#30 Porkomancy

By Shamus Posted Sunday Jun 9, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 30 comments

Players are so predictable. Their next action is always “whatever you least expect”.

Shamus Says:

During the original run, this one was spoiled about six strips earlier when people began pointing out the relative worth of +1 Sword vs. +0 Pig.

Shawn Says:

The “Headdesk” avatar saw a lot of use on Livejournal in the months and years following this comic.


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30 thoughts on “#30 Porkomancy

  1. Scampi says:

    This kind of occurrence is why I’ll never believe the claim that GMs love proactive players. On the other hand, there are GMs like Fear the Boot’s Chad, who apparently believes a game is only successful if he doesn’t have to do anything at all and the players run the game all by themselves.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Nah, you just have to figure out objectives that are consistent enough that the player can’t break them by thinking about them for two minutes.

      Eg: “You are the last surviving scion of the Targaryen line. The Usurper has sent assassins after you all your life, for you are the only remaining threat to his legitimacy. The other PCs are your trusted servants/bodyguards/companions. You are in the process of doing X to take back your throne.”

      If you can hook the PCs, the worst case scenario is that they give up on X and find some other devious, extremely brutal way to take back their throne.

      (it is also the most likely scenario)

      1. Scampi says:

        The danger I see is more along the line of: The players have some goal in mind that, at a time, may randomly coincide with the GM’s goals, but later be revealed to be completely out of line with the GM’s intended goals. This is where the GM either needs to have a good plan in place to account for the switch in PC objectives or will have to rewrite significant parts of the setting if unlucky.
        In the case of the comic, the players are perpetually subverting the GM’s expectations because they have absolute disregard for the effort he expended to create the scenario, however small it may have been. There’s a place for this kind of player, but I think it requires a very different kind of DM and game system combination than Casey and some D&D knockoff.

        1. Zaxares says:

          It’s easiest if you have a player who cleaves closely to the typical “Good, Upstanding Hero” archetype (usually anybody who’s playing a Cleric or Paladin) because they tend to follow the traditional Hero’s Journey trope well and perform standard heroic stuff. The rest of the group will then typically fall in line (you DON’T want to piss off your healer. ;) ), and you can then tweak the adventure to also cater to the other player’s long-term goals (accrual of physical/magical/political power, phat lewts, a sweet-ass pirate ship etc.) so they get invested as well.

        2. Gethsemani says:

          And this is why the new Vampire: The Masquerade (whatever other faults it may have) is absolutely right in advocating for “Session 0”. Taking a session to ensure that everyone knows the deal with the campaign, that their characters fit the campaign and the group and that the GM and players are on the same page about stuff like campaign arc , theme, mood and setting tends to pay off massively down the line.

          If you have a bunch of pro-active (and slightly spastic) players, it is a great boon to ensure that they are set on similar goals as the GM. So that instead of trying to become pirates after the first quest, they will know that they should focus on fighting Deus Bajj and his minions.

        3. Mike P. says:

          Wait, why would the GM have “goals”? :P

      2. Matthew Downie says:

        Whoops! The last surviving scion antagonised the rest of the party by bossing them around and then died. The surviving party members are now some failed bodyguards with no claim on the throne or leadership experience. Now what?

        1. King Marth says:

          Simple: The game is over, because the primary goal has failed. Move on to a new game. A game where the players succeed regardless of active attempts at sabotage is the “railroad” people hate, where consequences don’t matter.

          It could be a new game with the same (surviving) characters in the same world, especially if actual play managed to reveal something which all the players actually agreed on. Otherwise, why are you participating in a time-intensive leisure activity with people who hate you and want to see you suffer?

        2. Sartharina says:

          Weekend at Bernie’s time! Put the corpse on the throne! Or undermine the whole damn thing.

        3. Syal says:

          Weekend at Bernie’s is now what.

        4. Agammamon says:

          Easy. Now they’re wandering bandits, roaming around looting tombs – which is what they wanted to do in the first place.

      3. Joe says:

        Okay, I faff about on the wrong continent for the next three years, getting embroiled in their political systems and never making progress west no matter how much I want and plan to.

    2. Nessus says:

      No, that’s not true. IMO the golden rule is to write problems, context, and tools, but not solutions. Writing solutions is the players part, and genuinely wanting to see what they do should be part of your fun as a GM. Of course you’re going to hate proactive players if you’re trying to railroad.

      …And of course never confuse your NPCs priorities with your own. The pig farmer only determines the pig farmer’s win state, not the GM’s win state or the PCs’ win state. The PCs may see an entirely different problem than the pig farmer according to their priorities, and that should be perfectly fine, because the pig farmer’s problem should not be the GM’s problem.

      The problems Casey’s experiencing are of his own making. He hasn’t considered the PCs having different priorities than the pig farmer. He hasn’t given the players/PCs any personal stakes to hook them into either the pig farmer quest or the larger Douche’Bag plot (“you currently exist in the same area as the problem” is not the same as “your problem”), and he’s trying to lead/force them into a specific predetermined solution. He’s doing everything completely wrong-ass backward, so of course it’s blowing up in his face. It would blow up for the same reasons even if the players weren’t comically terrible.

      1. Ed Weatherup says:

        I agree on the golden rule: even thinking about possible solutions tends to shape the GM’s thinking and attitude when playing through the challenge. I try (with mixed success) to be slightly on the players’ side “You and me against the world!” which really means giving more leeway for interesting and fun solutions, but sometimes you just have to let the players shortcut things; “We see the assassin in the Inn. Why don’t we just sneak up behind him when he’s in the jakes and put a crossbow bolt through his kidneys …” to which the only response is: “Yes, well, he’s unsuspecting, in a confined space with no room to dodge. No need to roll. He falls face down in the urine drain. And so, the next morning …”

    3. Witness says:

      My most recent D&D group had a kind of meta-rule, where at the end of each session we spent some time talking about what they party wanted to do next. The DM always had ~3 or so additional bits of “this interesting thing is in the news” that we could pursue or not, but never had to actually flesh all of them out into encounters, because we’d agree as a group if we wanted to pursue one of those or some other plans of our own.

      I think there may have been one occasion where we changed our mind(s) collectively between sessions, but since it was all done over e-mail openly with the GM included, it worked out.

      Not the kind of thing you can do in a “Players vs. GM” mindset, but I don’t think I’d even try to run a game any other way at this point.

    4. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      I’m a GM and I love it when my players fuck my plans over. I overplay some frustration to let them enjoy whomping me, and then I pull out another threat to keep the tension (with bigger rewards).

  2. Wangwang says:

    I want to ask a questions since i’m not a D&D player myself. But from this comic and The Gamers series, I feel like the DM have more works for them then the players, since they have to come up with the scenarios and respond to all the players actions. Isn’t it kind of unfair for one person to take a load of burden when they all playing the same game?

    And yes, I know they could just rotate the role of DM in the groups. But if being a DM is like Shamus describe then I would really dread when my turn to be DM come. (If I ever have change to play.)

    1. Bubble181 says:

      The short answer is: “it depends”.
      The longer answer is: in comics and other media, you tend to see the same type of group and game over and over again – and not the most successful ones.
      A lot is determined by the type of players, the type of DM, the type of game you want to run, and the type of system you’re using.
      I’ve played all kinds of games (though, actually, in a fairly limited amount of systems). Being a DM can be “just another player who’s also doing some extra chores on the side”, akin to the player who’s the bank in Monopoly, it can also be “the storyteller who dreams up a whole new world with its own lore, story, and adventures, and the players are delighted to be allowed to play i nthe world and discover all the goings-on around them”.

      Some systems really lend themselves to being a fighting game – where it all comes down to my dice rolls vs yours, and it’s all looking up numbers in tables and you better like counting and arithmetics and Excel tables”. D&D 3.5, while I really like it, is a bit like this. Everything you want to do can be played out with dice…Which means the players are constantly trying to game the system, and a DM better be very aware of twenty five thousand different obscure rules and twists.
      GURPS, or Goblins!, or Muppet Smash (not available on line AFAIK), don’t lend themselves to this at all – some of those literally don’t have any numbers at all, and they just work on a success-or-fail system where everything works, but nothing quite the way you might expect.

      Being the DM can be a great role in a lot of ways. It can be a way to live out your creativity, much like someone might build a level in Mario World and let other players play through it. Or like Minecraft where you build a world and other players can come and look around it and engage with it – some might try to break it down, some might just wander around and enjoy, some might try to build on the groundwork you’ve laid out. Being the DM can also be a job where you’re the designated “opponent” who all the other players are trying to “beat”.

      1. Algeh says:

        I love GURPS, but it certainly has a ton of obscure rules and ways to “break the game” by using weird things that weren’t meant to go together and be used that way, particularly in character creation because it’s trying to support so many different possible types of characters. (Note: I played more 3rd edition than 4th, so it’s possible that it’s less egregiously true in the current edition. I just don’t have as much time to game anymore.)

        However, what GURPS also has that D&D, particularly 3.5, does not, is a strong culture of the GM being allowed to veto character builds that are not going to work for their game and make some statements about what kinds of characters the players should be creating. This is because pretty much every GURPS GM has the recollection of The One Time They Tried Not Doing That, and how the game turned into a complete dumpster fire due to being something like Indiana Jones, Lancelot, an Ent, Drew Carey, and a bizarrely overpowered Tribble with telekinetic powers fight Space Pirates (possibly while they’re supposed to be looking for the Holy Grail and/or in the middle of a Cold-War-era spy story). Since everyone knows they have to discuss their character plans with the GM, what generally happens after a while is that some kind of effort is made to get everyone on the same page before creating characters, and with luck that effort includes them creating characters who are likely to go along with the general concept of what the GM was planning to run a campaign about. (“Create characters who are all space mercenaries. TL9, 150 points” or “Arthurian-ish knights, 200 points, no PC magic” may not be a lot of detail, but even that much guidance gives you a shot of everyone showing up to play the same game, and with many groups I remember an active back-and-forth as people asked the GM if they could have X or Y.)

        D&D tends to have an idea that any “legal” character can be played (although I’ve certainly played in plenty of D&D groups where this was not the case), and that can lead to a bunch of characters with no interest in the thing the DM thought they’d be doing.

        (Regardless of system, I tend to give out a character creation requirement of “give me a reason why your character would be interested in doing X”, where X is whatever the first adventure hook is. This shifts the motivating the PCs problem back onto the players, who will probably come up with more interesting reasons than I will.)

    2. Scampi says:

      As someone who kind of acted as a perma-DM in his entire RPG career, I have to say it’s not unfair per se.
      If the players don’t actively sabotage everything, it’s usually very fulfilling for me to create scenarios, think of plots and character arcs, ponder the implied social issues of settings and the material problems a specific world is facing. I’m currently in the “general planning” phase for a game and I love every minute I’m thinking about it because I’m so excited for some of the plot points I have in mind and the way they will impact the PCs.
      The ultimate execution may fall behind my expectations, but since the effort of planning is exciting me itself, it will be rewarding even if something prevents it from ever coming to fruition.
      Also, since I’ll be dealing with new players this time, I have the opportunity to kind of keep them on rails for a while, admit it (they won’t be too experienced, so I can justify it as a way to bring them up to speed on rules and a bit of world lore) and leave them off the rails once they appear to be comfortable enough with their characters and the rules to strike out on their own (and maybe have gained a few levels first). I hope I can influence the way they do and want to experience the game in some way, but if it doesn’t work out, I had at least some fun with the preparations.

      Of course, if you can’t enjoy the process of creating your scenario, adventures and the general world and plot, it might be significantly less fun.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Then again, if you don’t enjoy creating the world and directing the story, then you probably shouldn’t be the DM. Because that’s pretty much their role.

    3. Wangwang says:

      Thanks for the answers.

    4. Nessus says:

      The word “work” is the key assumption there. The distinction between “work” and “play” is subjective. People who GM a lot tend naturally to be people who actively enjoy that sort of creative task in its own right, so for them it’s not more work, it’s more play.

      Kind of like mini painting: some players don’t find it fun, and so consider it “work” they have to do to get to the “play” part of the hobby, while others do find it fun in its own right and thus consider all of it equally “play”. Still others might love painting minis but be “meh” on the games.

      In this light, one could actually consider it unfair in the GM’s favor. It’s only unfair against the GM if that person is being made to GM despite not enjoying it. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a group that does this. GMing tends to be strictly a volunteer position, and groups with rotating GMs tend to be so because multiple members enjoy GMing and vie for the opportunity to be next.

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        To add on to this, you could compare the DM’s work to the PC’s character creation process. Some people see it as a chore, but plenty of people love to create their own characters, or come up with the most powerful or enjoyable combinations they can find. This can be a lot of fun even before you ever use the characters in a game.

        In addition, a GM usually has a lot more to manage, but as the storytellr they often also have a lot of power and leeway to adjust the world as they see fit.
        And a good player group will understand the limitations of their DM, and won’t actively try to break the game (or understand that the game will be more chaotic and slapdash if they do)

        1. Karma The Alligator says:

          Some people see it as a chore, but plenty of people love to create their own characters, or come up with the most powerful or enjoyable combinations they can find.

          And some people randomise everything and try to make that character work. It can be great fun.

    5. evileeyore says:

      “But from this comic and The Gamers series, I feel like the DM have more works for them then the players, since they have to come up with the scenarios and respond to all the players actions.”

      Some GMs, sure. Not me though. My style is to gin all the ‘pregame’ information up over a few months, mostly in my head, some of it gets written down, but it’s pretty minimal. Call it one sheet of ‘game background’ and maybe a Player map. Maybe.

      During I come up with stuff on the fly. Sometimes I pull out an old pregenned adventure to use the maps and stuff from, but just as often I don’t.

  3. zompist says:

    Chuck’s plan is clever and totally legit. And it doesn’t spoil anything– the DM should be happy to go along.

    But the DM doesn’t have to make things easy. Why indeed would a pig farmer give an expensive sword for the return of a few pigs? Obviously, those pigs were more than they seemed. Bandits came by and he made the pigs eat the family treasure. So, he’s not interested in just getting new pigs, he needs his pigs back.

    (Sure, the treasure should be there in the pig pen. But did they bother to search it…?)

    1. BlueHorus says:

      ‘You come back to the farm…and find that the farmer has given up waiting for you and just bought more pigs for himself. He refuses to pay for the pigs you’re carrying and tells you to bugger off – he had to sell his +1 longsword to afford a new herd!’

      …It’s what I would have done once they actually followed through with the ‘starve out the goblins’ plan. Well, that or the ‘farmer hires someone else after a few days’ suggestion.

      1. zompist says:

        That’s good too!

        Casey is kind of bad at thinking on his feet, but a Casey-like solution would be: more goblins at the farm! Or wherever they go. Gotta get some use out of those miniatures.

    2. Caledfwlch says:

      As pigs are long dead, the treasure was either on goblins themselves (and in that case, Josh found it when he strategically murdered all the goblins), or it was in that very chest party had looted.

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