#46 Substitution

By Shamus Posted Sunday Aug 4, 2019

Filed under: DM of the Rings 24 comments

Characters are like underpants: Some people spend a lot of time worrying about how they look, even though others rarely see them. Also, you should never share them.

Shawn Says:

I’d ramble about the recycled art in this one (panels 4 and 6), but I am very sleepy at the moment.

Edit 2019: This is yet another variant of the classic Eric vs the Dread Gazebo story. Remember, if the joke you’re using is famous enough then it’s not theft, but homage.

Anyway, the story below is a 100% true thing that happened to me sometime around 1981.

INT – Mom’s Car – Summer Day in Butler

Mom is driving Shamus and Patrick past the Veterans Hospital. Shamus is about 10 years old and Pat is about 8.

Mom: (Nodding towards the hospital.) Looks like they finished building the gazebo.

Patrick: Who built it?

Mom: The veterans. Someone decided it would be a good thing for the patients so have a project, so they built that gazebo.

Shamus: (Looking at all the many cars in the parking lot.) Which one is the gazebo?

They still tease me about this from time to time.


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24 thoughts on “#46 Substitution

  1. tmtvl says:

    Seeing a player take over a character from someone else is new to me. I have had our GM take control of a character when one of our players wasn’t around, though. Also, funny seeing Steve’s head on Ramgar.

    1. evileeyore says:

      Had this exact thing happen to me in a game once (post-apoc campaign). I was going to miss the next session so I told the GM “Just keep my character in the car, or if necessary, run him like an NPC under your control to do what you think I do if he’s forced into a situation”… GM: “So, run away a lot?” “Exactly.” *

      During the week I hung with my best friend, Mr ADHAD, and he said, “Hey dude, I’m between characters, I can run your character at the game no problem!” To which I replied “No, don’t. I’ve already told the GM to run him as an NPC.” “Awwww….”

      Anyway, you can guess what happened. He showed up to game, informed them that I told him to run my character, and he proceeded to run him the way he runs all his characters… loaded full ADHAD and incompetence. Suffice to say the character died, just his previous three and next four characters did… in a game where character death only happened because you were dumb enough to eat the glowing rocks, drink the bottle labeled poison, inject yourself with a the weird syringe, leap off a very tall building†, set yourself on fire to stop insects from attacking you, deliberately wake up the Ginormous Oversized Dire Bear Of Death, and try to punch out the NannyBot that was three times bigger than you whose “basket full of children” was a cage strapped to it’s back full of broken bones and gore.

      So, literally what normal folks would call “very bad ideas”.

      * Ironically my character (up to the point he died) was the most combat capable of the game, with zero combat skills. But I did have three psionic powers that applied quite well to combat, TK Grab (for tripping and shoving enemies about, and retrieving stuff from far away), TK Throw (far throwing small things very fast, like turning pebbles into bullets), and TK Crush/Rend (My TK could grab things and apply pressure to smash it or pull it apart),

      † My character’s death. Captian AADHAD thought TK meant the character could fly… despite that never happening and the GM explaining that the first time I tried it in the very first session. And Our GM was playing very old school, he said “Are you sure you want to leap off the building? That will kill you.” And once your hand leaves the piece, that’s the play.

      To be fair to the GM, when he found that I didn’t give Mr. ADHAD permission, he did immediately come up with a “save” for the character. Since the character always wore a biker’s helmet with a full darkened face mask and didn’t say anything during that game… it could have been a doppelgänger. But I had already rolled up a new character, which was a combat droid whose weapons had all been switched out for gardening and home repair tools and I thought that would be more fun that the cowardly, but insanely combat competent character.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Ah yes, the classic ‘LOLS SO RANDOM’ player, bane of DMs and RP groups everywhere. Usually found playing a Kender, Nilbog, Malkavian or [insert different-system equivalent here].

        Weird thing: They often genuinely don’t get why people find them annoying, or why no-one else seems to find their antics as amazing as they do.
        Sad thing: They almost always warp the group for the worse. One of these players recently-ish left our group, and it was amazing – without Mr Jackass taking up all the attention, a couple of other players who’d done little more than sit in the corner previously suddenly started getting more involved. And they solved all the problems in remarkably short order.

        It’s also such an common archetype that I’m surprised that one hasn’t turned up in Chainmail Bikini yet – though Marcus and Steve both have aspects of them.

        1. Joshua says:

          Kender were one of the worst ideas for a character race in D&D. They’re given a set of personality quirks that should have meant their extinction centuries ago.

          Unfortunately, most players of them don’t realize that everyone else in the companions tolerated Tasslehoff not just because of shared backstory, but also because of author fiat. As you said, the players of these characters don’t realize why they’re playing such annoyances. I think there’s also a bit of what Shamus talked about with Kai Leng: these characters exist to take center stage, all the time, making the game all about them.

          1. evileeyore says:

            Funny enough… I play Kenders and Malks. Serious, deadly, scary Kender and Malks…

          2. methermeneus says:

            There’s a certain balance to playing a kender (or a Malkavian). You have to put a bit of effort into being in character without being a complete ass of a player. I did manage to be a decent kender once by deliberately poking at things I thought my character would be fascinated by but probably weren’t going to mess anything up. (Oh, hey isn’t this a cool rock formation? Those crystal flecks are so shiny! Right guys? Guys? Hey, wait for me!)

            Honestly, I think kender is harder, since they’re inherently annoying to the party, while malks are all mentally disturbed. It’s not necessarily easy to play a character with a mental illness, but madcap fishmalk insanity is not really a very common manifestation of mental illness irl, so if you have a handle on that, you can run a pretty compelling character. (That said, I do love the fishmalkiness of the Bloodlines Malkavian character. “No, you stop!”)

            The mistake wasn’t in making kender and Malkavians a playable race and clan; the problem was making them base choices. They’re definitely better off as NPCs or in the hands of players who can respect the fine line between OOC and character so annoying the group wants to get rid of the player who rolled up the character.

            1. evileeyore says:

              Oh, I agree. Kender, as portrayed in the Dragonlance Saga, are annoying little gits. Best lit on fire so they can’t steal from you in the dark. Same with the way most Players run fish Malks. They make great distractions on the other side of the city from you.

              But, if run seriously, both can be scary and effective. Or, in the case a truly communist Kender (what’s mine is yours is mine), who would die for his friends, who is a master thief by habit and vocation, and who knows no fear, they can be scary and endearing.

            2. Sleeping Dragon says:

              Yeah, I know GMs who just outright ban Malkavians, and I know players who always want to play one because they interpret it as being “lol random I can do anything I want when I’m bored”. Leaving the sensitive issue of actual mental illnesses aside as a long time Malkavian player I always thought this should outright not be allowed and whoever wants to play a Malk should either be known to the GM as a player or have a talk to before they do. Though to be fair this kind of player will find a way to be disruptive no matter their clan, race or class.

              It’s honestly been a while since I’ve played but to recall some of the Malks I made:
              -one of the very early ones just had a mechanical quirk where every night he’d semi-randomly switch some of his mental and social skills/characteristics on account of different “voice” being in influence, I now realise I was too inexperienced to roleplay this one properly or entertainingly.
              -a gambling addict with tendency to take risks at the prospect of (even somewhat unlikely) gain, always doing that “one more bet and I’ll be set” thing, even if said “bet” is “coup against the prince”;
              -an academic with the fixation that the supernatural does not exist and everything can be explained scientifically (lots of technobabble: ghosts are uncollapsed quantum states of a person who was unlikely to die!), lots of fun in a campaign where the Fey show up (banality through the roof). Spiced him up with a touch of paranoia, or as I described him “not paranoid, he just likes double reinforced doors, monitored by three separate camera systems. It’s rough in the academic world and his research is revolutionary”. Now that I think about it I seem to remember Malkavian primogen in Bloodlines had a similar bent?

              1. methermeneus says:

                Yeah, Alistair Grout was doing mad science on vampires to try and save his (already actually dead) wife. A stark contrast to the Malkavian version of the player character, who trades bad jokes with the TV.

                I only played one game of VtM, and I played a Malkavian who had been an unwilling ghoul to a Tzimicse in life, and he was paranoid about the fae, because his old master used to capture and experiment on them, and he thought they’d want revenge for the part he played. He also heard voices and hallucinated colored lights, which played well with fae powers and the fact that fae have a rainbow aura when viewed with Auspex. I do have a bit of paranoia myself (mild enough to be controllable without medication, thank God), so I knew that it’s not a condition that manifests loudly most of the time. Poor Micky Knickknacks, though, just curled up into a ball and cried if he couldn’t find his four-leaf clover and iron horseshoes.

                (Yeah, I tend towards overcomplicated backstories. Except my fighter when my Pathfinder group did Skull and Shackles. Then my backstory was literally the song “The Last Saskatchewan Pirate.”)

            3. Joshua says:

              “The mistake wasn’t in making kender and Malkavians a playable race and clan; the problem was making them base choices. They’re definitely better off as NPCs or in the hands of players who can respect the fine line between OOC and character so annoying the group wants to get rid of the player who rolled up the character.”

              This would tie in with the first of my two theories on why Dragonlance pretty much failed as a setting (as opposed to its novels, where it was a great success). This is of course pre-Chaos War, where it appears that everything afterwards was an attempt to really shake up the status quo.
              1. Everything was way too limited, both on the PC and DM sides. Very few PC racial choices comparatively speaking, so of course Kender as a base race is more problematic (one of the other few, Tinker Gnomes, are almost as annoying). When they started adding more classes, the response was often that class has no powers or they have powers, but will be hunted by the towers of high sorcery. You could say a related problem was trying to incorporate (1st Edition) rules too explicitly into the story setting.
              2. Everything was way too filled in, like getting a coloring book where the authors already did 90% of the drawings before handing it to you. Forgotten Realms was way more of an open sandbox for DMs and players. This isn’t related to the Kender issues, but just in case you were curious of my #2. I do think it was problematic in the sense of world-building to have this extremely ADHD race have their own country, and also have 100% of them being unrepentant criminals: They would never be able to build even a single house due to getting bored and wandering off and yet no other races should be able to tolerate them being in the vicinity.

              I do agree that Malkavians are easier to play while not being disruptive to the group. As you said, you can play them as mostly normal and rational while just having a few weird quirks that make them memorable. As opposed to Kender, who are all “Look at ME and how craaazzzy and hyper I am. Are we all having fun yet?”.

            4. Joe Informatico says:

              I don’t know, I’ve seen the players of rogues/thieves pick the pockets of other PCs just because they have the skill and are bored. But IIRC kender had a mechanical compulsion to pick the pockets of PCs or nearby NPCs, and that’s a really fast way to drop a flaming mountain on party unity.

        2. DrCapsaicin says:

          The one and only time I ran a campaign was 4e while I was in grad school for some friends. I had played exactly 5 sessions before (and had no idea what I was doing) and NONE of the other 5 players had ever played at all. So when my friend chose a Tiefling and named him “F***ing Cat” and wanted to strongly RP him as an amnesiac who thought he was a cat…. I didn’t stop him. Luckily, the insanity was limited to two or three small instances per play session, and were mostly spun for amusement, but his antics were constantly draining for me. I didn’t know the rules as well as I should and so fell back on “does this seem fun? I’ll allow it”.

          Some fun notes: Upon entering any new room, the first thing he did was try to jump on the tallest object/monster in the room. He also only followed the advice/suggestions of the group about 30% of the time. So pretty much he nailed being a cat perfectly.

      2. Decius says:

        Are ADHAD and AADHAD just ADD or ADHD with extra A’s?

        1. evileeyore says:

          Well… since I’m dredging up stories from 25+ years ago, as I remember it he had Attention Deficit Hyper-Activity Disorder. Which at the time was called A-D-H-A-D,

          1. BlueHorus says:

            A friend of mine has a variation of Attention Deficit Disorder wherein he’s deeply uncomfortable if his head isn’t covered by something.

            He calls it ADHD-ADDHAT.

            …don’t worry, I’ll show myself out.

        2. methermeneus says:

          EDIT: As I said before realizing that evileeyore already responded:

          ADHD is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. I’m guessing evileeyore was just spelling it “Hyper Activity” and typoed an extra A on there beginning one time.

      3. Joshua says:

        Uh, that’s not “fair” to come up with a “save”. That is the absolute expectation one should have of the GM. It’s also extremely bad form for the GM to let this person play the character so suicidally when the normal player is absent.

        I would also not continue to be friends with anyone who is this deceptive, disrespectful, and unstable (the player in this case).

        1. evileeyore says:

          I don’t just dump friends because they screw up that one time… :)

  2. BlueHorus says:

    ‘Hey, where did Chuck go?’ That line’s great.

    Anyway, there’s a solution to this. Josh stabs Ragmar in the back so Steve can’t do anything (as Josh wanted to). Then, once Chuck gets back, Lucretia uses her potion of Resurrection to bring Ragmar back to life and they move on.

  3. Dreadjaws says:

    Here’s a solution for this kind of problem: have Ramgar’s actions be a mirror of Chuck’s. That is, if Chuck is going to buy some food then have Ramgar leave the group to get some food as well. Then roll some dice to see how well he did when he gets back.

    1. Syal says:

      “Ramgar returns from shopping. He brings back [roll]… celery, [roll]… potato chips, and [roll]… whisky.”

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        ROLLS! You had it on a silver platter! He brings back [rolls] ROLLS!

  4. Olivier FAURE says:

    Honestly, this would be the point where I would go “Dude, get the fuck out of this house.”, as the GM or as any player, and leave if the group doesn’t follow through.

    Chuck just told him specifically not to play his character, and he does exactly that. And yeah, having someone play your character behind your back does feel shitty and like a violation, even if it’s all just make-believe. He’s basically shown that he’s going to keep acting like a parasite and break everybody’s boundaries until they kick him out.

    (the sexual harassment doesn’t help)

  5. Guest says:

    I really like the little detail of the in game character changing, and that it’s not just the face that changed, the whole thing is redrawn.

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