done right this is awesome. Done wrong and the players feel betrayed and useless.

      Most villains don’t work as villains in the movie sense. Running from Darth Vader, then fighting, then running, then fighting, then Darth running etc just DOES NOT WORK in a game. Do not try for this. It’s awful both as a DM and as players. “Oh but he’s a mage so he…” Fuck that shit sideways.

      1. syal says:

        Option 8 is to give up on trying to make him a credible threat and make a running gag character. A fighter four levels below the party’s fighter that keeps picking fights with the entire party during quiet moments because the girl he likes fell in love with the party cleric when they passed through town. Something utterly non-threatening has a much better chance of surviving to fight another day.

        (Alternative to number 3; the Big Bad is framing you, and you have to deal with a whole lot of misinformed people. In fact, you might be able to actually pull off a recurring, threatening antagonist if you make it obvious to the players that the guy wouldn’t be fighting them if he knew what was really going on. But don’t be surprised if they tie him up and shove him in a Bag of Holding to get him out of the way.)

        1. Steve C says:

          Option 8 was the Xanatos Gambit. I couldn’t bold it and hyperlink it. Looks like it will be overlooked as I feared. It shouldn’t be. It’s great if it can be pulled off. It guarantees a recurring villain. I also like your alternative frame job. Where the bad guy is really a good guy making your life difficult because he doesn’t know better. I forgot about that one and it’s different enough to merit its own entry.

          1. syal says:

            Whoops, I saw the Xanatos but missed the number. Running Gag would be Option 9 then.

            And 10 would be the Sympathetic Threat, any character whose reason for fighting you is morally commendable and the players would feel bad killing.

            1. Felblood says:

              If your players are deeply invested in the motivations of the NPCs for this to work, your work is already 99% done.

      2. Luke Sampson says:

        Most villains don't work as villains in the movie sense. Running from Darth Vader, then fighting, then running, then fighting, then Darth running etc just DOES NOT WORK in a game.

        Gods, that is so true. The only participatory “rpg” (I use the term loosely) I have been involved in was on a Star Wars message board, and the game consisted of exactly this (only it was Naga Sadow, not Darth Vader). We would fight, get trounced, and run over and over again because the GM had “something special” in mind for the grand finale. We all got sick of it and finally when we came up with a clever way to win a confrontation with the Big Bad (not kill him mind you, just drive him off), the GM ragequit and left the forum. Good times.

    7. topazwolf says:

      Option A:
      Do it movie style and create a complex character and system in which the character is multiple levels removed from the players and the main quest is getting to the character to actually do battle. You can’t just hunt down Alduin and kill him. You have to make the killing the end goal of the quest series with no possible direct interaction until then.

      Option B:
      Make an enemy who is either amusing enough or useful enough to the players that they do not wish to kill him. This typically means that the players are not at all threatened by this enemy.

      Option C:
      Do not make the identity of the character known. Make him an enigma to the players. Though they are forced to fight him occasionally, he is not understood well enough to kill finally. This is likely to annoy the players, but if done well could have good results.

      Option D:
      Don’t bother. Just make organizations that act as the antagonist.

      As an aside, I once ran a one off 3.5 pre-made adventure that I pulled at random from my collection (there wasn’t enough players to do the actual campaign and I was not yet experienced enough to plan for this eventuality) that had a vampire character in it and 6 stages. In each stage, the players are given the illusion of the possibility of killing off the vampire. In each stage it is impossible. NEVER DO THIS. This is honestly the only time I saw my players become personally angry at an adventure. All it does is cause frustration and annoyance. If they fight the big bad, try to make it clear win or lose. Do not let them fight Darth Vader, only to have him teleport away when he is losing.

  6. lostclause says:

    Rutskarn: “I’m yet to find a worse DM than that guy.”
    Josh: “I volunteer!”

    I can only say hell yes. Either Josh trolls the players or he is on the receiving end for once, a win-win scenario.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      And Rutskarn could reprise the role of Reginald Cuftbert! It’d be trolltastic.

  7. Neko says:

    Oh, sweet – I’d just finished the previous episode and was dismayed to have the end song played just as you were starting your story! It’s hard to get a group together around a table these days thanks to dumb commitments and schedules now that all my friends have a “life” so I do enjoy Professor Rutskarn’s tales and things like Aunty Paladin.

    … hey, did that idea of a Fallout RPG with the Spoiler Warning crew ever get off the ground?

    1. Rutskarn says:

      Uh…sort of? We made characters, and it happened once, but honestly it’ll probably be too hard to schedule. We’ll see. Maybe we could add it as a Patreon reward.

      1. Adam says:

        I would give my life savings (all 800 quid) to get to watch/listen in on a SW RPG session.

      2. You could make it a turn-based RPG, like the original Fallout. Just record every phone call you make to each player and edit them all together.

        1. ET says:

          If they did the game board on like some kind of computer thing, this might actually be a feasible episode or mini-season of Spoiler Warning. :)

      3. The Specktre says:

        Okay, I’m pretty sure I would donate to Patreon for this.

  8. Ygor says:

    Okay, here’s one that bugs me pretty much every time I GM a game- how do you play female characters? Do you try to roleplay them? Or you just go with: And she tell to you “blah blah blah”
    I’m really struggling with this one and as a result, my campaigns don’t have that many strong, memorable female npcs, even when I come up with some.

    1. Dovius says:

      Playing female characters isn’t that different from male characters in my experience. Just inflect a less resonant voice/change your timbre if you do voices for seperate NPC’s and the rest is the same as with male npc’s.

      Which now that I look at it, is shit advise (“Just do it!”), but I’ve never had trouble with using female characters of varying pursuasions. From just a stereotypical fantasy wench, to the one travelling the globe to find her family, to the 8-foot tall giant that could toss people through brick walls.

    2. ehlijen says:

      The most important thing to remember that while of course not negligible, the gender is rarely the key aspect of any character.

      Instead of asking ‘how to play a female’ ask ‘how to play a (insert race) (insert class) (insert alignment) person who happens to be (insert gender) ‘.

      Then adjust with reactions towards prevailing attitudes to (insert gender) in your game world.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Its probably more accurate to say “Gender is never (or rarely ever) a key aspect of the types of characters you need for the stuff you’re doing in a roleplaying game.” This isn’t day to day life, its dungeon crawling and war and (if it floats your boat) political intrigue. Considering that most tabletop rpgs don’t even have mechanical differences by gender (i.e. no strength penalty for women) they have the same options as men in these settings in dangerous situations. So they would act the same as their male equivalents.

        Or, if the group doesn’t care, maybe just don’t worry about it so much. You’re creating a game for friends, not trying to provide diversity for the larger consumer culture. You don’t have to be as politically correct we want game developers to be unless you have players at your table who would be uncomfortable with it.

        1. Duneyrr says:

          We saved a ‘damsel in distress’ (random encounter) during our Saturday morning game. She was a fighter stuck in a monster trap that was a bit too hard for her to handle alone. My male character happened to have a bonus to his rolls for dealing with members of the opposite sex, so we managed to recruit her until we got to a section she was more familiar with.

          Other than that, her gender made little difference.

          We’ll probably remember her more that some of the other NPCs because the encounter was interesting, not her gender.

        2. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I can’t help but somewhat disagree. Sure, during dungeon crawl a character’s gender, be they PC or NPC, probably won’t matter much barring some prety specific circumstances. However in our Victoriana game (semi-victorian steampunk magical London) gender roles of the period play a very important part, even if we simplify it and overlook a few aspects for the sake of gameplay.

          Bottom line should always be, do what’s best for fun gameplay, there is no point in making sure that your mooks have proper gender parity but at the same time when appropriate and if it fits with the players and the setting there’s no point in overlooking gender treatment either.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            I’ll defer to Professor Rutskarn on this (see immediately below). I think he addresses the point well enough.

            I think defaulting to “gender doesn’t matter” is better as he says. But yeah, if there’s something specific you WANT to do with it, then do it. And if you’ve chosen or created a setting where there are gender roles then obviously that needs to be taken into account.

            I think our point is, don’t feel like you need to write your female characters any differently than you do your male ones. Just create characters and move forward. Don’t worry about voices, don’t worry about giving her enough pairs of shoes, etc.

    3. Rutskarn says:


      The others have pretty much hit on this, but I think a bit of a more nuanced answer might be called for.

      It’s good that you noticed a lack of female NPCs in your campaign! Favoring male characters is a hugely natural tendency for men and women with a typical fantasy background, but it’s something you can and probably should fight.

      Before you begin, ask yourself: is gender important in my campaign? Are there significantly different expectations placed on men and women?

      Generally I prefer the answer to be “no,” especially if there are female players. Institutionalized patriarchal roles might be realistic, but it is my observation that they’re not super fun for people who already have to deal with that shit. If you need a reason to hand-wave them away, just keep in mind that the same strict societal dichotomies that emerged largely from intertribal combat might not have favored warriors (who men are usually more suited to be) as much as priests (who as healers and buffers, might be way more important and respected than the guys who go out and kill) and spellcasters (who aren’t really favored to one gender or another naturally.)

      Anyway, now that’s out of the way, let’s get to your actual question.

      Don’t do a falsetto or theatrical voice. It’s really not necessary. They are already pretending that your vague hand gestures are swings of a sword and that your gesticulation is the width of a burial chamber. My rule is to do voices only when that voice is fun or unusual, and just a random generic lady voice probably shouldn’t be either of those things. The grand duchess might have an affected falsetto, for example; the average female character shouldn’t.

      If your campaign has no strongly-enforced gender roles (the standard Rutskarn Recommendation), then don’t fuss too much. If your female character’s gender isn’t important, worry about the stuff that is–motivations, backstory, personality, etc.

      If you are running with gender roles, figure out what women in the campaign setting would be doing to affect the world situation and/or the main quest. Surely half the population hasn’t completely given up whatever’s going on for “some mens’ problems.” The average woman won’t be doing much, because the average man won’t be, either–he’ll be trying to cure his sick pig or whittle a nice chair or start a regular card game. But there will be women trying to smuggle supplies to resistances, women spies, wealthy female scholars, matriarchs, priestesses, female prophets…it’s not too hard to find what cool female characters would be doing, particularly if you look through actual historical examples of the same.

      Also keep in mind that just because humans have gender roles does not mean everyone does–or that everyone will have recognizable ones.

      Anyway, short version is: it depends on what you’re doing with them.

      1. evileeyore says:

        As GRRM said when asked “How do you write women so well”:

        GRRM: “I’ve always considered women to be people.”

    4. Axe Armor says:

      I’m guessing what you mean is less “women! what are they thinking?” and more “I am a lumberjack and my voice is incredibly burly and masculine”. I’d say give it a shot anyway. I’m not a voice actor or anything, but if you can get comfortable with the tone and the personality, I bet the pitch difference will probably end up being not so important. Even if people laugh at you for it at first, if you keep to the character, they’ll probably just get used to it after a while. As an example, people tend to forget after a few episodes that Doctor Girlfriend/Doctor Mrs. The Monarch has the voice of a fifty year-old male chainsmoker.

      1. Felblood says:

        Subtlety and knowing your audience goes a long way wit this question.

        What is YOUR group comfortable with, in terms of funny voices, fake accents and gender politics?

        Calibrate your female NPC methodology in line with these.

  9. Someone says:

    I would propose there are three more-or-less conflicting approaches to RPGs: 1) Simulationist; 2) Gameist; 3) Narrativist. A Simulationist approach tries to model the world “realistically”, even if that world is a fantasy world. It places internal consistency, logic and detail above all else. A gameist approach places its focus on gameplay, on what the players can do and achieve in the world. It emphasizes things like clear-cut, well-defined rules and balance between players. A Narrativist approach is more concerned about creating a story. It often emphasizes outside-the-box thinking and intuition, and disdains complex and detailed rules.

    Rutskan, which of these three general approaches to RPGs is your favourite, and more importantly, why? What makes it work for you? What makes it interesting for you? Both as a GM and as a player.

    Which rule system is better at catering to your chosen approach? Again, why? What features does the system have that help support the approach?

    If you feel the above classification is silly / stupid / artificial and contradicts the real world, feel free to say so. Again, I’m not just interested in your personal opinion, I’m more interested in the whys behind your opinion.

    P.S. – I am not trying to bash any of the above general approaches, nor to bash any RPG game in particular (i.e. I’m not trying to get into a “ZZZ is not ‘really’ an RPG” discussion). I actually believe each of these approaches serves a different audience with different expectations, and thus no approach is ‘superior’ to the others.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      It sounds like you’re trying to take credit for an idea that has been around for decades in that exact form.

      1. Someone says:

        The idea is not mine. Re-reading my post I can understand why it gives the impression that I’m trying to pass it of as my own idea. That was not my intention, and for that I apologise. My only intention was to provoke a discussion.

    2. Steve C says:

      This. There definitely are conflicting styles. I’m not sure there are only three or that I would label them as such. It’s certainly a good start. A roleplaying game is a bit like music. There are plenty of different styles of music and everyone has their own preferences. Some people can dance to any rhythm because they are born dancers. Others can’t dance at all. And yet others have their preferences in music and are unpleasant if outside them.

      There are plenty of different styles of player, DM and campaign. All three have to gel together for a great experience.

      1. Matt Downie says:

        This reminds me of this Shamus RPG article.
        He suggested that if the players unexpectedly kill the boss early on in the adventure, you can change it so that the guy they defeated was in fact just a minion of the newly invented ‘real’ boss.
        Some hardcore simulationists got quite annoyed by the idea of the world changing retrospectively to counter the players’ actions, even though the players wouldn’t find out.

    3. Rutskarn says:


      The three categories are pretty solid starting points. Keep in mind,
      though, that most games do and should prioritize all three elements. It’s just a matter of which are most significant to the GM. Ultimately this is the GM’s decision, just as the type of dish being prepared is up to the chef. The chef’s goal is to provide a great experience for the diners. Generally, trusting his or her instincts and picking recipes he or she likes is the right first step.

      Anyway, to answer your actual question:

      My priorities from greatest to least run Narrativist, Simulationist, Gamist. I believe in telling a GREAT STORY by creating VERISIMILITUDE, and if possible, there should be INTERESTING MECHANICAL CHOICES.

      Sometimes I run games that are Narrativist, Gamist, Simulationist. In other words, I create a GREAT STORY that is FUN TO PLAY and FEELS SOMEWHAT REAL.

      I don’t think I can name any one system that’s good for either. I will say FATE Core is good for any GM that favors narrative, because it’s the only general system built around narrative as a principle.

      The thing is, the system is often less important than how you wield it. I’d say just find a system that fits your comfort level and that the players seem to like and put your stamp on it.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I would like to take this chance to thank you for showing off Fate during Aunty Paladin’s. It is an excellent system for the type of games that I like to run and, besides my current campaign, I intend to use it for many more settings. Before Fate I had a lot of problems with being shy in overcoming the game mechanics for the sake of fun and fluent gameplay. We’re enjoying the system so much that my players bought me the printed copy of the book and it is glorious. That’s at least one sale that they owe entirely to you.

    4. Wide And Nerdy says:

      There’s also the gamer archetypes (I can’t remember who’s idea this is.)

      The Real Man: Who plays to do cool action stuff. Stunts, fighting, etc. They may or may not be a power gamer but either way, they want to be badass.

      The Roleplayer: In it for the story and for immersing themselves in their character and the plot. Sometimes split into the Brain (more interested in problem solving and puzzles) and the Thespian (more interested in playing out their personality quirks.

      The Loonie: Who plays to screw around with the setting and do silly stuff. I wish more video games catered to this type personally. There is an absolutely brilliant list created by a Loonie “Things Mr Welch is no longer allowed to do in an RPG”. Its over 2000 items and still growing.

      The Munchkin: Who plays to win, even if thats not the point, even if its cheating. Does everything they can to get the most bonuses to stats and tries to hog the best gear. (Tend to make bad players but absolutely nightmarish GMs. It sounds like Rutskarn had a GM with a Munchkin streak in him.)

      I’ve done the rounds. I’ve been the Munchkin (in my early twenties no less, I am so ashamed of that now), realized there’s no long term percentage in it, so went on to being the Loonie (or at least trying to be), to get my kicks from something other than min/maxing and now am a combination Loonie/Roleplayer.

      During my Munchkin phase I GMed. My heart was in the right place (at first). I just wanted to give my players the kind of campaign I wanted. One where you get to be powerful and have lots of loot. The problem is the group had a power gamer and eventually I got tired of him overshadowing the group and cutting through all my challenges so I turned up the heat. He kept beating the challenges, I kept turning up the heat and eventually the other players became casualties. It was bad. Then I played in his campaign (should have known better) and he singled me out for revenge. I was a spellcaster and ever monster we fought was immune to everything I cast. I whined a lot. It wasn’t pleasant for the other players.

      (Edit: I’m not kidding when I say I’m ashamed of my Munchkin years, I went through a long depressive episode spanning years where I beat myself up for being like this and slowly withdrew from gaming.)

  10. lucky7 says:

    Hey, I was born in South Carolina…
    and I agree. North is not South.

  11. lucky7 says:

    Josh, Casey is the GM from Chainmail Bikini!

  12. Horfan says:

    I don’t get this. Is it played like a board game?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Yes.Only there is no board.

      1. They fixed that with 4th edition.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          It was “fixed” decades before that. It was just made more explicit in 4th ed taking a product line introduced in 3rd edition and trying to make it more central in 4th edition to sell their miniatures line.

          And to answer the question, there is a board during combat situations and dungeon crawls (situations where the exact placement of your character is important.) Outside of those situations its more freeform. You might have a map for reference but you generally just say things like “I go to the tavern” or “I head to the north end of town”. So its like theres a story mode and a battle mode.

          1. It was more optional decades before that. It was however the DM wanted to run combat. Most of the time, unless it was a HUGE melee, miniatures were just “this is what my dude looks like and here’s where they are in the marching order in case something affects the front or rear two characters.”

            If you wanted to play a game of Chainmail, you were free to do so, but most of the time it was “Who are you trying to fight? Okay, you ticked this guy off last round, so he’s going to kill you this round.” For our games, unless someone said they were using cover, most of the stuff minis and battlemats are used for today were plot-centric or at the DM’s whim. It’s amazing how much more fun that tends to be.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              “It's amazing how much more fun that tends to be.”

              Eh,it depends on the person really.Some people enjoy playing with minies more.Thats why warhammer is still a thing.

    2. Steve C says:

      It’s a game of pretend in a shared world. Rules and dice are used to create structure and resolve conflict.

  13. Mersadeon says:

    Oh boy, this is a post right up my alley. I love Countermonkey-esque stories.
    I don’t really have awful DM-stories, since I normally AM the DM.
    Our group started with an old 3.0 D&D starter kit that only covers like, three levels for the standard classes. And then we jumped to D&D Next prototypes. See, the licence holder in Germany lost the license, making translated 3.5 rulebooks rare, and I’m not gonna pay money to get a book my players can’t understand (unless it’s Paranoia).

    So, questions for Rutskarn?

    What do you think of Shadowrun?

    What is your favourite trick to inspire a feeling of dread and horror in your players?

    Have you ever had a game where the fluff was incredibly good, but the mechanics were awful or vice versa?

    How do you handle players having much less of an ability than their character? As an example, one of my players is pretty shy in real life, but she’s the “face” of the group in a very tense environment, so we mostly just rolled the checks and kept it abstract instead of playing it out.

    How big is your dice collection?

    1. Twisted_Ellipses says:

      I’ve never played a tabletop RPG, but I love hearing people retelling their experiences like in Counter Monkey. if the Spoiler Warning party have any more such tales, I’d be very happy to hear them.

      1. Disc says:

        While it’s not Spoiler Warning or Twentysided-related, I’ve found the “Tales from the Table” enjoyable at Table Titans.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I don't really have awful DM-stories, since I normally AM the DM.”

      Thats what you think.But what if we ask your players?*wink*

      “What is your favourite trick to inspire a feeling of dread and horror in your players?”

      You walk into a tavern,and there is bunch of guys at a table rolling dice.You take a closer look,and notice that the book on the table has the title F.A.T.A.L.

      1. Corpital says:

        You, Sir, are a cruel and ruthless villain. Are you, by chance, the master of a real dungeon?

      2. As always, I have to note 1d4chan’s take on FATAL:


        1. Cybron says:

          It’s best just to link to the infamous review, I find. Nothing else quite gets across the magnitude of the sin against gaming F.A.T.A.L. comprises.

          Warning: harsh language and a product so racist, misogynist, and just plain stupid that it may destroy your remaining hope for humanity when you realize that someone played this and enjoyed it.


          1. swenson says:

            I want to chime in to emphasize this. I have read the FATAL book because I am a masochist who hates happiness. Do not make the same mistake.

            (I say, as I work on and off on the character generator I’m writing for it. Turns out despite persistent rumors, there probably isn’t actually calculus required. But it’s still monstrously complex, with virtually every single feature affecting every other feature, frequently with little clarification on how modifiers should be applied, etc.

            Also, for all the author’s talk of how perfect his stupid randomly generated characters are, I’ve discovered it is entirely possible for characters to end up with negative weights and heights thanks to all the modifiers, among other impossibilities. Great fun!)

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              See,thats why I dont think that review is good.It tells you that the system is awful,and why,but you then just get the urge to actually find out for yourself.Then youll decide to try it out,because something so horrible has to be tried out,right?And next,you will get a group of your friends to do it in front of a camera,and it will end in tears.Actual tears,and no fun.

              1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                This, before the unfotunate stream I was actually entertaining the thought of trying to run the system one time as “the most awful rpg in existence lol”. This would have been a grave mistake, I cannot express my gratitude to those folk for taking that bullet for me.

            2. Cybron says:

              There’s already a character generator out for it, you know.

              I once tried to make a character without it, just to see if I could.

              Spoiler: I couldn’t.

        2. silver Harloe says:

          All of our telescopes and satellites could not detect the ships until Eclipse Day. Since then, everyone can see dozens of strangely triangular eclipses every day. At first the world panicked, but no destruction rained down. Then it grew speculative, but nothing could be discerned from the featureless surfaces of the ships. Then it grew impatient, but all attempts to communicate continued to be ignored. Finally, the world grew bored, and life began to proceed as if the vessels were always there.

          Which is why everyone was surprised when years later, one of the ships exploded. For an instant, there was no night time anywhere on the planet, but then it was over. The other vessels seemed to do nothing. After a few months, even the mystery of the explosion could not keep the ever-present ships in the news.

          Months later, every speaker on Earth emitted a tone eerily reminiscent of a dial tone (to people old enough to remember hearing one). After a minute, the tone ceased, and a voice was heard everywhere at once.

          “People of Earth, for years we have absorbed your cultures and languages through the signals to and between your communication satellites. Several of your months ago, we had to sacrifice one of our ships because the crew were irredeemably deranged. After going through their logs, exposing the different files they had studied carefully to isolated individuals across the fleet, we have found the problem. After careful analysis of the content, taking every precaution to avoid further contamination of our minds, we have come to the conclusion that we must sterilize your biosphere and destroy all evidence that your entire kind of biology ever existed.”

          All over the world, people were frantically trying to signal the aliens, asking what mere computer file could be so dangerous as to warrant the destruction of humanity (not to mention all the other life on Earth).

          The reply came, “the document in question is something called F.A.T.A.L. We think it was intended to resemble one your ‘role playing game’ rule books, but we’re not entirely sure since the resemblance is tenuous at best. In any case, that such could be the output of your pattern of biology is evidence that your form of life must not exist.”

          The ships began to glow. In the last seconds before their immense radiation bursts could cleanse the planet, those few people who had read the document in question could only think, “yeah, okay. Fair enough.”

      3. Scourge says:

        But what about Rollmaster, err, I mean Rolemaster.

        “Roll to breath.”


        “You fail and choke to death.”

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Rollemaster is bad only on the technical level though,but fatal is bad on all the levels.

    3. Zekecool says:

      Not Rutsy but…

      Shadowrun is great if your players are in the mindset. Style over substance Omae

      Favorite Trick: Roll the dice. Freaking players out is fun. And its useful to keep the actual rolls for traps or stealthed monsters camoflauged. But sometimes just pick up two dice and toss them to the table, then look at them like they’re significant and pretend to take a note.

      A system where the fluff is amazing ans the system is a crapstorm: White Wolfs Scion system. All conflicts, whether social, mental or physical end up as “Dude with higher legend curbstomps dude with lower legend.” Its a shame, there are many good ideas there, but much like with pathfinder and the full attack, one seemingly sensical rule makes conflict significantly less interesting.

      And a question for Professer Buttskarn: Have you played or gmed the FATE system?

      I recently tried playing Dresden Files (uses a modified FATE) with my all Dnd all the time group and they took to it instantly and love it like a brother. Its also easy to set up, is quite freeform and fun, and makes every situation modeled with a conflict (broken into physical, mental and social). I love it and advocate it with all my breath.

      1. krellen says:

        Rutskarn’s a big fan of FATE. He’ll probably notice this thread eventually and have a bunch of stuff to say about it. But in the interim, I’ve asked on Aunty Paladin a few times and FATE is usually stated as his and his group’s favourite system.

      2. Rutskarn says:

        Nothing much more to add right now–indeed, FATE is by far my favorite general system (a category excluding specific game experiences, like Apocalypse World or Fiasco or Durance). If you’ve only played Dresden, I would recommend you try FATE Core. You can get the pdf free from their website.

        1. Asimech says:

          Link to the Fate Core:


          I recommend reading the Fate Core even to people who aren’t interested in the rule system itself, as long as they’re interested in role-playing in general or in story-telling through any medium. The focus is on teaching collaborative story-telling, but most is in a form that I’d say is useful even for, say, writing fiction.

    4. ET says:

      What does “AM” mean, in “AM the DM”? Too much jargon! :O

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Heh – I was wondering exactly that for ages! Auto-Mute? Ante-Meridien? Attack Maniacally?

        But it’s just the word ‘am’ capitalised for emphasis… D’oh.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        It means ante meridiem the dungeon master,or translated into english,punching him with with a left cross.

    5. Rutskarn says:


      1.) It’s a good setting. It’s never really had a good system.

      2.) It’s hard to pin down one “trick,” but I think the best thing to do is to gradually, and then conclusively, subvert some kind of basic expectation. For example, after sessions of fighting deranged persons with tumorous black growths inside them, a PC discovered upon receiving a head wound that he was bleeding thicky, ropy black fluid.

      3.) Nothing leaps to mind, although most settings tend to focus more on one than the other. If a setting has great flavor it’s almost a guarantee the system’s gonna be a bit of a hack.

      4.) Keeping things abstract is really the only universal way to do it. As a GM, I would encourage her to gradually give me more and more to go with her checks–start by rolling diplomacy (and I’ll narrate, “You convince them by demonstrating blah blah”), move up to asking for something from them (“So basically, what do you tell them?”) and hopefully make it as far as a back-and-forth conversation.

      5.) I’m not about to count them. Last check it was somewhere around a hundred.

    6. Nick says:

      “What is your favourite trick for inspiring dread?”
      Have the players make a perception roll not only when they’re about to be attacked, but also at other times when it SEEMS like they might be about to get attacked, and definitely for watches when at night. If your system uses rerolls, like WFRP, then your players don’t know for sure what to spend them on if their characters don’t know the situation – and that always inspires trepidation.

      I got into this habit, and then right at the end of my WFRP second edition Paths of the Damned campaign there’s a big setpiece around a new cannon design being unveiled. I called for Agility rolls – one player fails badly, but decides not to reroll because I’m always called for odd rolls, mostly to instill paranoia but sometimes for actual rules reasons (this is a great way to hide spot check for ACTUAL enemies down the line…)
      So the cannon explodes, showering the crowd with shrapnel. The agility rolls were to react and get out of the way in time. The poor player gets hit with a shard and almost dies in one go, and the mutants charge on in as this was their signal to begin an uprising.

      Another good trick is that if the players check for traps, enemies etc, always reply “You see no X” and NOT “There are no X” – never confirm the nonexistence of ninja.

  14. Primogenitor says:

    Ultra-pedant typo detected – the metadata on the Ogg Vorbis file says “Diecast Sprecial” :p

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Thats because this edition is a bit watered down.

  15. ehlijen says:

    Dear Rutskarn,

    Which die type is your favourite?

    Also, which check resolution method out of all the games you’ve played so far do you think works best?

    Som egu Y

    1. Rutskarn says:


      The answer to the two is the same. The Dresden/FATE Core Fudge Dice system is pretty much the best curve in the business.

      How it works is, you’ve got four dice. Each die is equally likely to come up with a [ + ], a [ – ], or a [ ](i.e., nothing). You roll all four dice and add the results together, getting anywhere from +4 (super unlikely) to -4 (super unlikely). The most common result is 0.

      FATE works by adding that number to a fixed skill number, generally between 0 and 5. In other words, if I have a 4 in Engineering, most of the time I will get a 4 on my Engineering check (a very good result). Sometimes I’ll get a little more or less lucky. Rarely, I’ll get somewhat more or less lucky. Very rarely, I’ll get MUCH more or less lucky.

      It’s hard to go back to a one-die system after this.

      1. Cybron says:

        While bell curves in resolution mechanics are without question the best thing since dice, I found Fate’s 4 dice a bit fiddly (and I’ve never been super fond of its irregular dice).

        Traveller uses 2d6 as its standard roll, and I’ve always felt that was less annoying.

        1. Eleion says:

          Really? I’ve played quite a bit of Fate and I’ve never found the dice to be fiddly. I do think that Fate dice are a little overpriced, which is unfortunate, but I like them quite a bit (I don’t typically have a fondness for custom dice, but there’s something about the cute little pluses and minuses that excites me). I can figure out the outcome of a roll nearly as soon as I’ve rolled it (though some of my players have more difficulty).

          What are the troubles you’ve had with them?

          1. Cybron says:

            It’s just annoying to me. It doesn’t help that adding up the +/- signs (or doing the math if you use straight d6s) is slower than just adding 2 numbers.

            I also really, really hate SotC’s tendency to refer to difficulties with words instead of numbers, but that’s a different complaint I suppose.

            Two dice is the simplest and easiest bellcurve you can get without using some wonky custom die. That is a positive for me. The use of d6s is a plus because most people, even non-gamers, have a couple of six sided dice lying around somewhere.

        2. ET says:

          Am I like, the only person who thinks we need at least four dice to get rolls which are smooth enough? I mean, like, even five dice isn’t very close to a proper bell curve. Of course, you’d need like, a program on your laptop, or an app on your phone to do the math for you, but real dice are clunky and old-fashioned anyways. :)

          1. Asimech says:

            Well, I think that the extremes should be as unlikely as possible, but I also think that the range needs to be only as big as needed (20 max, hard to say on minimum). Preferrably the curve of “at least” is memorisable enough that the GM can make calls on “okay, roll X or above & I’ll let it pass even if you don’t have skill for it”. 4dFudge hits all of those for me annoyingly well.

            The range is reasonable, -4 to 4, all the points the curve hits are good (click the “at least” button near the centre to see the points) including the extremes being adequately unlikely (1,23%).

            5dFudge could work, but it has awkward ~2% chance rolls at -4 & +4 so it doesn’t have the disgusting elegance I find in 4dF.

            But I’m not unbiased. Story time:
            Ten years ago I spent time trying to desparately get a decent bell curve while keeping the range limited. I ended up declaring that I would need at least 4 dice, but even d4 left for me a larger scale than I wanted or a ‘-X’ tacked on, so I declared that I would need custom dice (“either custom d4 or like d3 or something”), but I didn’t want to design anything that used custom dice (either print or shape) so I dropped the topic.

            So some time ago I finally ended up giving a good look at Fudge dice because Rutskarn had been talking up Fate.
            I felt a bit pissed off.
            I actually had heard about Fudge and its dice ten years ago, I just never bothered to give them a proper look.
            I felt a little bit pissed off.

          2. Cybron says:


            it’s more of a triangle than a curve, sure, but it’s still does what it’s supposed to do – results towards the average are significantly more common than extreme results.

            1. ET says:

              Not enough dice, I say! We need games made, which use a computer to get us a number from 0%-100%, on a bell curve, with all the encounter/damage/etc tables rewritten to use percentages! :P

      2. Hal says:

        I do love Fate dice. I’ve got a set of these for Fate. If only I got to use them more often.

      3. ehlijen says:

        Thanks for the reply :)

        I’ve been looking at the Diaspora setting for FATE, and the dice system seems interesting indeed.

        I just think the character creation system is a bit too lacking in detail (not a fan of complexity like DnD 3.x custom gear selection or shadowrun cyberaugment calculations, I would just like slightly more to a character, like WoD’s stats+skills system instead of just skills).

        We’ll see if we give the system a try.

        1. Eleion says:

          Most of the depth of a character in Fate comes from their Aspects. I’ve found that Skills+Stunts is enough to make a character feel mechanically unique – but MORE IMPORTANTLY every character I’ve seen in Fate feels dramatically different because of how their Aspects define them. I personally do a bad job of remembering to compel Aspects as a GM, but I still think they’re great because of how much detail they create for character personality.

          I suppose it depends on what you’re looking for in terms of detail, though.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            Same, still not entirely used to compelling with aspects (and to be fair neither are my players) but Fate character creation gives PCs who are much more narratively defined than most other systems. For experienced players the characters seem to largely write themselves. The player thinks what he wants the PC to be like and most aspects just spring from that. Even inexperienced players can get something close to aspects with a little coaching and discussion along the lines of “what cool stuff do you imagine your character doing?”

      4. Aeillien says:

        No experience with FATE, but to some extent this is what I like about the Storyteller system (the base mechanics behind WoD, Mage, etc): you roll a certain number of D10’s vs a difficulty, and count successes. It leads to more variable outcomes than a basic D20 one die system.

        It does sound like the FATE system has a higher chance of botches than Storyteller (in storyteller, you only botch if you roll more 1’s than successes. This results in a higher chance of botching something with a higher difficulty, which I always liked). I can see pluses to that if you want a game where both gloriously good and bad things can happen, Storyteller seems to be more about degrees of success with the occasional very bad luck thrown in, which I think suits my play style better.

  16. Corpital says:

    Let me tell you about ponytail Marc.

    First time playing Shadowrun 3, playing a dwarven mage. The DM liked celts and my desicion to play a hermetic and not a celtic druid disgruntled him from the start. And because he was very into punk at that time, half the NPCs were big orcs and trolls with motorcycles and everyone hurled constant insults and abuse at the little dwarf.
    Got knocked out every single fight and about half the time I tried to cast a spell, because the DM didn’t tell me how to properly roll against spell drain. A team mate even bought a little drone cart so they didn’t have to carry me everywhere. After a few sessions, the big endfight against a nazi biker gang. We were constantly harassed be the local police, but these bikers managed to evade any and all police and surround us three people with a dozen buses with mounted machineguns and about 80people. (“If you hadn’t tried to escape, I wouldn’t have had to block all the roads with more enemies.”)

    We tried to hide in a building and *thankfully*, we had the extraordinary luck to be trapped right in front of the building, where his Mary Sue had her super secret hideout. And she had two of her celtic druid friends over. And they were able to cast a multihour ritual in a measly 15seconds (5 combat rounds). They also had a magical shield around their house that knocked me straight out without any kind of saving roll.
    Ritual killed all the hostile mages, DM noticed his Mary Sue was not able to escape or survive the onslaught, DM spawned a group of friendly bikers, openly cheated a bit, then a stray rocket (shot by DM) destroyed part of the building and “we” finally won. Mary Sue then immediately blames us for bringing the nazis there and demolishing her house, our weapon specialist tells her it’s her own fault for interfering and she straight up killed him on the spot with some overpowered magic and gloated a while.
    Dropped my grenade belt beside her and nuked us both into oblivion. It was rather cathartic.

    1. ET says:

      Hell yeah! Nuke that Mary Sue! :P

    2. Axe Armor says:

      Always remember that it’s just a game. No one’s actually going to get hurt if you drag everyone down to hell with you.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why not call that gm nick slaughter?

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wait a second….This guy had a pony tail,and made a 2 year old cry?Dear god,that guy was Josh!

  19. Steve C says:

    Speaking of the 1983 game ET, did you guys hear the news? That game really was literally taken out into the desert and buried. Now there’s proof. Only just two days ago the story broke that they dug ET up! I don’t know why that puts a smile on my face but I’m grinning ear to ear.

    1. ET says:

      Man, I saw the links had the month of April in them, and I was all like, “Oh sure, probably an April Fool’s joke.” That’s really cool that they finally found them! Those belong in a museum! :)

    2. krellen says:

      Anyone that lived through the crash probably never thought it was just an urban legend that the cartridges were buried. I think it was reported on at the time.

      1. Will Riker says:

        Until this whole story started, I was never under the impression that the landfill was some kind of legend or that there was any doubt that it actually happened.

    3. I thought the only question was whether or not they were buried intact or whether or not they’d been ground up beforehand. There might have been some questions about how many ET carts (and other hardware) was being disposed of that were obfuscated to save face at Atari, but that’s about all I was aware of regarding any mystery.

    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “why we need to dig up an old video game”

      Indeed,why?It was buried for a reason.Dont these guys know what happens when you dig up stuff you shouldnt have?

      1. Axe Armor says:

        I do not have the skill to recut the scene of the flight from Moria with an ET cartridge where Durin’s Bane’s face should be. I can only ask you to imagine it.

  20. aldowyn says:

    How would you recommend finding a group to play with?

    1. ET says:

      You could try Meetup maybe? There might be better, more specialized websites for this, but in the small-ish city I live in, that’s how I found a group this year. Before that, it was my friends in university. :)

    2. Ardis Meade says:

      I found my current group by posting an ad on Craigslist. (Results may vary.)

    3. Rutskarn says:


      This is one situation where I think everyone, everyone, everyone gets it wrong. Looking for “a group” outside of, like, a college campus with a high concentration of nerds is not a great idea. Say you decided to play cards with a random group of other people–do you think there’s much of a chance you’d really like those people, or want to play the same kinds of cards as those people? Even assuming you find one already running, you’re pretty much asking to wind up with Mike the Ponytail as your GM. And you don’t want that.

      Don’t find a group. Get some books, read some guides, and start a group with people you already know are your friends. You would be shocked how many normal-seeming people have actually kinda always wanted to try Dungeons and Dragons.

      1. evileeyore says:

        Yeah… but if you’re like me and have only two friends it makes game real difficult… there are so many genres you just can’t do (almost every game tends to become a “Buddy Something” game… ala “Buddy Cop”, Buddy Supers”, Buddy Soldiers”… it makes it impossible to develop inter-party dynamics or minor conflicts)>

        Granted I know what I’d do if I really wanted to track down a group, but then I still have a Camarilla membership and my city hosts the largest Vampire LARPs in the Southeast.

        1. Aeillien says:

          Well, so, you start with your friends, and then see if they have one or two friends. You really don’t want more than, say, 6 people IMHO (5 is better). So “a friend who brings a friend” can quickly fill up your party.

      2. Cybron says:

        I can only second this recommendation.

        I took my (admittedly already geeky) friends and taught them. Not all of them got into it, but enough of them did to facilitate regular play.

      3. ehlijen says:

        Step one in having friends is meeting people, though, and you could do worse then by looking for some of those with similar interests to yours.

        Don’t dismiss looking for groups. Just be prepared that some assembly might be required.

        1. evileeyore says:

          And some groups may need disassembly.

          1. ehlijen says:

            Only if you think some members can be salvaged. Else you move on an keep looking.

            If such groups don’t self destruct, we have to assume that they’re more safely contained in one game, lest it spread.

      4. aldowyn says:

        Thanks for the answer Professor Rutskarn :P (And everyone else who answered)

    4. Warstrike says:

      1. Have 4 kids.
      2. Wait for 3 of them to be old enough to play.

      Likely #3: discover you are too busy with life to actually be able to play much.

  21. Steve C says:

    I got really lucky when I started playing D&D as a 13yr old. There was a proper gaming club in my area with multiple DMs running different campaigns simultaneously. Over the years I’ve played with hundreds both as a DM and as a player. (I was actively going to roleplaying conventions.) I still remember some of the fucking awful ones I had but I at least I had the good ones to gauge them against.

    Regarding you breaking down and crying. I know that feeling and why. I remember a birthday when I was young that I had such high hopes for. It was full of a long string of disappointments over a long awful day. I carried my birthday cake for the entire day imagining it being delicious. It was the one thing keeping me going. At the very end of the day and I could finally have a piece I found out it was fruitcake covered in marzipan. I had put all my hopes and dreams into that cake and the disappointment was too much. I get that with your horrible campaign. You had all these hopes and dreams placed into this new hobby and that DM destroyed them.

    1. ET says:

      Oh, man, marzipan is so horrible. It’s like too sweet from the sugar and honey, but then it’s got the mild bitterness/blandness/chalkiness of almonds. Definitely not a dessert for anyone under the age of…20? 40? Never? :P

      1. Marzipan is basically edible cake-concrete. If it wasn’t for its structural properties, nobody would ever put it on their cakes, let alone in their mouths.

        Can’t science do better than Marzipan?!

        1. krellen says:

          You would prefer Homestar?

        2. Axe Armor says:

          Scientists report new breakthrough in carbon nanotube substitute for marzipan.

        3. Hitch says:

          Fondant is the new marzipan. Sheets of rubbery plasticized marshmallow of no distinct flavor that can be molded in various interesting sculptures that you pass off as cake. It is in no way toxic, but neither is it intended for human consumption.

  22. Wow. Rutskarn’s origin is like that of a D&D Batman.

    A shadowy thug murdered something he loved and he’s spent his life avenging it and protecting others from a similar fate.

    With dice.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Ha-haa! I dread to think how Mumbles will react to the revelation that RUTSKARN IS BATMAN!!

      Batskarn. The Dice Knight. World’s Greatest Die-tective.

      (Well, either that or he’s the Punisher…)

  23. Hal says:

    I can’t top that nightmare, but my first encounter with D&D was pretty bad. The GM was incredibly adversarial, much like “Mike.” He frequently put us in no-win situations for no discernible reason (besides stroking his GM ego, I guess.)

    When the game started, we were told we would be having “real time” pass between sessions, so our characters had to have funds to provide for a week of food and lodging between sessions. Since we’d already shown up with characters, and the first session was basically us getting dumped on with zero treasure, that meant we had to get day jobs. Of course, I didn’t realize I’d need to spend my skill points on a profession, so my heroic paladin spent the next few weeks moving crates at the dock for less money than he could actually survive on. The only reason I didn’t starve to death was because the priest at the temple of the god of travelers took pity on us and let us stay there for an extended period of time. Yeesh.

    Our first adventure was to explore a “haunted” mansion. It wasn’t; it was used as a base of operations by smugglers who were pulling a Scooby Doo to keep people away. We find one of their comrades on the outs, tied up and left for dead. We rescue him, but of course he stabs us in the back. We’re all level 1, and he’s a level 5 rogue with a level 15 poison; the fact that he didn’t one shot the guy he shanked was just a miracle of the dice.

    We clear out the smugglers, then leave town on a quest as caravan guards. During this time, he attacks us with some specialty NPCs he always keeps around for being brutal PC killing machines (a close paraphrase of his description): An orc with a lance on a horse who kept charging us for triple damage, and a hunter in a tree stand with a dozen crossbows and an assistant to reload them for him. As a group of melee characters, the only reason those quests didn’t kill us horribly was because the GM pulled punches (a running theme, you may notice), and that only because he was trying to teach his 10 year old daughter how to play D&D.

    Our return caravan has an ambassador in tow, who turns out to be a succubus; we all figured this out after a bunch of levels drained away. (My paladin wanted nothing to do with her, but GM blackmail is effective.) We return to town to find out that 1) among those smugglers was the mayor’s nephew, so now we’re wanted fugitives, and 2) the smugglers were the only source of liquor in town, so now we’re wanted assholes. Of course, our ambassador was willing to protect us and keep us out of jail (although it would cost us another level each.)

    We decide to just run errands in town. A “sculptor” is actually using magic to turn kidnapping victims into statues. In 3.5 D&D, “Flesh-to-Stone” is a save-or-die spell. We figure out what’s happening, right as the guy casts the spell on us. We were about 3 or 4 levels lower than him; most of us failed the save.

    My character finally died when a new player joined up. He was playing a kobold sorcerer/street performer, so the local gang starts trying to extort money from him. Since he’s a PC, my paladin steps up to intervene. At this point, the GM has the gang’s barbarian turn my paladin into a fine red mist (think Hulk vs. Loki from the Avengers movie.)

    I do not fondly remember that game. It was a constant uphill slog with a constant treadmill of rewards being handed out and then siphoned away, without any ability to feel like we were accomplishing anything or acting heroic in any way. All I took from it was a lesson in how not to run a game.

    1. Neil W says:

      My first D&D was pretty good. By which I mean we rolled up some characters, a dude told us some goblins had kidnapped his daughter and offered us a reward to get her back, and we followed the trail out of town to where there was a door in a cliff face. We spend a few hours killing rats and goblins, gathering up a few dozen gold pieces and generally having a good time, then the leader (who has played before) says we’re short on hp and spells and stuff, so it’s time to go home. We get back to town, head to the inn to celebrate a job well done, only to run into the guy whose daughter we’re supposed to be rescuing that we’ve completely forgotten about. “Sorry, we were getting tired. We’ll try again tomorrow maybe?” Heroic!

      Listening to Rutskarn’s story about the first session, being beaten by the boss and knocked out is not a bad way to end it. First it teaches the players that there are opponents too tough for them. Secondly you can run a jailbreak dungeon for the second session. The best thing about that is that players are generally more motivated to get back their equipment that’s been confiscated/stolen from them than The Ultimate Axe of Axeing which makes you Axe King of the Dwarves.

      GM: “There’s an axe on the wall. It glows blue as you approach. You feel it’s eldritch power. A voice speaks in your head saying ‘Take me up chosen one'”
      Player: “Great a talking axe! I ask it if it knows where my armour is.”

      1. Hal says:

        Heh. The last D&D game I ran was 4th edition. In said edition, you have powers that regenerate after combat, or after an “extended rest” (i.e. a good night’s sleep.) You also regenerate your healing surges (i.e. your ability to recuperate HP) after an extended rest.

        My players agreed to just have the effects of an extended rest occur at my discretion. This way they could still face the challenges of conserving/expending their resources without my having to cram encounters into a single 8-12 hour adventuring period.

  24. Cybron says:

    Rutskarn – 12 year old grognard.

    I’ve heard of worse DMs, but never had the displeasure of dealing with one myself.

    Shamus, you should tell us your worst campaign story. Because there’s no bad campaign story like one involving a felony.

    1. Josh says:

      Don’t you mean two years old?

      1. ehlijen says:

        Is he aging in reverse? I swear you keep making him younger with every quip.

        1. Humanoid says:

          It was borne out of a misunderstanding. Rutskarn’s age isn’t actually 12, it’s d12.

  25. Was E.T. really that bad? I had it when I had an Atari 2600, and there were far more boring/awful games on that system.

    I think it had the distinction of coming out right as Atari was tanking, it was tied to a huge IP, and it took the hit.

    1. ET says:

      Were there different versions maybe? I always thought that ET was buggy and glitchy, and the graphics were made so that it was hard to tell what was was. And it had one specific bug which literally stopped you from completing it 100% of the time…

      1. Not that I’m aware of. From what I recall, it was comparable in structure to the Indiana Jones game (several zones with different items/location-based activities), and I beat it on the I and II difficulties, but mostly I just liked flying around the pit-traps using ET’s levitation powers.

        The graphics were as crappy as just about everything else on the Atari, which was really showing its age at this point.

    2. Hitch says:

      There were many other Atari 2600 games every bit as bad as E.T.. But none of them were released with as much hype or over-produced in such massive quantities. A couple thousand copies of a bad game had nothing like the impact of millions of copies of massive disappointment following weeks of very expensive advertising.

      1. Precisely. That’s bled over into this meme of “OMG, E.T. was the WORST game EVAH” when there was so much more going on while Atari was falling apart.

      2. WillRiker says:

        Yeah, it’s not so much that ET was a bad game, it was that Atari decided to produce more copies of ET than the number of Atari 2600s that had ever been sold. That decision bankrupted Atari and contributed to the great videogame crash of ’83. Lots of games are bad, very few can be blamed for nearly killing an entire industry.

  26. Mechtroid says:

    If you had to GM a campaign set in one TV or movie universe, which would it be:

    1) If you had to use the D&D system? (any edition)
    2) If you had to use a system you’ve GM’d before?
    3) If your players had never heard of the setting before?

    1. krellen says:

      Oooh, I wanna answer this one too (and you can’t stop me!)

      1) D&D basically does not work with modern technology, so the setting would have to be less advanced.

      Or more advanced.

      Actually, thinking about the “Vancian Science” idea I had, Robotech might actually be a good fit for D&D.

      2) I like the World of Darkness rules for modelling modern day. Lots of mystery/investigation shows work well with those rules – settings like Fringe, or X-Files, or Men in Black.

      3) I’m hard-pressed to think of TV/movie settings that my players would have never heard of before. It would have to be something obscure, but interesting enough to explore as a whole world (outside the bounds set by its source material).

      Forced to pick a setting that would meet those criteria, I might opt for the setting of the anime series Darker Than Black. Outside of anime-enthusiast circles, it’s probably obscure enough (and those tend to be the folks I play with), and I think the series had enough interesting in it to make for a good game.

    2. Hal says:

      I’m thinking Agents of SHIELD. Fairly well known property (Marvel Universe) with enough changes that you can justify doing things differently and not having people nerd rage at you. There’s a clear justification for playing a small team with distinct specializations in a hostile world. Lots of action and subterfuge, investigation, tech, etc. You can have cameos of the “big guns” if absolutely necessary.

      I don’t think I’ve ever used d20 Modern (aka D&D for the modern day), but FATE would work really well for this.

    3. Rutskarn says:


      1.) I hate to cop out of this one, but the Dungeons and Dragons franchise is pretty firmly rooted to a narrow range of thematic experiences (which shift dramatically across the editions). I wouldn’t want to run a derivative campaign in any of them–although I think a One Piece hack for 4E could be pretty fun, actually.

      2.) I think the Highlander FATE game I ran for Aunty Paladin had a lot of promise. The system is perfect for it, and Highlander is one of those things where none of the media related to it has actually been what you’d call good so far. I liked the show growing up, and I know a lot of people liked the first movie, but frankly it’s all kind of a shlocky mess that’s not as good as it wants to be.

      3.) Still gonna go with Highlander.

      Regarding Agents of SHIELD…once I’m done playtesting Mary Sue (and yes, I actually playtested it just last week, it’s doing fine thank you), I have an idea for a setting and game based off that. Stay tuned!

      1. evileeyore says:

        Highlander: FATE…

        How did you handle the inherent power-up that comes from the taking of heads?

        1. Rutskarn says:

          Gradually accumulating refresh and skill points, basically.

          1. evileeyore says:

            “Gradual” huh. So no instant power-ups for decapitating main villains?

            Yeah I can see that fitting some what well with the running theme of the tv show.

            1. evileeyore says:

              Fake Edit: I’m not being sarcastic. That does fit with the show. When I asked I was more thinking of the movies… where instant power-up is more a theme.

  27. Kristoffer says:

    Really loved hearing this story, that’s one awful experience.

    I’ve only played a single game of DnD, very recently, and I’m in my early twenties. One of my friends is the DM, and while it was a good time and she was very helpful with all of us knowing hardly anything about the game, she seemed to get tired of us messing around and making little progress after a while(we spent the evening on one kobold encounter and asking a bunch of npcs in a town about stuff). Is being slow just a part of a tabletop game, or should we get our act together before she decides to mug us with a dragon next time we get together?

    1. Hal says:

      It’s not difficult for groups to succumb to the popularly termed “analysis paralysis.” You’ve been given a quest to assault the castle, so the players ask every NPC who has ever even seen the thing what they know about it, find the blueprints, purchase great quantities of explosive powder (and a spell to hide it all), enough wall climbing supplies for an army, etc.

      Meanwhile, the GM would have allowed you to just slip the gate guard 5g for entrance.

      It’s really part of the GM’s responsibility to keep things moving along. If the players are dawdling, the GM has to ask them why. Let them know what is and isn’t superfluous information or productive lines of inquiry. Role play the important scenes and summarize the trivial (that’s a big time saver, btw.)

    2. Rutskarn says:


      Being slow is symptomatic of a few different conditions.

      a.) Are you playing 4E? I’ve never had a 4E game that didn’t drag on forever when the dice started rolling. There are so many choices, and the combat is so hard to abstract and fudge from the DM end, that it’s hard to do it snappily.

      b.) Are you screwing around a lot out of character? Getting distracted? Being so excited to do/say something that you step on someone else’s action, and the GM has to disentangle them (“I ask the guy if he’s from around here,” “I take his wallet,” and “Okay, real quick, I go up to him like, ‘HAIL FRIEND BLESS THE SUN ETC’ and punch him in the crotch!” when all delivered one after the other can give a GM a terrible headache and make them want to quit immediately)? All of those can make things grind to a halt. Cautioning everyone to just hold onto their fuckin’ britches and let people talk without always making themselves the center of a scene can help some parties immeasurably.

      c.) Is the GM giving you enough to do? Sometimes interrupting things with a nice catastrophe can really get things swinging.

      d.) Are people inexperienced? This is actually the biggest hurdle: if most of the group doesn’t really know what they’re doing, and is unused to playing, things tend to crawl a bit. This will go away eventually.

      1. Cybron says:

        “c.) Is the GM giving you enough to do? Sometimes interrupting things with a nice catastrophe can really get things swinging.”
        Never a bad time for ninjas

        (or if you’re one for classics, a man bursting through the door with a gun)

      2. Kristoffer says:

        Thanks, Rutskarn!

  28. krellen says:

    Dear Professor Rutskarn,

    As I know you organise a LARP (or have organised one in the past), I wonder what you think of Spoony’s Vampire LARP story (seen here)?

    Short synopsis if you don’t have time to watch: Spoony goes to play a LARP, invited by a friend. His first night, he is beaten, kidnapped, and tortured by a group of players, sanctioned by the most powerful character, into following their way of belief instead of the one he chose for his character. After complaining to the DM about it and being told that’s just how things are here, he got his character’s bomb-making skills certified, then proceeded to use them to make a bomb and blow up basically all the players that supported this style of play. The DM refused to enforce his actions and asked him to leave the LARP.

    My specific question is, what should have been done differently here, and by whom? (Because clearly what they had in place wasn’t working right.)

    1. Rutskarn says:


      In order of responsibility:

      1.) The System: should not have had rules for brainwashing characters. That’s a really unbelievably awful idea in a LARP context. Literally the whole point of this game is that this person is going to be in character all the time, so why give someone the ability to fuck with someone’s character on a fundamental level nonconsensually?

      Failing this:

      2.) The Players: should not have been dicks. This is all about consensual storytelling. It’s not fun unless everyone is basically having fun and having input into the story. Obviously any LARP can be ruined by players being shitheads, and that’s what these players are doing: being shitheads.

      Which is why:

      3.) The GMs: should have stepped in. Every game should have a healthy out-of-character reality check to it. In-character, of course, there’s nothing stopping one character from brainwashing or torturing or sexually assaulting another player character in virtually any system. But we can all agree that any sane, rational game should have out-of-character checks on that kind of shit, unless a very explicit and very enthusiastic agreement exists otherwise.

      Kind of like the game had an out-of-character check against Spoony’s use of semtex.

      If the principal organizers (for some reason) didn’t want to retcon what happened, the least they should have done was a.) caution the shitheads not to be shitheads again, and b.) got some sane and rational players together to organize some sort of storyline to deprogram Spoony’s character. That might actually be good for creating some drama–you know?

      It was a disgrace all around, frankly.

      1. evileeyore says:

        I’ve been LARPING for over thirty-years (undisguised appeal to authority – check), playing and running Vampire LARP for over twenty-years in the Camarilla (even more authority appeal – awesomer check)…

        Spoony was wrong on multiple levels… but the biggest villain in this farce was his friend that invited him to come and didn’t warn him about the power structure of the game.

        Now my refutations of Professor Rutskarn’s Official Response:

        1 The System – The system of V:tR is at it’s core one of consensual roleplay. Now this group Spoony joined for one night may have been off the deep end (frankly I can’t trust his narration since the first eight minutes are so deeply flawed) and thus his narration may be completely on the money… but…

        Since V:tR is one of consensual RP being able to muck about with a character’s base motivations is no worse than being able to cut off their arms and legs and leave them a quadriplegic – which is a part of almost every roleplaying game ever. V:tR just lets you muck about with thoughts and emotions as well the physical stuff.

        On consensuality: I’ll have to dig out my books (they’re in storage) but I can distinctly remember several paragraphs for STs and Players basically along the lines of “Be Cool, Don’t Be A Dick”.

        2 The Players – No they shouldn’t have been dicks. But, this one falls at the feet of the ST, he obviously had allowed this situation to develop. I’ve been there. I’ve had to reign in “bad elements” (or out right just toss them out), it’s not easy, but it has to be done.

        On the Players dickishness: Honestly the players weren’t even really at fault. The situation was FUBARed, with no means of redemption outside of direct ST intervention. They were doing what they had likely done repeatedly and likely with ST implicit approval.

        3 The GM – Eh…. I’ve spoken on this one above. Yes, the ST’s job is to keep the mess moving and reign in the wild bad seeds. It’s like herding cats (and in this case it sounds like it was 1 guy to 30 people (I aim for 1 ST per 15 people when I’m running) and he was hand in hand with the madness).

        Your parting paragraph hit it on the nose though… however (and I’ve personally witnessed this) the ST may not have had any sane or rational players and the narrator of this tale is counted amongst the mad. ;)

        1. krellen says:

          I’m pretty sure this entire group was in massive violation of “Be Cool, Don’t Be A Dick” from the start, and blaming the weaker party in a conflict is a really dick move. Spoony had no power here. His fun and rights were being trampled on, and you’re blaming him. Think about what you’re doing.

          1. evileeyore says:

            I’m not blaming Spoony for what occurred, I’m just pointing out he’s not a trustworthy narrator, and his “parting shot” was just as dickish. ;)

            The ST was clearly at fault, but whether it was a slow creep of poor judgements or whether he was hand in hand with the madness I don’t know.

            1. krellen says:

              The problem here is that once someone has broken the “Don’t Be A Dick” rule, they have also lost their right to not be dicked with. Maybe it’s “better” to turn the other cheek, but we don’t all follow the teachings of Jesus and sometimes revenge feels good.

              1. evileeyore says:

                And when Spoony posts a Youtube video complaining about other people being dicks… well… stones, glass houses.

                That’s really my only comment on his behavior at that game.

                1. Asimech says:

                  His Counter Monkey series is explicitly about his (horror) stories in various types of role-playing games, whether he’s the victim, participant or cause of the chaos (in my experience active participant). He doesn’t post that stuff “explicitly to bitch about how awful other people are”, he posts them because they seem to cause the same effect traffic collisions do and people kept asking for them.

                  So. Grindstone. Axes.

                  1. evileeyore says:

                    Actually he posts them because they make him money.

                    Why people watch them? I don’t know. I probably made him like 5 cents on commercials, so “Go Spoony! RAH!”

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      No,money is why he turned these into his job,but he posts them because he likes to.

        2. wererogue says:

          I’ve run a LARP with rule that would have supported this, and we would have definitely had problems with an established player messing with the newbies like this – and I speak as somebody who, in my first session in the LARP I ended up running was brainwashed and nearly kidnapped and had a GREAT time (thanks to other players who rescued me).

          That said, if the players had managed to get away with doing all of that to a newbie behind our backs, HELLS YES he could have come back and blown them up.

    2. evileeyore says:

      I’m trying to watch but at 5 minutes in I have to comment on it…

      This guy absolutely fails to grasp what V:tR is about. No heroes? Every Covenant has it’s heroes and villains and “neutral” guys. In fact most people playing (if they aren’t all complete dickheads) will likely end up being heroes (or at least anti-heroes)… [i]because they are following the Path of Humanity![/i]


      1. Akri says:

        It sounded to me like he was talking about how people actually play, not how the system is set up. He basically says “people might follow the Path of Humanity, but then they still act like villains, which isn’t how you’re supposed to play–you should be a good guy if you go that route.”

        1. evileeyore says:

          Except he portrayed every Covenant not only incorrectly, but outright with false information.

          Lancae Sanctum – Okay, I can forgive him his erroneous view, at first blush they come across as ‘villains’, even though they aren’t, nor are they supposed to be.

          Invictus – They are only villains in so much as the Ventrue clan of OWoD were villains.

          Ordo Dracul – No, they patently aren’t trying to take over the world. Yes many of them are all about losing humanity and becoming beasts, and then coming back from it “knowing the enemy”. The rest are either fighting to stay sane, or trying to be even more “human than humans”.

          Carthains – Really are hippies handing out pamphlets… if hippies also fight guerilla wars and car bomb enemy HQs. They are fighting for “democracy” or “communism” or some other social or political agenda (take your pick as long as it’s not a fascist dictatorship or monarchy… even then I think some do fight for that).

          Circle of Crone – “Devil Worshipers” Really? Where the f- did that nonsense come from? They worship the Crone, a semi-mythical figure in vampire lore, or they worship the old gods (like the Norse or Greek pantheons).

          Basically if there is an opposite to anything he siad about the Covenants, the opposite is either the truth or closer than he was.

          Now, in his town… everyone who plays Vampire might be a total tool and go all “RAWR! I’m a monster!” in which case I forgive his drivel about “everyone just wants to be evil murderers”.

          1. Akri says:

            Ah, ok–I didn’t listen to his description of the individual Covenants. Your objections make more sense now.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Being involved in a larp where every character is a dick makes you think that this game has no heroes?Inconceivable!

    3. Cybron says:

      I don’t watch Spoony very often, so maybe I’m taking this the wrong way, but every time I here about one of his stories, it involves him being a tremendous jerk in response to someone else doing something. Like the one where a player showed up to one of his games with a magic-y character in a setting with no magic. Instead of just telling the guy to reroll, Spoony had the guy play the character without informing the player of his mistake and just made the character delusional without telling the player he was being completely ineffective. It doesn’t paint a very appealing picture of Spoony.

      I’d say the GMs were obviously in the wrong not to step in here and interfere, but that doesn’t give Spoony the right to try and ruin their game. Just quit the game and move on with your life. Crappy as they may be, it’s not your job to be the fun police.

      1. evileeyore says:

        I’ve never watched Spoony before, but yeah, in this one he was a tremendous douchebag… and failed in multiple instances to actually affect any change in the group he was complaining about or even abide by the rules as the ST explained them to him.

        1. Cybron says:

          I especially don’t like his tagline for the video, in which he insist he “is not a player to be lightly fucked with if you don’t want your campaign completely demolished.”

          I don’t think I’d ever want to play with a person like this.

          1. evileeyore says:

            And he didn’t even demolish their game.

            So much failboat, I cannot even.

            1. krellen says:

              The only reason he didn’t demolish their game is because the GM refused to allow him to use the group’s own tactics on them. There is no level at which what that LARP did was even close to okay. If that’s how they want to play, they need to not allow new players.

              And closed communities become invariably toxic, and should be actively discouraged.

              1. evileeyore says:

                Actually… more than likely because he didn’t clear what he was doing the ST. The ST said “Sure you can make stuff, just clear it with me…” and then Spoony runs off, grabs a fellow Player and proceeds to not tell the ST what he was doing.


                EDITTED: Also the “group’s own tactics” weren’t killing other characters…. hmmm.

                Thinking about this… this is exactly the sort of nonsense that occurs when an ST takes ‘Death Off The Table’ as means to deal with PC conflicts.

                1. krellen says:

                  EDITTED: Also the “group's own tactics” weren't killing other characters…. hmmm.


                  It was convert or die. Death was explicitly given as an option. “Convert willingly, be mind-raped, and if you’re somehow resistant to mind-rape, we’ll just kill you.”

                  1. evileeyore says:

                    Hmmm. Okay, I can accept that death was on the table, the ST never questioned the threat and didn’t counter the C-4 with that notion.

                    Mea culpa, I’d forgotten that information. So Spoony not only used their tactics, but outsmarted and out maneuvered them, and then the ST failed to reward him as he had the other players.

                    Yeah, the ST was a total dick.

      2. Asimech says:

        In the few Counter Monkey videos I’ve watched, Spoony seemed to say that he’s not on the right in the story and that he at least could, if not should, have handled it better. I could swear in one he emphasised that he was big part of the problem.

        But here, at least based on Krellen’s synopsis*, I don’t see this as him “just being a dick”. If the name of the game is to play spoilsport as the established players were doing, and the DM implied that was “just how they played”, Spoony was just getting on with the program.

        Yeah, it would have been the grown-up thing to just leave and that would have marked Spoony as The Good Guy. But sounds to me like the fun was being had at other people’s expense and they weren’t even trying to be vaguely accommodating to newcomers. So Spoony’s not The Bad Guy in my books either. I’m going with The Ugly simply because I suspect he did it out of revenge.

        * I’m not watching the video because stories about people having miserable time isn’t all that fun for me. Most of the time.

        Also: People, please stop calling someone responding badly to being treated like crap by other players in a role-playing session as “being the fun-police”. If the other players can only get their jollies by bullying, they are horrible people and their sadistic “fun” can go suck it. Getting on the victim’s case because they didn’t handle it optimally is pretty fucked up.

        1. evileeyore says:

          In this case though “being an adult” would have been better served to talk to the ST at length out of game and see if the situation was one they wanted (i.e. what happened) or if everything had just slowly spun out of control and if it were the later if he could help.

          Or yeah, just walk away.

          Personally if I were the ST I’d have rolled with it and let the game be nuked… but I’m also the person who caused several V-LARPs to explode in firey death as a player, so… yeah.

          1. Asimech says:

            So you think “being an adult” in this case would have required a new player to go out of their way to not just to complain but to negotiate with a DM at length and try to reason with them?

            Your requirement for “being an adult” is completely unreasonable in this context and you’re being severely dismissive of the DM’s responsibility in this.

            1. evileeyore says:

              “So you think “being an adult” in this case would have required a new player to go out of their way to not just to complain but to negotiate with a DM at length and try to reason with them?”


              Except I didn’t say ‘negotiate’ or ‘reason with’. I said talk to and find out why things went as they did. In other words don’t jump to conclusions and damn an entire group for 6 people’s behavior.

              Note: Spoony called 30 people dickheads because of the behavior of 6 of them. 1/5th of the group came to represent the whole in his world and one of that group was supposedly his friend.

              1. Asimech says:

                “Except I didn’t say” Don’t start splitting hairs. What you’re asking is in practice negotiating. If going to the DM saying “I’m not fine with this” didn’t get it out, it’s unlikely “why did this happen” would get it out either and he would have to struggle to get it out of him.

                This applies even if the DM was justifiably busy etc. Whatever kept the DM from initiating a proper discussion with the newbie the first time around isn’t going to just vapourise the second the player comes for another round of talks.

                Maybe Spoony knows his friend knows he doesn’t mean him? Maybe you shouldn’t jump into conclusions.

                1. evileeyore says:

                  ” “Except I didn't say” Don't start splitting hairs.”

                  Except I didn’t say “negotiate” and don’t mean that at all.

                  I meant “talk to the person like the too are an adult”.

                  I’ve been both the ‘newb’ who the ST couldn’t be bothered to talk with and the ST too busy to talk to the Player.

                  In both situations pinning the ST down later (or being pinned down myself) clarified the problem and opened doors for different tactics to be tried.

                  And in a few cases clarified that the group was a Massive Bag of Dicks that all Needed To Die In A Fire.

                  “What you're asking is in practice negotiating.”

                  If you want to go that route then all conversation is “negotiation”, in which case, fine You Win.*

                  * Except I believe all conversation is psychological warfare and I fight to win.

                  “If going to the DM saying “I'm not fine with this” didn't get it out, it's unlikely “why did this happen” would get it out either and he would have to struggle to get it out of him.”

                  Sure. That’s possible, even probable. I know for a fact it’s worked for and on me, but that’s anecdotal at best.

                  “Whatever kept the DM from initiating a proper discussion with the newbie the first time around isn't going to just vapourise the second the player comes for another round of talks.”

                  That’s a pretty big assumption. And my advice is in the other direction for any newbs out there.

                  “Maybe Spoony knows his friend knows he doesn't mean him? Maybe you shouldn't jump into conclusions.”

                  That’s actually likely the case. I’m just having fun repeatedly pointing it out and grinding the point in.

                  And now that I’ve watched more than one Spoony video (5 of them is all I can stomach) I know he’s the type of douchebag to label a group blithely without any real evidence at all.

                  1. Asimech says:

                    “Except I believe all conversation is psychological warfare and I fight to win.”

                    You’re not joking there, FYI.

                    “That's actually likely the case. I'm just having fun repeatedly pointing it out and grinding the point in.”

                    The point that despite what you claim you have an axe to grind?

                    1. evileeyore says:

                      No axes.

                      Seriously. No axes.

                      I was making a joke about his friend “being the biggest villian” and half joking about him lumping his friend in with the other dicks… sometimes I push jokes till they break.

                      And the “psychological warfare” bit was a ‘funny’ as well. I really do see that this game might have been “having fun” without Spoony, before Spoony, and probably after Spoony. He really doesn’t come across as the hero (or even anti-hero) here to me. He was a colossal dick.

                      The ST is the only actor in this story that I think out dicks him…. and that’s just for being a failure as an ST (in not properly briefing Spoony and working with him to see that his character was “in concept” for the game), not for deliberate dickishness, but casual dickishness.

        2. Cybron says:

          I’ll admit my response was a bit colored by other anecdotes of his, hence the tone. But when it comes to this sort of stuff, I take being the bigger man as a cardinal rule. It sucks to be treated like that, yeah, but ultimately, the right move is to walk away, not to be vindictive and immature. It’s a game. It’s totally within your power to end whatever’s happening to you, at any time, by saying “I’m done” and walking away.

          It’s obviously not like he should sit there and be bullied. Talking to the GM was the right move. But when it became obvious that the GM was not going to be any help, then it was time to walk away.

          I’ve heard plenty of horror stories in my hobby over the years, and many more stories of awful drama causing general unpleasantness. And 99% of the time, things are best resolved by following these two rules:

          1) Be mature and straightforward, not petty or passive-aggressive. Communicate your problems openly and honestly. Be assertive but not disruptive (unless it’s a truly serious issue which is making you feel threatened out of game, in which case disrupt as necessary).

          2) If you make no headway with rule 1, then leave. In the end, it’s a game and there’s no point staying if you’re uncomfortable or otherwise not having fun. Being a disruptive asshole isn’t going to achieve anything positive, even if they deserve it. All staying will do is continue to make yourself uncomfortable.

          As for being the fun police, that IS what he was doing. Obviously they enjoy what they’re doing, otherwise they wouldn’t have members. I don’t agree with their idea of fun, but that’s not relevant. It’s THEIR game, not yours or mine. This isn’t bullying, they aren’t exploiting you in some way that’s out of your power to avoid – they can’t do anything to you without your consent. So don’t consent to play. Just walk away.

          Edit: I feel I may not have gotten my point across, so I’ll make an example using something I think most people here are familiar with. EVE Online is a popular game. Many of the players of EVE are attracted to it for its wide array of player interactions. Many of these options go well into the end of what I consider to be jerk things. Pirating, scamming, etc. However, these options are considered desirable and ‘fun’ by much of the player base. Thus, instead of campaigning to have these removed from EVE, I just don’t play it. Because that’s the experience those people are attracted to, and me being mad about that would be foolish.

          I can (and often do) still consider those to be the sort of things a jerk would do. But even if I were somehow able to do so, I would not take it upon myself to shut that down, because it’s clearly that user base’s idea of a good time. And if I just choose not to play that game, their preferences have no bearing on me.

          1. Asimech says:

            Being vindictive isn’t being the fun police. Trying to have a moment of fun at other’s expense after they’ve had fun at yours is not being the fun police.
            Spoony wasn’t being the fun police.

            Generics first:

            Groups can stay together purely because of social inertia: A’s got buddy B in, who’s got C and so on. Then you’ve got some not wanting to leave because of others and you’ve got people who feel stuck and uncomfortable leaving. Especially if no-one happens to start the topic with the rest of their friends.

            These groups are more likely to form when there’s a subset of people in the group who are bullies. This because they’ll be pressuring people outside of the clique proper into joining. The people who have the most pull with people in power, e.g. the DM, are the most likely to become the bullies. They’re also likely to have some social pull, at least a pretend agreement from other people.

            Topic specific:

            “…and blow up basically all the players that supported this style of play.” So there was disagreement on the play style.
            On the first night a newbiew gets attacked and brainwashed and when approached the DM just shrugs? Sounds like a LARP version of “fuck you for coming here”.

            So there are at least two factions regarding play style and one of them is more aggressive and has what Rutskarn says is “–a really unbelievably awful idea in a LARP context.”

            These are signs of a toxic environment. It’s pretty safe to say that some weren’t having fun in the group and neither the aggressive group nor the DM gave a damn.

            Also Eve is a bad comparison. LARP rules are mostly social and are therefore easily mutable and much of it is unsaid agreements for boundaries while a video game’s rules are enforced by the coding which needs active effort to change and comparatively little of the rules are unsaid and inaccessible before taking part.

            So some people just up and assuming the newcomer knows all the rules and acting shitty makes them shitty, callous, people who should sort themselves out, even if their intents weren’t malicious. And if they “just want to have fun”? Well they should have barred access from new players unless they first spend a few nights following the game and learning the ropes so they’ll know if they’re fine with this.

            But I don’t think this was their priority at all. I think “getting fresh meat” was higher on their list than being welcoming. So I don’t think Spoony was ruining everyone’s fun, just a few jerks’ fun who honestly should learn a way to enjoy themselves that doesn’t require other people to have a bad time.

            I don’t see Spoony being the Bad Guy (unwarranted) or the Good Guy (just walk away), but Ugly (vengeanful).

            1. Cybron says:

              I’m just going to agree to disagree. You’re making a lot of assumptions I feel are unwarranted, and I doubt we’ll ever come to a consensus here.

          2. syal says:

            The normal response to backstabbing and dickery in EVE is counter-backstabbing and counter-dickery. You say Spoony is being vindictive and immature here, but the group is selecting for vindictiveness and immaturity. If they enjoy messing with you, and you enjoy messing with them, why would you ‘be the bigger man’ and leave when you’re down? The only time it’s appropriate to leave is when it’s obvious the game is rigged against you.

            You can say that Spoony is a jerk (which he absolutely is, I don’t think that’s even questionable), but you can’t say his reaction was inappropriate. Honestly, the proper reaction from the GM would have been to tell everyone they’d just been blown up and have them re-roll characters like he’d told Spoony to do.

            (Also, making yourself feel better is a positive, and should not be overlooked.)

          3. silver Harloe says:

            If you’re not already familiar with the Stanford Prison Experiment, google it up and read about it.

            Sometimes groups keep doing what they’re doing just because that’s the group dynamic, and not because anyone thinks it’s “fun”

      3. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Which is why you should watch the first few videos for information,where he states that he was a bad gm due to inexperience.Most of these stories are him learning why certain things dont work(giving players wishes,having a single evil character,etc).

    4. evileeyore says:

      “My specific question is, what should have been done differently here, and by whom? (Because clearly what they had in place wasn't working right.)”

      Or maybe what was going on was working?

      Obviously 30 people were enjoying themselves *. As I say in an earlier post, Spoony’s friend should have clued him in on the power setup.

      * Or maybe not. We don’t know. This whole debacle could have been the result of a few people being dicks and power-mongering to get what they wanted and everyone else was just too much “Well, any game is better than no game” Stockholmed.

      1. Asimech says:

        So your point is “maybe it was running just fine, and this obviously toxic environment wasn’t toxic after all, because there’s a sliver of a chance it wasn’t”?

        Why is it so important to you that we give anonymous people the benefit of the doubt and condemn a known party, who therefore would be the only one who could suffer an unfair judgment of any kind? Especially when the topic is “as the situation was given, how should it have been handled”?

        1. evileeyore says:

          The 30 are anonymous and Spoony is the known party.

          In this particular case I think Spoony is an untrustworthy narrator. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, however.

          I was questioning krellen’s ending question (it’s a position I like to take – Devil’s Advocate), we don’t know if the game was working or failing, all we know is that Spoony got rolled.

          My point was… we don’t know if the game was “working as intended” or not or if the 30 players were enjoying the game or not.

          1. Asimech says:

            No, your point, when taken with the rest of your comments is “Spoony’s friend was the most at fault, Spoony was an asshole, the DM made a completely understandable human error and the group was at most a bit off-colour.”

            Again: Why do you feel it’s important we condemn Spoony, a known party and therefore the only one who can suffer if we assume the worst of him and accept it as the narrative, but feel we should exonerate unknown parties who can’t suffer in any shape from even the harshest judgement?

            And no, you’re not playing Devil’s advocate. Playing Devil’s Advocate means arguing on behalf of a side no-one else is arguing in a topic. The topic isn’t “was the group a bunch of assholes and was Spoony on the right”. It’s “what should have been done and by whom”. The assumption that the given premise is true is part of the topic. So what you’re doing is derailing the topic with irrelevant and improbable possibilities and insinuating that Spoony’s a liar, not just an unreliable narrator. Whether you’re doing these intentionally or not, you’re still doing them.

            And I can’t grasp why because I like assuming good of people and the only reasons I’ve been able to come up until now are not good motivations.

            And “wants to play Devil’s Advocate” is not a good/valid motivation. If you don’t believe in your stance, why are you bothering people with it? As far as we know the whole story could be a fever dream by Spoony, but no-one would pop into a discussion and start going “but maybe, but maybe” about it.

            1. Cybron says:

              You are really putting words in evileeyore’s mouth, Asimech.

              1. Asimech says:

                No, I’m not. Let’s go from top to bottom so I won’t have to quote everything but it’s still possible to follow what comment I’m talking about:
                TEXT WALL WARNING

                Starting with the response to Rutskarn:
                “…the biggest villain in this farce was his friend that invited him to come and didn't warn him about the power structure of the game.”

                Spoony’s friend was the most at fault.

                “Spoony was wrong on multiple levels…”
                Claim that Spoony was without a doubt “wrong”. Contrast with how Evileeyore gives leeway for the rest of the group throughout 1 The System and 2 The Players in general, but of special note:

                “–may have been off the deep end (frankly I can't trust his narration–”
                Accepts that Spoony might be honest, then questions it.

                “No they shouldn't have been dicks. But, this one falls at the feet of the ST,-”
                Minor admission, followed by redirect of blame to DM.

                “-he obviously had allowed this situation to develop. I've been there. I've had to reign in “bad elements” (or out right just toss them out), it's not easy, but it has to be done.”
                But the blame on DM is sympathised away.
                “I’ve been there.” “It’s not easy,-”
                See? DM’s behaviour was completely understandable, no need to be hard on the guy.

                “Honestly the players weren't even really at fault.”
                Oh, sorry. Evileeyore didn’t say they were at most off-colour. They were not at fault in any way.

                3 The GM is just “DM’s behaviour was understandable.”

                The following commment is a “just saying he’s unreliable, not saying he’s unreliable” and “Spoony was definitely in the wrong” followed by again an admission of “DM wasn’t without fault” followed by “but it’s possible DM wasn’t really at fault”.

                Next one below was before the topic.

                From the next one: “[Spoony was a]–tremendous douchebag.”
                No doubt, Spoony was a bad person.

                Next comment: “And he didn't even demolish their game.
                So much failboat, I cannot even.”
                No comment.

                Comment after that: “Spoony definitely did something bad.” before
                ‘Also the “group's own tactics” weren't killing other characters…. hmmm.’
                Nitpick. Their tactics seemed to involve mob rule. Would that have been the only acceptable approach by Spoony?

                Moving on the next one is long but implies that for Spoony to have behaved like an adult he’d need to “talk at length” with the DM, which is unreasonable for newbie in the group who just got screwed over and shrugged at by the DM.

                Next one confirms that this was a requirement. And also strongly implies Spoony must be an asshole because he generalised. Again: Spoony has done something wrong.

                Nearing end here, a response to Krellen’s original question there’s an implication that the group was innocent. Again, “saying, but not saying” wording is used. “Maybe it was working” and “Obviously they were enjoying themselves–” versus “Maybe not”
                Former stance gets more weight behind it.

                Then there’s a response back to me that acknowledges the premise for my question but dodges answering it.

                “Spoony’s friend was at most fault.” Was explicitly stated.

                Spoony was, at multiple points, described as definitely having done something that was unacceptable in the situation i.e. if the story didn’t go the way Spoony described it Spoony must have been an even bigger asshole.

                Whenever fault was accepted on the DM’s part there were comments to the effect of “but the DM is only human”.

                No fault on the group was accepted. The only “acceptance” was then re-directed on the DM (who was excused). The rest were “maybe, maybe not” statements or “Honestly the players weren't even really at fault. ”

                It’s clear Evileeyore is condemning Spoony and his friend and exonerating the group along with the DM.

                I’m pretty sure I didn’t make any other claims. So which claims were I putting in Evileeyore’s mouth?

            2. evileeyore says:

              “No, your point, when taken with the rest of your comments is “Spoony's friend was the most at fault, Spoony was an asshole, the DM made a completely understandable human error and the group was at most a bit off-colour.” ”

              I haven’t said any of that in the least:*

              ‘…this one falls at the feet of the ST.’ ‘The ST was clearly at fault…’

              I clearly blame the ST. I’m just not sure if he’s a dick or a pussy, ie Is he ringleading or is he too ineffectual to fix the problem. Either way, the ST has the lion’s share of the responsibility for the events in his game.

              The group: Off-color or a bag of dicks? I don’t know. I’ve run and played in games exactly like that one (Old WoD Sabbat) where “being a bag of dicks” was basically the premise. Of course those were closed attendance affairs and everyone was upfront with the concept. So no, I won’t just tar them with Spoony’s brush. Were they dicks to a new player, yup, they were. Was it unfair to Spoony? Yup, that’s the STs fault, he allowed it and then sanctioned it.

              * Okay, you got me on “Spoony’s friend was the most at fault” as I did label him “the biggest villain” and then kinda reinforced it a few times…

              That bit was one part comedy (who calls another person a villain these days?) and one part serious. If this really was a friend of Spoony’s you'd expect him to warn Spoony about the f-ed up nature of the game. [comedy]I mean doesn’t this friend know Spoony likes to play “atypical characters that nobody plays”? * Spoony isn’t a square peg to just be pounded into that round hole![/comedy]

              Of course it’s entirely possible his friend just hadn’t seen that f-ed up stuff and wasn’t thinking about the power structure of the city…

              * Trigger Warning Alert for me. Any time I hear some one say “I like to play different characters that are unique and aren’t like any one else” I immediately go on alert for douchebaggery. In fact the exact thought that runs through my head is “Yeah, and I bet you dress in all black like all your special unique snowflake friends”.

              — Sorry for that bit of digression, that behavior just always triggers my desire to rant. —

              “Again: Why do you feel it's important we condemn Spoony, a known party and therefore the only one who can suffer if we assume the worst of him and accept it as the narrative, but feel we should exonerate unknown parties who can't suffer in any shape from even the harshest judgement?”

              There are two reasons to ‘condemn Spoony’ *:

              1 – He’s an untrustworthy narrator. He spends the first 8 minutes of this 28 minute long story giving out completely inaccurate information about V:tR. I’m guessing he’s given the new setting at best a skim through and missed more than half of it. Or quite possibly some else failed at understanding it and gave him faulty data.

              This is why I’m not accepting Spoony’s assertion that 30 players were dickheads. He’s unreliable and he only described his interactions with 6 Players and 1 ST and then goes on to condemn them all, including his friend.

              2 – That last sentence there. He casually describes everyone (including his friend) as dickheads because “his night was ruined”.

              * Of course I haven’t asked anyone to condemn Spoony, just realize he is an unreliable narrator and a bit of a dick.

              “And no, you're not playing Devil's advocate. Playing Devil's Advocate means arguing on behalf of a side no-one else is arguing in a topic.”

              Hey, look at that, no one else is arguing that 24 people might not have been dickheads… ;)

              “The topic isn't “was the group a bunch of assholes and was Spoony on the right”. It's “what should have been done and by whom”.”

              Topics drift. I engage the parts I am interested in. It is what is fun for me. I personally have enjoyed taking it apart here and there and turning ideas around, which is Devil’s Advocacy.

              It’s a slow internets night for me.

              “The assumption that the given premise is true is part of the topic.”

              I don’t accept that. Yes, it’s where krellen is coming from and was answered as such by Prof. Rutskarn, and I rebutted the Prof. on his points.

              The discussion as a whole went back and forth, and has drifted.

              “So what you're doing is derailing the topic with irrelevant and improbable possibilities and insinuating that Spoony's a liar, not just an unreliable narrator. Whether you're doing these intentionally or not, you're still doing them.”

              Actually Spoony has proven himself an unreliable narrator. He spent 8 minutes giving absolutely false information regarding Vampire: The Requiem’s covenants. Why? I don’t know. As I’ve guessed above it’s either because he didn’t read the material or he was given false information himself. However, because of this I can’t take what he relates as gospel, he has proven to be unreliable.

              Now, I never once called him a liar, nor was it my intention to do so. Unreliable? Yes. Purposefully unreliable (ie a liar)? I doubt it, he really does sound pretty convinced about his “facts”.

              “And I can't grasp why because I like assuming good of people and the only reasons I've been able to come up until now are not good motivations.

              And “wants to play Devil's Advocate” is not a good/valid motivation. If you don't believe in your stance, why are you bothering people with it? As far as we know the whole story could be a fever dream by Spoony, but no-one would pop into a discussion and start going “but maybe, but maybe” about it.”

              From wikipedia:
              Devil’s Advocate
              In common parlance, a devil’s advocate is someone who, given a certain argument, takes a position they do not necessarily agree with (or simply an alternative position from the accepted norm), for the sake of debate or to explore the thought further. In taking this position, the individual taking on the devil’s advocate role seeks to engage others in an argumentative discussion process. The purpose of such a process is typically to test the quality of the original argument and identify weaknesses in its structure, and to use such information to either improve or abandon the original, opposing position. It can also refer to someone who takes a stance that is seen as unpopular or unconventional, but is actually another way of arguing a much more conventional stance.

              There has been no “but maybe, but maybe” in my writing.

              “…because I like assuming good of people …”

              And yet you’re ready to hang “dickhead” on 30 people and describe their game as “a toxic environment” on the word of a proven unreliable witness?

              And my motives are questioned?

              I’m only “condemning” 3 people absolutely, Spoony as an Unreliable Narrator and a Dickhead, his friend as “the biggest villain” (I hope he twirled his mustache hard), and the ST for failing Spoony.

              Yes, he failed Spoony. Even if the premise of the game is “We’re a Massive Bag of Dicks” he failed to clear Spoony’s character in advance and failed to warn him of the premise and further failed to ensure Spoony’s character could play well in the city.

              The other 30 people? I can’t really blame them too much without more information *, even if that info came from an unreliable source.

              * At least 6 of them were dicks, I’m pretty sure of that.

              1. Asimech says:

                “It's a slow internets night for me.”

                So that’s a valid reason for you to derail a discussion?

                1. evileeyore says:


                  Well, that and I see points that I think need arguing and further discussion. But if the only acceptable discussion has to be “Stay On Topic”, then colour me Unacceptable.

                  Oh, and the “slow internets” was to point out why I’m bothering tonight of all nights on this topic of all topics. Usually I’m waaaay to busy to jump into long form discussions here and do driveby commentary at best, even if I would really like to engage at length.

                  1. Asimech says:

                    “But if the only acceptable discussion has to be “Stay On Topic”, then colour me Unacceptable.”
                    Stop playing a martyr. I know, I know “I was joking”, except no, you’re not.

                    “–I see points that I think need arguing and further discussion.”

                    You like arguing itself as an activity, no matter how pointless. It’s not about having a discussion, sharing ideas or anything else. Up until very late you’ve been constantly judgemental about Spoony, coming up arguments why he had to have been going further than the rest of the group in the situation (“no death on the table” etc.), and excusing the DM’s and the group’s behaviour as ‘only human’.

                    I mean really. “he’s an unreliable narrator of these events he was in because he gave bad info on the V:tR setting”? Him screwing up anything about the V:tR setting has nothing to do with him getting details wrong about the LARP. They’re not the same sort of memorisation and your attempts at sounding neutral by giving reasons why he got details wrong wouldn’t apply to the LARP either. You were implicating he was lying.

                    You’ve been fishing for an argument. If you wanted a discussion you wouldn’t have gotten into one that had a clear focus, was mostly covered already and would’nt be taking sides with obvious assholes.

                    Reminder: “On the Players dickishness: Honestly the players weren't even really at fault.”

                    Don’t start with “but not all the players, only the six”. At what point did you actually start specifying that the six were assholes?

                    But yeah, “fuck everyone else”, eh? As long as you’re having fun. “Just joking.”

                    1. Shamus says:

                      Okay. I probably let this one burn longer than I should. Let’s stop talking about Spoony and his LARP. This feels sort of gossip-y and I don’t see it leading to anything useful.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Well then,make Rutskarn talk about his larps,so we can gossip about him instead*wink*.

                    3. stratigo says:

                      Spoony is like religion and politics!

        2. Cybron says:

          I’ll just repost my comments from my above post:

          “I'll make an example using something I think most people here are familiar with. EVE Online is a popular game. Many of the players of EVE are attracted to it for its wide array of player interactions. Many of these options go well into the end of what I consider to be jerk things. Pirating, scamming, etc. However, these options are considered desirable and “˜fun' by much of the player base. Thus, instead of campaigning to have these removed from EVE, I just don't play it. Because that's the experience those people are attracted to, and me being mad about that would be foolish.”

          “I can (and often do) still consider those to be the sort of things a jerk would do. But even if I were somehow able to do so, I would not take it upon myself to shut that down, because it's clearly that user base's idea of a good time. And if I just choose not to play that game, their preferences have no bearing on me.”

          I don’t think I’d want to play a game like this. But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong for people to play that sort of thing. The post makes a lot of judgement values that are maybe unwarranted – it could be that the player base of that LARP genuinely likes this sort of team vs team, kidnap people and convert them gameplay. Would that be objectively wrong of them?

          There are all sorts of styles when it comes to running RPGs, and ultimately I don’t think that the people running it as a glorified game of capture the flag would be any more wrong than people running a near-freeform theatre-esque experience.

          1. Asimech says:

            There’s a response to your Eve point above by Cyal and another response to the “group is together, therefore they must like it the way it is” point by silver Harloe

            1. syal says:

              This second Cybron post was here before either of ours up top were. I responded to the first one because I thought my response fit that one better.

              1. Asimech says:

                I noticed, I figured I’d try to ensure you two would be noticed by Cybron, as I figured they might have dropped checking that part they- I think ‘bowed out’ is the phrase in this context.

                1. syal says:

                  Alright. I read it as ‘you didn’t need to make this post because the first one had responses’ which wasn’t true at the time.

                  (Looking up ‘bowed out’ gives ‘not doing something you said you would’ which I think is more antagonistic than necessary.)

                  1. Asimech says:

                    My online dictionary (OxfordDictionaries.com) offers “Withdraw or retire from an activity or role” for “bow out”. My other dictionary gives a bit different, slightly accusatory by the chosen words, but still not the one you’re saying (dictionary.com): ” to resign a position or withdraw from a job, competition, obligation, etc.: He bowed out after two terms as governor.”

                    1. syal says:

                      The first Google result is this, of which the one I mentioned is the second definition. Considering the pause before delivery and the stated purpose of the post, I assumed the most aggressive definition.

      2. Rutskarn says:

        The same “any game is better than no game” problem I mentioned in the podcast applies tenfold to LARPs. If you’ve got a good LARP–and I know I do–you take it for granted, but it’s all too easy to find yourself in a place where the only game for miles around is full of backbiting sullen shitheads who can’t get along.

        A friend of mine moved to Hawaii, and as far as she can tell, there’s like one LARP on the entire island. It’s Vampire. And it sucks.

        1. evileeyore says:

          “The same “any game is better than no game” problem I mentioned in the podcast applies tenfold to LARPs.”

          This is beyond true.

          And if it’s the game in Hawaii I’ve heard of… she has my deepest sympathies.

        2. “Honolulu By Night” has a lot of potential, though. Relatively isolated location, lots of people coming and going, handy volcano for dramatic disposal of enemies…

        3. Mintskittle says:

          I’m gonna pull out an old FtB-ism here: “Life’s too short for bad gaming.” Gaming is supposed to be fun, first and foremost, to be enjoyed by all involved. Abuse of your fellow player should not be tolerated. If people are playing in an abusive game because it’s the only game in town, they’re only hurting themselves.

          The offending parties need to be made aware that what they are doing tho their fellow players is hurtful. If they won’t change their game to accommodate you, if the only way for them to have fun is to push other people down, don’t game with them. Go start your own game. Go to the internet. Worst case scenario, put your gaming life on hold.

          Don’t allow yourself to continue playing in bad games. Life’s too short for that.

    5. Disc says:

      I’ve never done LARP, but you’d think people involved in that kind of dark setting wouldn’t be too attached to their characters in the first place and be willing to accept that acting like a shithead can and will come back to bite their characters in the ass. Spoony might have done it for the wrong reasons, but the character had all the reason and motivation to pull off something like that. While it is just one side of the story, it just feels like at least the DM was way too comfortable with and dependant on the status quo.

      IMO the DM should have let it happen just for the very well done execution and ballsiness of the plan.

      1. evileeyore says:

        “I've never done LARP, but you'd think people involved in that kind of dark setting wouldn't be too attached to their characters in the first place …”

        Strangely I’ve discovered that LARPers tend to become (as a general rule) even more attached to their characters. Especially the ones who will put together a costume for the character (even if it’s just a specific set of clothes that they always wear for that character).

        Unless the player is that rare breed, the “Character Of The Week” club member, then they’re more attached to the mayhem they can cause by being dickheads and seeing how far they can push it till their character dies.

  29. Timelady says:

    I’ve gotta ask: how come all the awesome people I know turn out to be from North Carolina?

    1. Cybron says:

      Because it’s not South Carolina, obviously!

      1. lucky7 says:

        Hey! I was BORN in SC and I…barely remember it. So I guess I shouldn’t be mad. Alrighty then.

  30. hborrgg says:

    I like how this episode started with “Ha ha, rutskarn is 12 years old” and ended with Shamus: “Gee, that reminds me of playing ET for the Atari back when it first came out.”

  31. evileeyore says:

    To Shamus and Crew:

    If my text walling and ‘edition war’ style of posting is causing youse guys undo distress, just say the words and it’ll never happen again.

    Pinkie swear.

    1. topazwolf says:

      I don’t think that it is too undo. I believe Shamus takes pride in the fact that his community carries on long conversations that raise interesting points of discussion rather than devolving into the youtube comments section.

      1. Gilfareth says:

        I certainly would, if I were him. This is one of maybe two places (the other being my own friend’s house) that I can have rational discussions on topics that interest me and be able to keep things polite and occasionally long-winded, without fear of being torn down or yelled at. Not to get sappy, but for what little I’ve contributed to the comments here, this place is a big Safe Zone for me and I appreciate it a lot.

    2. syal says:

      No, don’t offer to stop causing distress! You’re hurting the rest of us!

      1. evileeyore says:

        OH NO! I didn’t mean to harm you! I’ll rescind my offer to stop causing distress right now!


  32. tzeneth says:

    When the GM smiles, it’s already too late.

    Also, I apologize on behalf of the gaming community and GMs for a better game (if that exists). I never thought I’d hear of a GM that bad. I can’t figure out why we both got not the best GMs first. My GM was more sadistic and older. He was nowhere near that bad…although in the 2 campaigns that consisted of meeting about once or twice a month for an all day Saturday game, I never had a character survive more than 4 gaming sessions. Then again, my first character ended up always getting abused while trying to gain information to understand what was going on. The tone of the campaign felt very player v. player which has made me hyperaware of party conflicts and have shaped my rules. I think our bad experiences do shape our experience and allows us to be better GMs as we have clear examples of what NOT to do.

    Good luck with your gaming.

  33. lucky7 says:

    Dear Professor Rutskarn:

    What is the most memorable villain you have created/fought and why?

    1. Rutskarn says:


      Creating villains is actually one of my top three DM skills, so this is a pretty hard call to make. I’ll share a few of my personal favorites:

      Grigori Rasputin: In a semi-post-monster-apocalypse, all the world’s remaining factories, farms, and oilfields were run by fast-breeding goblin labor overseen by Grigori Rasputin and his two gas-masked English bodyguards–also his translators and valets. He lived as king of the world’s last city, Santa Alma. What the players didn’t know about him:

      a.) He spoke perfect English…with an English accent
      b.) He was a clone of Rasputin, grown from his dismembered genitals, that was commissioned by Stalin as part of a longevity project
      c.) He had been groomed by rogue scientists since birth to rule after an inevitable apocalypse (they planned for a nuclear one, since the cold war wasn’t doing so great)
      d.) Both of his bodyguards were ALSO clones of Rasputin, and in fact, they were brothers who switched off every morning.

      They ended up having to gun all three clones down in a boardroom gunfight that left several of their favorite NPCs dead.

      Jawbone: A bounty hunter who specialized in tracking down lawbreaking adventurers. Balding and middle-aged, fond of rollup cigarettes and jungle-style mantraps, affected with a cool but folksy southern twang…and missing a big hole in his cheek and jawline from the time someone nearly captured him. He had an affect I was fond of where, when he sucked down a drag of his cigarette, he would clamp his hand over the hole while inhaling and remove it to let the smoke waft naturally out. This guy gave the players the creeps.

      Anton Devereux, the Black Baron: In alternate 1916 London, only one person in the realm is afforded by the crown the privilege of tampering with dark magics. That person is whomever has been appointed the latest Black Baron, and they are charged with hunting down other magicians (particularly Prussian spies) and bringing them to justice. Since it is illegal to cast any dark magic at all within the realm, and every Black Baron has been an expert at dark magic…well. The position has rarely been filled by a person of overflowing virtue. It’s established that every Black Baron on record has met a gruesome demise within eight years of appointment.

      Anton is gifted in the study of Communion. Like about one third of nightmare magicians, as students of dark magic are alternately called, he has an ability to peer directly into the Nightmare-world equivalent to ours. But since the Nightmare realm is malicious, and is dumbly reactive to whatever spectacles would most terrify and erode the sanity of a given spectator, Communion experts can use this to highlight important clues, overlooked information, and missing items in an area.

      It just so happens that Anton is involved in a horrible conspiracy to replace the throne with a fascist government. And since his particular specialty is using Communion on maps of the city–and since he lost much of the sanity he had to lose a hundred trips to Nightmare ago–he’s a tricky opponent to defeat.

      Honorable Mentions:

      Simon Temple: From the same game as Anton. A face-changer and master of manipulating emotion with magic, he takes a horrible glee in breaking people’s minds and conditioning innocent people to be his murderous puppets.

      Fern Meyers: From the same game as Rasputin. A record executive in the new city who combines chain-smoking no-nonsense business acumen with a complete lack of sympathy for those her company shafts. Equally at home on the other end of a contract or a Desert Eagle. I decided not to include her in the main list because once her employer turned out to be three evil conspirators, she joined the PC faction.

      The Dwarf: From a Mad-Max style post-apocalypse D&D game. He was part of a militant faction, Deathgrip, where soldiers didn’t learn the names of their superior officers until they were of appropriate rank. So to the players, he was always The Dwarf–a broken-accented, beardless, shave-headed, hog-riding drill sergeant who when the players defected made it his personal mission to track them down.

      1. Fess up, Professor. You had NPCs referring to Grigori Rasputin as “a dick” as often as you could, even though it was only funny to you at the time. A casual observer might wonder why so many other phallic phrases were being directed at him as an insult, not realizing it was all in the hopes that once his origin was revealed, the players would feel… shafted.

      2. Jakale says:

        Was Jawbone based on anything or does he just happen to sound a great deal like Jonah Hex?

  34. TMTVL says:

    A (very situational) tip for potential DM’s: share your previous experiences as a player (if any) with your players before playing.

    I used to play some 3rd edition Das Schwarze Auge (The Dark Eye in English) and have talked about it with my players.
    An interesting little feature of 3rd edition was that your average fighter could end up with 100 hit points fairly soon in the grand scheme of things.
    Consider: a bastard sword deals 1d8 + Strength bonus damage. A combat turn consists out of rolling attack, if it connects the opponent rolls parry (no damage if successful) and roll for damage.
    I’ve fought battles against standard groups of enemies taking upward of 6 hours.

    Now 4th edition DSA goes quicker, but my players still take care not to start fights when they don’t have to. Because of how extensive and flexible the system is it works REALLY well.

  35. MichaelGC says:

    Just wanted to say that this is all great stuff! My own table-top gaming career lasted for about a week-&-a-half a quarter-century ago, but even without any particular dog in this hunt: I enjoyed the story, which was amusing but also tugged a little at the heartstrings; running it as as a second Diecast was a great idea; the long walls o’ text from everyone have been fascinating (and the arguments generally steered clear of vitriol even when they were getting quite feisty); and I get the idea that PROFESSOR RUTSKARN is pretty busy these days, so taking the time to give long OFFICIAL RESPONSEs is most impressive & appreciated.

    So, er… high-fives all round! Yay.

  36. Doomcat says:

    Sorry to ask a difficult question but…

    I’ve always ALWAYS wanted to play a tabletop campaign of some kind, I was really excited last year when I finally got a chance; I had a small group of people I knew and we all wanted to play.

    The issue, two players live overseas, two live about 500 miles away from me. We ended up using this website with me DMing a 3.5 DnD campaign.

    I had a neat idea for a setting and alot of issues with my own setting starting up. However, one of the two overseas players ended up (For lack of a better word) trolling my game hard, taking the spotlight constantly and overtaking the other PCs, for referance, he was a rogue constantly stealing from random houses.

    Just as I thought I was getting him under control he had to leave my game, and was replaced by someone worse. My game fell apart because I was getting frustrated, two of the players (one being a young girl) were obviously not having fun, and the other player was getting literally angry, meanwhile I was getting frustrated/depressed with the situation.

    So, my question is this; What could I do to help this kind of situation where one player is trolling the ENTIRE GAME, Without simply kicking them out?

    1. Rutskarn says:


      Look, I don’t know the intricacies of your social circle. I don’t know who this “new guy” is to you. He might be the man who pulled your dog out of a burning building and then gave you fifty dollars. But as a GM who has been through rough shit and players (who were roommates) ruining campaigns, I offer you this sage advice:

      STEP ONE IS ALWAYS: Ask them to cut it the fuck out. Outline grievances and give them chances to correct their behavior.

      STEP TWO IS ALWAYS: If that fails, kick them the FUCK out.

      These are your only two solutions. Players who are bad for your game, and don’t want not to be bad for your game, will always be bad for your game. Some GMs claim they can “train” players, and maybe if I knew more about the behavior and the guy I could offer pointers, but that’s a chancy, fiddly solution to a problem that already offers one foolproof direct approach. Make him shape up or kick him out.

      Keep in mind this is the lenient version of my advice. Most GMs skip to step two, and frankly, that’s rarely a bad idea.

      1. Doomcat says:

        Okay, fair enough. Thank you for your advice.

        I actually plan on giving this another shot with the FATE system (never tried anything other then DnD, from what I’ve heard FATE might give me less headaches as a new DM) and hopefully, I plan on getting this group together without the uh…rogue elements.

      2. evileeyore says:

        I’ll ditto the Prof, and this goes tripley so in LARPs.

        As for training players? I’ve never, never seen it work where you don’t have direct access to either what they want more than life itself (for example I once saw a female LARPer train her boyfriend to be a better player, she claimed she was withholding on him when he screwed up, I have no direct evidence other than he did become a better roleplayer) or their genitals and electrical wiring.

      3. Steve C says:

        I agree with Rutskarn here. In a comment above I said: “the best GMs get a group of like-minded players. That above all else is important for long term success.” Getting them on board or kicking them off the train is how you accomplish it.

        Generally they leave on their own accord because you create a hardline they don’t like. For example there was this one guy who kept cheating at his dice. I knew he was lying out of his ass on all his rolls. I knew this is something he had done in another campaign where I was a player but the DM didn’t call him out on it. I didn’t confront him about it because I didn’t need to. Stuff happened and focus ended up on his character therefore the group focus was on the player and his decisions. Everyone in the room was watching all of his rolls because it was dramatic due to the danger. He died. The player did not come back and I didn’t care. (Except that he stole my Fighter’s handbook the asshole.)

        As to training players, yes it can be done but it has to be someone who clearly wants to learn. So clear it has to be something like ‘I want to be a better player. Do you have any tips for me?’ Training a bad player like you would a bad dog doesn’t work.

  37. ilikemilkshake says:

    Hopefully I’m not too late to ask a question but I was hoping you could provide insight into handling different player motivations and interplayer conflicts.

    Whether it’s something simple like some of the players want to kill an NPC while others want to spare the NPC, how do you resolve that in an amicable way?

    Or taking the example of your Sister switching sides, is there any way to actually make that work given that next session your sister is somehow going to have to return to the group on their side to keep playing?

    1. Rutskarn says:


      This is one of those things that needs an essay or a short answer. Since I’ve written about ten thousand words in the past few days and my wrists are starting to twinge disconcertingly, let’s go with the short answer.

      (No two groups are the same, and I’m going to speak very generally here. Keep that in mind.)

      Character conflicts are not unusual. The best solution is typically to have them work it out in-character, often reaching some tacit agreement where they compromise or try not to flaunt their character’s cause in front of the other character’s nose. You know, like semi-mature people journeying together on a quest of vital importance probably would. This is one situation where the big problems probably should have been avoided at the character creation stage. If all else fails, talk to the players out-of-character and see if everyone can find a solution. (Yeah–a more comprehensive answer is called for, but again, wrist pains.)

      As for big, dramatic moments where one character does shit that could cause problems…honestly, that’s a group-dependent thing. Some groups love that shit, some groups hate it. It’s good for some games and bad for others.

      Here’s a rule of thumb:

      If one character’s betrayal of the rest of the party’s principles became the new focus of the story for the next half-dozen session, would all the players be okay with that? Would the GM?

      If the answer is yes, then do it. If the answer is no, then that kind of drama is probably not what people are looking for out of this game, and another solution should be reached out-of-character.

      1. ilikemilkshake says:

        Thanks for the response.
        Lots of good info here in this thread and I’m looking forward to trying out the FATE system too.

        P.S Hopefully your wrists don’t fall off. That would suck.

    2. evileeyore says:

      The Prof is once again in good form, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t offer my own grognardy advice:

      Pick up a copy of Robin’s Laws Of Good Game Mastering by Robin Laws.

      It even taught this old grognard a few new tricks!

  38. lucky7 says:

    Okay, Professor Rutskarn:

    In ten words or less (Not counting those saying that it’s your official response), what is the key to being a good GM?

    1. Rutskarn says:


      Make the players happy. If possible, tell a good story.

      1. Nick says:

        This. Always this.

        But I’ll give it a go:
        Have fun. Be interesting. Learn to improvise. Pretend all’s planned.

    2. syal says:

      Oh, I’ve got to try this.

      “Never Back Down, Everyone Gets Guns…” um… “…And Free Elephant Rides.”

  39. topazwolf says:

    Dear Professor Rutskarn,

    How do you prepare for a game? Lots of planning or just some scribbled details?

    Topaz Wolf

    1. Nick says:

      In the grand tradition of answering instead of Rutskarn: I started with a lot of planning and progressively ran with with less and less as I got better at improvising. My key advise – know the main players in your plot – let’s say the villian is after the McGuffin Rose, there’s a secret order charged with protecting it, criminal activity abounds so the police are actively involved, and then the players get involved. You know what all those parties want, so if the players jump the rails you can just take a moment and think ‘How do these people react to this situation now?’

      That works WAY better for player agency than planning a strict sequence of events that the players have to struggle through. It’s especially helpful in a system like Exalted or Scion where the players have a ridiculous level of power and could easily bypass whole sections of planning with clever use of abilities.

      Things you should have worked out:
      1) Who is the villain and what does he want?
      2) Who are his allies/pawns and what do they want?
      3) Who are the players working for/acting because of?
      4) What is the rough final showdown you want to work towards?
      5) What are some key plot twists (betrayals, revelations, faction defeats) that you want to get to along the way?
      6) Where do you start?
      Now, you don’t have to stick to that. But having the backbone of a plan allows you to fall back on your established setting.

      Also, have a list of NPC names for people you need to make up on the spot. Put that list in your pile of NPC character sheets. Now the players can’t easily tell if the person they just met is plot-critical.

      1. evileeyore says:

        Sit-Down Gaming
        I come up with bullet points style of a plot skeleton, maybe a few key scenes I think will help sell the story, an opener, and an ending act (these get a few more lines of description).

        Then I wing it based on how the players proceed.

        I always have a “Full Staff”, this is one ST for every 20 Players, and an additional Narrator (think mini-ST that handles conflict resolution) for each ST if it’s a social-political LARP (Like Vampire, Cthulhu, etc), if it’s a Boffer LARP you can get away with 1 ST per 20-30 Players or so. There will also be a “paper work” position, this is someone who handles any monies, files character sheets, maintains the records database, what-ever (this role likely rotates amongst the staff, I’ve only ever had permanent clerical when running games in The Camarilla which has an entire non-Storytelling side to it).

        I met with the STs frequently between games (usually twice at least) – First to run down how the game went, make notes on where plots have gone, etc, the second time to plan for the next game night. Each ST generally has their own plot line they are in charge of and their own Narrator to help with conflict resolution. In larger games I see myself more as “Plotline Wrngler” and “ST Herder” than actually dealing with characters (though I do a lot of that as well).

        Plotlines get a lot of write up and cross-examination, they are also designed to be fluid – LARPs tend to radically alter themselves at the drop of a hat without the STs even being aware of it sometimes.

        Aside from that Nick covered the fiddly-bits really well.

  40. RedSun says:

    Dear Professor Rutskarn,

    1)Do you have any tips for running Play-by-Post RPGS?

    2)What’s the best way to encourage players to investigate more? By which I mean, getting them to do things like questioning background NPCs, doublechecking rooms, asking for additional information I have to make up on the spot, etc.?

    1. Akuma says:

      From my own experiences with both your questions:

      1) Play by post games are quite a different beast then a normal face to face game. The one thing constantly working against you will be time. Alot of people start play by post games because they see it as less of a time sink then a three hour game session, but depending on the frequency of your game it can actually be more demanding of peoples time.

      If say you aim for your game to be a post a day from everyone, that increases the chances that players just wont have the energy to commit for a day, and then another day until they lose interest. Going in the other direction is also an issue because it can feel like every action takes forever to resolve.

      Another issue is it’s very easy for your players to simply use it as an echo chamber. Since it can take such a long time for a single conversion to resolve your players will be tempted to start adding details, or create minor conversions with npcs to create some interaction. This can work against the group dynamic because the players start getting more by just talking to themselves. This is good for keeping players creative and writing, but long term it can erode the group if you let it spiral out of control.

      I stopped doing play by post games cause of these reasons and more, but my general advice is to aim conversions to be resolved as fast as possible (So get as many players as possible online at the same time to get through it) while leaving the gameplay combat to resolve at a more normal slower pace. If a fight goes on for too long it’s easy to figure out ways to end it early, but you can’t do that with conversations easily.

      2) This is actually a similar issue to having bad players. Not that I mean you have bad players, but rather DM’s think they can teach players to act in certain ways. Generally if your players arin’t naturally inquisitive you’ll have a hard time teaching them to be. You can inch them towards asking more questions but there unlikely to fully embrace questioning everything.

      I’ve run many homebrew games where players have never even asked what gods are worshiped there.

      Generally what you want to do is never need to double check a room, there not going to unless you give them a reason to (Like finding a coded message later that says there’s a hidden door in the room).

      For questioning NPC backgrounds, generally players treat npc’s at face value. Unless an npc suggests that there’s something the players need to know about this or that person they wont pry any deeper. If you want players to know someones tragic back story, someone will just have to tell them (Many players, even while rping, stick by social rules and asking for someones life story is kinda rude).

      Finally, players forget to ask important questions all the time. More often then once I’ve been in a game where asking a question was our goal, but when we finally get to the end and do some stuff- we leave forgetting to actually ask the question. One easy method is to add an npc to the party who’s goal is to basically remind them about these things, or help point out the direction when the players forget where there going.

      Probably the best way to get the idea across to your players to ask more questions is just to talk to them directly about it. They might not even be aware they can learn important details by asking. But at the end of the day if you players never ask questions about your expansive lore, just let it go, haha.

  41. lucky7 says:

    What was your favorite campaign, Rutskarn?

  42. I may be late to the game, but I just thought of something.

    Professor Rutskarn, how do you handle a campaign where the players need (or want, I guess) to do illegal things yet are too timid to do so thanks to “killer DM phobia?” For example, how about a game where the players are supervillains, and they have to commit a bank robbery? We can think of umpteen ways they could be caught, or worse, tracked back to their lair somehow, via a few simple mistakes that they might not consider (cameras, fingerprints, use of a cell phone, etc.). How do you allow such characters to have at least some sense of where the boundary between “villain version of a dungeon crawl” is vs. “you’re about to raid the king’s treasury at third level, morons” lies without either eliminating risk altogether or making jaywalking too dangerous to try?

    1. evileeyore says:

      “Professor Rutskarn, how do you handle a campaign where the players need (or want, I guess) to do illegal things yet are too timid to do so thanks to “killer DM phobia?” ”

      “How do you allow such characters to have at least some sense of where the boundary between “villain version of a dungeon crawl” is vs. “you're about to raid the king's treasury at third level, morons” lies without either eliminating risk altogether or making jaywalking too dangerous to try?”

      You’ve got two questions there but they are real similiar in answer:

      I’d talk to the players. Let them know I’m willing to err on the side of “Cool Things Get Done” rather than “Punish Every Mistake!”. That’s presuming it’s the first case. In the second case I’d make sure the Players understand that the bank robbery is the characters mission, not a whim they’ve decided to go do.

      If it’s a matter of Villain’s Campaign or Robin Hoodery, and the Players are spit-balling ideas on what to do, I’d let them know which ideas are “waaaay too risky” and which ones “just risky enough”.

      It’s okay to talk to the Players and let them know where you want to draw lines. This will also help to ensure everyone is on the same page boundary-wise.

    2. syal says:

      Couple of thoughts.

      First, I’m not sure why they would need to rob a bank. Make sure you aren’t running the game away from where the players want to go.

      As to getting them past consequences, give them success stories. Maybe they bump into a cynical cop who tells them all about a bank robbery that happened the next city over. The legendary supervillain “Ponytail Mike” just walked in to the bank in broad daylight and stole 700 pounds of cash and jewels, and the police know who and where he is, but pretend they don’t have any leads because they’re afraid to mess with him. If they’re worried about prints, they overhear a conversation about how the print database is glitching out and unusable and the physical copies all caught fire. Make it very obvious that they are up against semi-competent regular joes and not omnipotent superheroes.

      1. evileeyore says:

        “First, I'm not sure why they would need to rob a bank.”

        The same reason Robin Hood needed to rob the tax collectors? The same reason Mal and the Serenity crew needed to rob the train? The same reason the crew on Leverage ever need to rob, B&E, or sabotage anything?

        Sometimes the characters are just going to need to rob a bank, and when they do they need to know they can trust the ST not to screw them over and toss them in the dungeon. Unless that’s the real objective all along.

        1. syal says:

          When I hear “need” I think “this has to be done or there will be disastrous personal consequences”. Like, the bank is about to cut a check to a group of fascist rebels, and if they get the money they’ll be able to take over the city with their overpowered super-expensive weaponry. So you need to get the money from the bank before they do.

          Whereas Robin Hood robs tax collectors because he wants to. Since the players wanting to was an “I guess” thing I wanted to point out it’s not great to make players play lawless types.

          1. evileeyore says:

            “Since the players wanting to was an “I guess” thing I wanted to point out it's not great to make players play lawless types.”

            I took the “I guess” thing as “This is what the want to do” rather than “I’m making them rob a bank to progress the story”.

            But your’s is a valid interpretation.

            Also it can be great to take Heroes and set them to doing Wrong for all the Right reasons, within boundaries. You have to know what buttons the Characters (and Players) have and just how far you can push them before terrible things happen.

            1. syal says:

              Also it can be great to take Heroes and set them to doing Wrong for all the Right reasons, within boundaries.

              Agreed. My above scenario can be given to Lawful characters; the problem is not in presenting situations where it is hard, or even impossible, for a Lawful character to act lawfully, the problem is if you tell people they have to be a Chaotic character.

              1. evileeyore says:

                Ah, yes, Ye Olde D&D Alignment… something… mutter.

                There are reasons I will never run D&D, and reasons I refer not to play D&D, and that’s like number 4 or 5.

                1. syal says:

                  Player characters always have alignments, official or not.

    3. Skye says:

      My reaction to that would be to give the mechanics for evading pursuit. Say, a Larceny roll in Exalted, or a Profession(Thief) roll in D&D. Make it so the outcome of the mechanics is clear, and they can do things to make it better. (Drop aspects in FATE, for example.) That way, not getting caught is interesting, and when/if they get caught it wasn’t DM fiat. I find most players are pissed at the DM making them fail, but fine with the dice making them fail.

  43. wererogue says:

    No questions, just an anecdote.

    I’ve had one time in my career as a GM when I felt justified in running a session similar to the terrible one that Rutskarn described.

    I used to run, as part of a game team, a LARP that had been running for over 10 years before I became a part of it. There was in-character history, and by dint of that history the lore felt extra-authentic, since most of it existed before most of the players. We ran this system twice a week – a social session, and an adventure where a small group of players would go off on a mission, and the rest would play NPCs that they encountered on the way. Every year we’d also run one or more big weekend-long camping session where something big would go down.

    I’ve made the names generic for readability.

    At the end of one of these big events, an established character, a devout follower of the Honour god, sacrificed his soul into Hell in order to save the day. It was taken to the deepest city and locked in the darkest cell to be tortured for all eternity, and it was awesome.

    A few months later, some of his friends decided to go and rescue him.
    From hell.
    In person.

    Their master plan was to find or make a doorway to hell, go through it, fight their way to the city, bust their friend out, and go home.

    Now, the system has a pretty big power scale. The players have done some great things before. But in the past, when the entire group has gone to hell they’ve barely gone into the door and they’ve lost players, and it’s been some of the scariest times for them ever. The plane of undeath is a more pleasant place to spend a vacation.

    Even a one of the senior referees, I felt privileged to be allowed to write the adventure. I didn’t beef up any stats. I laid out a series of fiendish encounters that I would expect to see when demons got involved, I pumped up the numbers a bit and at the end of the adventure, I put a big fat “to be continued”, where the players had reached the city and could have a later adventure to rescue their friend’s soul.

    In encounter 2, four out of five died. The fifth struck a bargain to save the life of one of the dead, and as a result was tasked to walk the land, delivering the souls of children to his new master.

    As far as I know, nobody else has gone after that soul. I hope the new referees are still willing to let them try.

  44. Zak McKracken says:

    My former DND group is scattered far and wide these days, I haven’t really got anyone in my local acquaintances who fancy roleplaing… is there a good way of running a game via the internet? Group-Videochat? Custom Neverwinternights campaign? Stuff I’m completely oblivious of?

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Try Roll20

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

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!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.