#9 Pwnage Personified

By Shamus Posted Friday Mar 22, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 69 comments

At a tabletop game, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. What matters is that you win and look awesome doing it.

Remember that the GM is not your adversary. Neither are the monsters or your fellow players. They are all but minions of your true foe: The rulebooks.

Shamus Says:

Here is the payoff for setting the game within a fictional RPG system. We can set up stuff like this. You can pull off the same joke using rules from standard D&D, but then readers will think you’re lampooning the system instead of the people who deliberately work to break the system. In DMotR, I poked fun at attacks of opportunity and the grapple rules. It led to amusing discussions, but it also led to epic debates over the meaning, purpose, and usefulness of the D&D 3.5 rules. Here I wanted to make sure we were talking about the fact that pretty much all systems will suffer from this sort of thing.

The problem isn’t that the rulebooks aren’t “hardened” against exploits. The problem is that you have someone at the table actively working to exploit the system.

Shawn Says:

Man, now this was a fun comic to make. Between that sweet, sweet drawing of xXKillStealr69Xx and coming up with all of the jokes for panel 1, this was a ton of fun to do. Also, I love how Josh just butts in with his character in the middle of Marcus choking Chuck. Probably the first time when we were working on the comic that I just had a blast making it. (Actually, that’s not true, the Gnome Paladin from “No Love For Shorties” sent me in to a giggling fit for days. I just love that little guy.)

There’s a lot less to talk about when things go well than when you have a big botched joke and controversy to look back at, but that’s ok with me.

See you guys on Friday!

EDIT 2019: For the record, a lot of the jokes in panel 1 were Shawn’s work. I mean, that’s true of a lot of this series. It was very much a collaboration and most strips featured some extra joke or detail I hadn’t written. But this one especially benefited from his additions. He doubled the number of jokes in that first panel, and improved on most of the jokes I gave him.

It really helps that Shawn has a much greater knowledge of different tabletop systems. He was much better at mimicking the conventions and styles of the books.


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69 thoughts on “#9 Pwnage Personified

  1. CrimsonCutz says:

    Oh, I was under the impression the rulebook was the players greatest ally, not their true foe. Particularly the poorly written parts that allow wiggle room for being totally sure that the slightly awkward grammar means the system was intended to let you do that patently absurd thing you have in mind. Shows how little I know.

    1. Droid says:

      Yeah, it’s probably more that “rules as intended” are the powergamer’s greatest foe. “Rules as written” are far more useful to them, for the reasons you stated.

    2. Karma The Alligator says:

      No, no, it’s your greatest ally *if* you can beat it into submission first.

    3. Nimrandir says:

      I’d describe the rules more like an informant who keeps helping Cop on the Edge out of fear of what will happen if they refuse.

    4. Zak Mckracken says:

      I’d say the rules can be the weapon. But they can be blunted significantly by the GM.

      The way it used to work in most of the groups I was ever in, the GM would have to approve this kind of build, or would, at least in the case of inconclusive rules or combining things that the rules don’t expect to be combined, have the last word on what rules apply.
      That, and most of my old GMs would have made Josh’s character constantly hurt himself with those slicer gauntlets, or made some other stuff happen to him outside of battle.

      …which reminds me of the single game where I was the GM, had insufficient knowledge of the rules and got steamrolled by this guy who did not start quoting some arcane rules for horseback lance fight (against pedestrians) until mid-fight, and I wasn’t quick enough to but a lid on that … although his battle horse got stolen not much later, how unfortunate!

  2. Mattias42 says:

    Honestly even all these years later I still think that duel buckler thing is a pretty clever idea, and I’d love to see a system actually have solid enough duel-wield rules to support stuff like it.

    You could have ‘Shield’ be an outright skill, and if you crit-fail you risk outright stabbing yourself with your weapon in your haste to block? Maybe outright have it effect the weapons to, and add a risk of unbalancing your swings, or something?

    I don’t know how balanced that would be, but it sure sounds more exciting and fun then, you know, +1 to AC.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Frankly, I’m surprised there isn’t a Pathfinder character option which lets you do this. The best/goofiest dual-shielding setup I’ve found gets multiple buckler bashes in one round, but you only get the AC bonus from one.

      Your character also has to carry a falcata in one hand, but actually attacking with it isn’t necessary.

      1. Matthew Downie says:

        Pathfinder had feats that say you don’t get the two-weapon-fighting attack penalties on shield bashes, and you can treat a +5 shield (designed to give you +5 AC) as a +5 weapon (which would cost twice as much as a +5 shield) when shield bashing.

        This meant that the most effective two-weapon fighter was someone who used two shields and nothing else.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          True, but that feat isn’t available until level 11 without prerequisite-jumping shenanigans. I know rangers have a way to get Shield Master early, and decius’ post below describes a fighter archetype which does something similar.

        2. Sartharina says:

          I’m pretty sure that getting the +5 to attack and damage with a shield required a separate (weapon) enchantment than the +5 to AC enchantment

          1. Matthew Downie says:

            Not with the Shield Master feat:
            Prerequisites: Improved Shield Bash, Shield Proficiency, Shield Slam, Two-Weapon Fighting, base attack bonus +11
            You do not suffer any Two-Weapon Fighting penalties on attack rolls made with a shield while you are wielding another weapon. Add your shield’s enhancement bonus to attack and damage rolls made with the shield as if it were a weapon enhancement bonus.

      2. decius says:

        The Shield Master archetype of fighter can duel-wield spiked shields better than anyone else can dual-wield anything. The AC bonus of the shields doesn’t stack, but you can put the enhancement bonus on one and the special qualities on the other.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          It’s better than a ranger or slayer with the sword-and-shield combat style? Nice that they gave the poor class something. I suppose the focus/specialization feats help out there.

          I play a flail/shield fighter, but he has the mobile fighter archetype instead.

    2. Moridin says:

      A lot of systems DO have block(or equivalent) as a skill. Runequest jumps to mind, although IIRC it doesn’t have critical failures.

      An interesting houserule I’ve seen for Pathfinder/3.x is allowing you to sacrifice your shield to negate an attack – it makes shields better and more interesting, but isn’t too powerful since you can have at most 2 shields equipped at a time and most characters will have one or less.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        The upcoming second edition of the Pathfinder rules has this built into the system.

  3. MadTinkerer says:

    My favorite exploit of all time is still Silver Serpent venom from Ultima VII. Silver Serpent venom gives you a temporary boost to strength, then a permanent reduction. The intended use is that you use it as an ingredient in Serpentwyne, a kind of healing potion with no permanent side effects, and that you learn your lesson from the first dose of venom, avoid relying on the venom except in emergencies. If you do permanently decrease your strength, you can just use one of the various permanent strength increases to fix your strength later. The exploit is to just force feed all of your characters serpent venom until each of their strength stats goes below zero.

    Did I mention that in the original Ultima VII engine that all of your stats are 8 bit unsigned integers?

    Did I mention that having a strength of 255 lets you carry cannons around and use them like muskets?

    You can also play a gambling game called “Rat Race” in which you bet on rats like they’re horses. It is possible to win so much gold in the process that the gold overwrites other objects in memory, making parts of the map and important NPCs disappear. It’s possible to win just enough gold that you can stroll up to the final battle area because the barriers have turned to gold in your pocket, fight the one boss with broken dialogue, and win the game without it crashing. Difficult (because if some NPCs get overwritten, you can’t do this), but possible.

    Both of these exploits are fixed in Exult, unfortunately. :/

    1. default_ex says:

      My favorite would be the one I abused the living daylights out of in EverQuest. In that game weapon and armor procs (effects that trigger as a result of hitting something or being hit by something) trigger based on dexterity score. When they implemented heroic dexterity, they gave it exponential gain in the proc system. Each exponent of 2 on heroic dex doubled the proc rate. It also affected riposte and parry, both of which would avoid damage but in the case of riposte results in the potential for a massive critical (up to 10x your normal damage) which was also affected by dex. Riposte and parry primarily triggered from agility though, an heroic agility had much the same effect except it also spanned into dodge, shield blocking and one other avoidance ability I’m not remembering the name of.

      So armed with that info, after testing it of course. I removed any procs from my armor and spell line up that didn’t contribute to either healing or undead damage. Focused entirely on dex and agi for heroic stats while the rest of the tanks went for sta and str for the mitigation yields. Went for heal boosting items that normally would be second/third priority to a Paladin. Gathered every heal clickie I could find because with all that heal boosting combined with some short term abilities Paladins have to double and tripple heals, even the outdated stuff was incredibly powerful. Also gathered every item that had a heal proc both defensive and offensive triggered. I could pull 6kHP per tick in heals normally, with my paladin exclusive heal boost double that for a few minutes. Raid bosses hit around 20k a hit and hit 4 times a swing. Didn’t matter too much though, all the avoidance boost from the dex and agi assured maybe 1 hit per swing landed. By chaining 3 instant cast super heals that just happened to have refresh timers to allow indefinate chaining (at least until mana ran out), I didn’t even need healers on raids for those couple of minutes I could maintain all of those abilities. Really came in handy when the main tanks bit the dust and needed time for ressurection and buffing. I could also turn all the boost towards procs from the heroics into massive amounts of undead damage, on more than one occassion pulled more DPS than the entire rest of the raid combined (in one of the leading raid guilds no less).

      The heal and proc system of that game was very broken if you played the game of numbers. Virtual invincibility for a few minutes or steamroll all undead for a few minutes. With my brothers help, could pull both at once but it wasn’t reliable as the timing and focus split between two people was incredible.

      1. Mattias42 says:

        Think mine was the ‘Pants of Fast-travel’ I made in Morrowind.

        99 Boost Jump, for three seconds. (Or something like that. Can’t recall the exact terminology.) Pretty cheap, for the level I was at.

        Just open map, align that compass with where you wanted to go… and SWOOSH!

        Flying kitty. Jumping from one end of the island to another, with the only real limit being that you had to watch those dozens of loading screens to recast that enchantment or you’d splat pretty severely at landing.

        Sure beat slapping away all those cliff-racers, I’ll say that much.

        1. Dude Guyman says:

          Throw a 1 point slowfall on a pair of shoes or a ring or something. It will only slow you down 1%, but somehow that will completely prevent all fall damage, even if you’re still hitting the ground with the grace of a brick through a window.

          Since you don’t need to recast the jump spell as you land, you can make it only 1 second and have it be that much cheaper. I opted to make a smaller spell that only threw me forward a hundred feet at a time that I would keep casting, bunny hopping my way across the island at extreme speeds.

        2. Andy says:

          I love that the game actually *approves of this concept and demonstrates it to you.* There’s an NPC that falls from the sky and dies in front of you, carrying three copes of the Scroll of Icarian Flight, which gives you +1000 athletics. This will launch you a significant fraction of the way across the map, and kill you if you don’t read another before landing.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            There are also Boots of Blinding Speed, don’t remember the exact bonus but they make you way fast while also blind, you can however craft a separate enchanted item that helps with the blindness and just keep using the bonus.

            This is part of the reason why I liked older TES games, they didn’t care if you broke stuff.

  4. Matt says:

    Maybe it’s just my bubble of experience, but this feels to me like a uniquely D&D (or Pathfinder) thing. Sure, there’s little exploits in other systems. My favorite is GURPS and there’s arguments about Combat Reflexes being underpriced and whether or not mental Disadvantages are just free points. But only in D&D (in my experience) do you have the humongous lists of feats, spells, equipment, and combat rules that you can synergize to make these kinds of characters. I can’t think of any other tabletop game where I pore over splatbooks or dig through forums looking for “the best” cleric or rogue build.

    Sometimes it seems like this is just poor playtesting or quality control, but other times it seems like D&D (or Paizo) actively encourage it. And while it can be a barrier to entry to new players and a cause of conflict for groups, I find that these optimization exercises are a unique game within the game and something I do enjoy and somewhat miss in other systems.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      I suspect this is not a unique observation, but I’ve always likened Pathfinder to a CCG. You play the game in two stages — the game at the table (roleplaying session/Magic duel) and away from the table (character building and advancement/deck construction).

      This is likely not an accident, since Wizards of the Coast published the third edition of D&D (where much of the incremental character optimization seems to have its genesis).

      1. Matt says:

        In theory, I’m sure the designers didn’t intend for players with the latest splat to have an advantage in character building against those who only had the core set, in practice that seems to be what has happened.

        “More options” directly increases the power level of spell casters, for instance.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I wasn’t really aiming at power creep; rather, I have a hard time not seeing the similarity in how I used to sit in my room tweaking MECCG decks and how I now leaf through Pathfinder books in search of gear and feat options.

          Granted, I don’t have a ton of experience with TSR-era roleplaying, but it felt like your character build was basically done at level one.

    2. Modran says:

      Nope. You can cheese Necessary Evil, the Savage Worlds Superhero setting, for example.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I’m sure you can cheese plenty of Savage Worlds settings. Rifts springs to mind, but I think that whole setting is curdled.

    3. krellen says:

      This comment was written by a person who has clearly never played Shadowrun.

      1. Matt says:

        That is true, I never had much interest in the setting because I didn’t want to get orcs and magic in my cyberpunk.

    4. Moridin says:

      Since you bring up GURPS, I seem to recall it being possible to make a 50 point character(for comparison, 4e recommends 100-200 points for starting characters) capable on destroying the entire visible universe… Pathfinder/D&D 3.x is the most NOTORIOUS for this kind of thing, but any sufficiently complex system will have plenty of exploits.

      1. Tohron says:

        Not quite. They could only kill everyone in the universe without Toxic Resistance/Immunity. And of course, they called the modified 1-point power M.U.N.C.H.K.I.N.

      2. Matt says:

        It’s not about exploits exactly because, as you suggest, any complex system will have them. I’m speaking more of “shopping” for optimization by selecting the most powerful class or feats for the lowest “cost.” For example, why take a certain feat when you can get the same ability as a spell? Why chose this class when that class can do everything that one does, but better? In contrast, everything in GURPS is based on a points cost so that, while a given advantage may be under priced, everyone pays the same cost for it. There’s also more work for the GM and an expectation that certain abilities will be totally off-limits for reasons of genre, rather than just better balance.

    5. Hal says:

      Probably not uniquely, but D&D is the 800 lb gorilla in the room of RPGs. Things that happen to or within the D&D subculture tend to reverberate and reflect on the hobby as a whole because it casts such a large shadow.

      Which is one of the reasons to be glad that there’s that much less cheese in 5th edition D&D; it is huge compared to everything that came before it, at least in terms of popularity and uptake, so the sins of the past are far less influential on the impressions of the hobby than they used to be.

  5. shoeboxjeddy says:

    I like that this guy has an extra attack if it’s light out and an extra sneak attack when it’s dark. Now that’s thinking with portals. My first D&D character was a 4E stabby rogue and every single level I used to give myself more sneak attacks, more damage whenever I got a sneak attack, and the ability to dodge almost anything. I wasn’t using the most exotic books though, and for 4E, it seemed like they worked extra hard to prevent good moves from being all that useful. Like there was an assassin subclass that sounded cool, but all the moves were like “you can take a highly damaging attack as a daily, if you’re completely undetected.” Which if you’re in a mixed group, you’re basically never COMPLETELY undetected. Much more useful was the combo of the Halfling class feature to dodge that you could level up to make enemies reroll any critical hit. And then later, you could just refuse the ability of enemies to critical hit you, even if the DM rolled two 20s in a row. Other fun things about this character: magic weapons ALWAYS come back to you when they’re thrown. So I could just throw my weapon with abandon and then call it right back. And if the DM ever decided to pull some disarm shenanigans, I got shadow dagger bracers, that created Mass Effect esque holo-daggers to stab people with.

    ABS – Always Be Stabbing

    1. Nimrandir says:

      Disarm? Pfft — child’s play. GM’s in the know sunder your gear.

      1. decius says:

        Rust monsters.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          They’re scary, but they’re not likely to beat the rogue in initiative, and there’s probably a more metallic target in range.

      2. Andy says:

        I had a 3.5 psychic warrior with every single splatbook feat and feature relating to sundering. Doors, walls, carriages, ancient heirloom dwarven battleaxes, passed down for generations… all kindling. Super rude, and *super* effective against armed-with-weapons opponents.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          Even more fun is sundering a spellcaster’s bonded item, holy symbol, or component pouch.

    2. Andy says:

      I think he’s missing a trick. He needs a Brockabrella, so he can claim that he’s *in shadow* even during daytime.

  6. BlueHorus says:

    Ah, the ‘no rule says I can’t do it…’ line of argument. One step away from the ‘if you didn’t want your house robbed you should have bought a better lock’ mentality. Just because you can doesn’t mean it’s okay.

    But, in the interests of fun and not complaining…xXKillStealr69Xx only has two arms and no scabbards for his kukris. So where do they go when he’s quickdrawing his claymores?

    Also, Chr 4 seems like it might be a real-life average for this table. Though Casey seems okay, if a bit unimaginative/inflexible.

    1. Syal says:

      The enemy is the scabbard.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      He tosses them up in the air. Same thing when he’s eating, or shaking hands in a friendly manner.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        That xXKillStealr69Xx is capable of behaving in a friendly manner is a pretty big assumption. He’s probably also found a way to obtain a clear spindle ioun stone at character creation.

    3. decius says:

      He holds them. Nowhere in the rules does it say that you can’t hold more than one item in each hand.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Although the DM might make you throw dex saving throws.

        Then again, with those stats I doubt that’d be a problem.

        1. Sartharina says:

          There is nowhere in the rules that says you have to make a dex saving throw to have your character function per his feats.

  7. kdansky says:

    I think it is about time to bring out this article which I’ve recently read (as it was recently written) by Sam:


    Why now? Because Josh plays the game as written, and he plays it really well. The others are not playing DnD as it was written, instead they play their own version which is more about role-playing, and less about combat stats.

    I’m not going to rehash Sam’s essay here, as he puts it much better himself. It’s not the shortest read, but certainly worthwhile to anyone who like tabletop RPGs. In fact most of the DnD problems that Chainmail Bikini touches on stem from the fact that it has roots in DnD, and not in Burning Wheel, or Dogs in the Vineyard, or Dread. In those systems, you don’t get these problems, because the systems prevent them, just like a good rule-set should.

    It’s like using the Gamebryo engine and then running into physics glitches: Not the fault of the player, but the fault of the rules set.

    1. Kylroy says:

      I think he’s taking an excessively narrow view of D&D. Just because it’s designed for dungeon crawls doesn’t mean that everyone who doesn’t play an autistic murder machine is doing it wrong.

      1. Gethsemani says:

        I agree. Having tried everything from the more narrative of RPGs (like Fiasco and Night Witches), the traditional storytelling games (World of Darkness) to simulationist games (Swedish NeoTech), I can safely say that pretty much all of them are shaped by the group itself. Night Witches is meant to be a narrative game about the hardships of women in a men’s world while fighting for their lives and country in WW2, but depending on the group I’ve been with it has ranged from pure military simulation to feminist reflection on gender, status and capability to a political drama about oppressive ideologies and how they grind people down. Night Witches is not a badly designed game because it allows for all these different ways of playing, depending on what the group wants, but rather it is a strength of the system that all these things can co-exist.

        I can sort of agree with the critique of D&D that the rules encourage Murder Hobo-styles of play if you play rigidly by the rules, but just looking at the rules when critiquing a TTRPG also seems really weird to me. Like if you critique a movie only by the moving pictures and not the sound that goes with it. Because the narrative and collaborative parts of a TTRPG are just as important as the Rules as Written part. Rule Zero and its amendment (the goal of the game is for everyone to have fun) are vital to understanding the appeal of TTRPGs. That appeal being the ability to play pretend a character of your choice within a framework of rules and narratives that regulate the interactions of the make-belief.

        1. Kdansky says:

          You don’t need DnD for Rule Zero or having fun.

          Stop giving DnD credit for your own hard work.

          1. Gethsemani says:

            I know the argument, I read the link you provided. However, as I said, Rule Zero is essentially the rules reference to the Narrative aspect of the separate but equal Rules and Narrative separation that exists in RPGs. D&D (or WoD, or Shadowrun or whichever system you like) provides you with Rules. Rules exist to arbitrate the outcome of character actions. Most systems also provide a Narrative framework; a narrative setting, a theme or mood or idea at the core of the experience (as broad as “ya’ll adventurer murder-hobo’s that steal monster treasure” or as narrow as “you’re female Soviet bomber pilots in WW2”). To this the group adds their own narrative ideas, their own wishes for what they want from the RP etc..

            Thus just looking at the rules of any given RPG is, as I said, like watching a movie on mute and trying to formulate a coherent criticism of it. Citizen Kane or the Avengers looks awfully stupid if you can’t hear the dialogue. The rules help set the mood and the focus of the game, but to disregard the narrative aspect of the game also means you are missing out on the context the rules exist in. One might say that Rule Zero is the group doing the hard work and that’s partially true, but it is more of a modifier to the pre-existing game then it is total free form “my fun”, as the group is tailoring a system to their needs.

            In the video games community, an infinitely moddable game (like Skyrim) is not criticized for the players ability to make it the thing they want, it is heralded as a great feature. Why this would be any different in TTRPGs is beyond me, apart from the great ego boost it must be to be the ultimate contrarian who hates on the most popular RPG.

            1. Syal says:

              the Avengers looks awfully stupid if you can’t hear the dialogue.

              I actually don’t think you can find a scene in The Avengers that can’t still be easily followed with the sound off.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                The scene where Black Widow tricks Loki into revealing his plan for the Hulk?

                1. Syal says:

                  You can try it by watching the scene with the sound down and no subtitles. (Try to ignore the Youtube video name.)

                  You may or may not want the earlier scene of Black Widow being interrogated for context on how she works, but that one works without sound as well I think.

                  I think it’s easy enough to follow. Obviously you don’t know exactly what they’re saying, but the body language and camera work tells you how the conversation is going; the way Loki gets more menacing and the way Black Widow seems to shrink away, followed by the sudden change of expressions at the end tells you the nature of the exchange.

                  The cutaways are the most confusing aspect, but the repeated static length and the “virus detected” on the monitor in the second one clues you in that this is a short montage of the other characters discovering new problems.

            2. The Ludite says:

              Thinking of the ability to mod a game as a feature of that game is equally silly. Skyrim doesn’t get credit for all the hard work the modding community does, especially when it’s the modding community that’s often FIXING problems with the original game. If the ability to mod Skyrim is a “feature,” then the Unity compiler is the ultimate sandbox game. Make whatever you want!

              Anyway, the ultimate thesis of the series isn’t even “Let’s predict the outcome of every game based solely on the rulebook.” It’s more like “The rules of the game have an impact on how you tell the story whether you realize it or not.” It explores the ways those rules impact players and provides examples of how rules can help and harm different kinds of stories. The point of Part One is “If you change the rules because you don’t like how they effect the story, you are no longer playing D&D.”

              It’s really that simple.

        2. Syal says:

          Like if you critique a movie only by the moving pictures and not the sound that goes with it.

          You can absolutely watch movies with the sound off, and for good ones you can still follow the main beats. The moving picture part should be interesting enough to hold attention by itself. At the very least, it shouldn’t be undermining the impression the sound is making.

          That’s the thing about the D&D rules; the system has to spell out “the players should throw out the rules when they interfere with the experience”, because the rules are written in such a way that they’re expected to interfere with the experience.

    2. Retsam says:

      I think there’s a lot of merit to the idea of looking at the ways that a particular ruleset encourages or enables player misbehavior. And it’s certainly possible that D&D is a more flawed system than most, in that regard.

      I don’t agree his thoughts on Rule Zero, and so I stopped reading because I disagree with the premise of analyzing D&D as if Rule Zero didn’t exist. It might be an interesting exercise from a game-theoretic perspective, but it’s neither how the game is played in practice, nor even the way that it is meant to be played, since Rule Zero has always been an intended part of the experience. There’s a bit of irony that a series about “D&D, following all the rules” starts by throwing out one of the rules.

      Ultimately he seems to argue that each TTRPG should be focused and carefully balanced to cater to a specific play style, and there’s validity to a game designed that way, of course, but I think there’s also a lot of validity to D&D (and Pathfinder’s) “jack-of-all-trades” approach. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the game being a base set of rules that the players can tweak as desired.

      1. Matthew Downie says:

        Yes. D&D is the ‘default’ role-playing system. It’s the one people tend to try first. This means it benefits from taking a flexible ‘game for everyone’ approach so as not to drive away as potential players by not being what they wanted.
        “This background/inspiration subsystem is intended to encourage role-playing, but you can just ignore it if your group is role-playing well enough without it.”
        “You can have instant-death traps if you think that’ll be exciting, or not if your players are have a strong attachment to their characters and might get upset.”
        “You can role-play out every conversation, or just roll dice for them, or both, depending on if your players enjoy conversations or dice-rolling more.”

      2. GoStu says:

        Yeah, I checked out of that article right around the “Rule Zero is Wrong” section. Rule Zero isn’t just a rule, it’s an inescapable inevitability of the whole concept of a TTRPG. The rules, no matter what’s between the covers of the book(s), are only ever going to what the Game Master enforces.

        Rule Zero isn’t, as he words it, “change whatever you need to in order to have fun!”. As far as I know, the print versions of Rule Zero are more along the lines of “whatever the Dungeon Master says, goes, regardless of anything that may be printed here”.

        The writer on that page then elaborates about times where the book “offers no rule at all” and where it just offers guidelines. Frankly I’ve never seen this in ANY version of a Player’s Handbook (those are rules) and the vagueness comes in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Calling back to Rule Zero again where the DM can enforce or not enforce whatever they want… there are no hard rules on the DM. There is only the best possible advice the authors think they can give.

        1. Syal says:

          So while the first part of the article looks like a derision of the idea of players implementing Rule Zero, I think it’s actually just poorly presented. The summary at the bottom:

          So no more Rule Zero crutches. No more players doing their own thing, and then giving credit to D&D for the good stories they create all on their own.

          is something I can agree with; If players are implementing Rule Zero, it’s because of a weakness in the game system, not a strength.

          1. Matthew Downie says:

            Generally it’s just the GMs doing their own thing; ‘players’ implies everyone at the table can make up rules.

            And I don’t think GMs are shy about taking credit for their contributions to the game.

            If the GM is using Rule Zero it’s because of a weakness in the game system (for example, the way I don’t give out Inspiration as a reward for playing the personality that’s written on the character sheet, because I don’t remember what’s written on the character sheet, I only remember the personality that I’ve seen played). But it’s also because of a strength in the game system – I can ignore rules, and I can make up rules, and long as I’m paying attention, things don’t break.

            1. Syal says:

              But it’s also because of a strength in the game system – I can ignore rules, and I can make up rules, and long as I’m paying attention, things don’t break.

              The point is that Rule Zero is not exclusive to D&D. The reason it’s called Rule Zero is because it’s the unwritten rule at the base of every game. The players are the only ones enforcing the rules, and if they decide not to enforce one, or add a new one, the game is forced to accomodate them. Every house rule in every game works off Rule Zero. When Monopoly players decide that Free Parking means players get to collect all the taxes from cards, they’re invoking Rule Zero. When Uno players decide you can jump your turn and change the turn order if you have the exact same card as the one on the table, it’s an application of Rule Zero. When cribbage players decide a dead hand is actually worth 19 points, it’s Rule Zero.

              All D&D did was write it down. The system shouldn’t get credit for that. There’s no world where players aren’t going to use it anyway.

  8. Retsam says:

    Does “xXKillStealr69Xx” feel a bit dated? Thankfully, I feel like the “xXEdgyNameXx” trend is dying. I’m wondering what a more “modern” version would be. I guess I could go check what are Reaper mains in Overwatch using for usernames nowadays…

    1. BlueHorus says:

      it probably wasn’t dated back in 2007…
      …maybe. Not sure on that. no-one says pwn anymore, do they?

      Though I’m also interested in the modern equivalent. Maybe some political flamebait like ‘LockUpHillary’?

      1. Pax says:

        I’ve seen guys running around with names like that still fairly recently. I think the stranger thing is that someone would use a name like that for their tabletop game. A lot of the weirdness in that name is specific to online game issues, such as trying to find a unique name. You add Xx and 69 and misspellings when “KillStealer” is already taken.

  9. The Big Brzezinski says:

    If a players wants to play a fantasy robotic super soldier with no social skills, let ’em. You can always make them pay for a highly skewed build by forcing them into normal everyday situations. Doesn’t matter how many times he could kill a guy before he hit the ground, four charisma isn’t going to intimidate anyone because that’s what four charisma means.

    It might not even end badly. They may stick Eagle’s Splendor and Owl’s Wisdom on the super barbarian and send him up to the formal party to impress all the toffs with this “savage nobility”, while the sneaky party members steal the baron’s secret correspondence.

  10. John says:

    I loved this panel then and I love it now. It is just beautiful. It is funny and I think we can all think of someone like this.

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