orcbabykilling, PvP, pickpocketing, antisocial behaviour



  • The only D&D campaign I ever played started really good and went to hell in the course of a year. By hell I mean all night long sessions where 65% ot the time was wasted in arguments about the rules, 10% looking in the corebooks for the rules, 15% off-topic chit-chat, 8% getting something to eat and devouring it and 2% of actual roleplaying, doing something in-game. Ok, the percentages used aren't that literal, they are more like the perception I have of those sessions but you get the idea.

    Now, as I said, at first we had some fun. We actually followed the plot and succesfully solved some problems thinking out of the box. Low levels felt epic without the dragon-slaying and god-killing part, they just were simple but heroic. And then something changed. It felt like the GM decided to drop the silk gloves (we didn't know he had been using it all the time) and started to beat us hard. Suddenly all of our tactical choices didn't made any good and thinking out of the box was punished with literal use of the rules from the GM side. Preparations failed per GM fiat and our decisions were misinterpretated, sometimes out of chaos at the table, sometimes just because the GM wanted to have his fun by winning every single combat.

    Then the orcbabykilling, PvP, pickpocketing, and antisocial behaviour started. I became a sort of power-gamer for a while in order to protect my character/my fun and when even that failed I lost interest/got too mad with the game to keep playing it. Some of my friends still play with that GM, the guy knows the rules and it's a good pal. But most of us insist he's the worst GM ever and wouldn't play another single session with him.

    I'd say that from the moment I, as a player, have to take action to protect "my fun" against other players/the GM, is when "our fun" is ruined. And then something in the social pact brokens and either it starts to work in another way or kicks players out of the game, if not out of the friendship in the most extreme cases.
  • @warriormonk

    sounds like a terrible GM right there
  • Zak,
    Cool. So, all I have to go on is the AP reports you've put on your blog, so I've got limited information, but it sounds like the stuff that you guys do is the same stuff that we do (at least when playing D&D and games with similar formats). I'm not trying to trap you or convince you of anything, or even (God forbid) debate or prove anything. That's just an observation: what happens at your table (as far as I can glean from your write-ups) is the same or close-enough-for-blues to the same as what happens at mine. Could easily be wrong; only way to say for sure is to play together. Maybe when I'm set up for G+ Hangouts we could arrange something sometime.

    Anyway, back to the general topic, here's a true story from high school:

    My guy has a bounty on his head. Matt decides that the money is too good, so tries to take me out. We fight in the street, and he throws me through a window, and I pass out from pain and blood loss. Cops show up and arrest me, and Matt looks like a big damn hero and gets the bounty.

    But he doesn't stop there. He says, "When you get to jail, you get raped by your cellmate, Bubba."


    "You heard me."

    Now, there are rules for plausible chance occurrences happening that you want to happen, and they revolve around your character's Luck attribute. As system-guru (and it's creator), I tell him it's gonna take one hell of a Luck roll for that to happen.

    Bastard makes the roll.

    And, just so no one is confused, we had fun.

    So how was that fun? Well, we all trusted each other, and we were all agreed on the procedures we would use to play, and we all had a fucked up sense of humor. It's pretty much as simple as that.
  • edited February 2012
    now i get to say the thing where I point out the girls in my own personal group don't really rape each other much and then really hope this doesn't turn into a new exciting rapecentric thread
  • Hehe, didn't really think about that possible outcome, but I suppose I could point out that this was the only time that rape ever came up. My point was just to give a real-life example of PvP orcbabykilling-level-of-sociopathy behavior that was fun.
  • Figaro,

    I think it's easy to undercut the possibility of facing consequences for a characters actions by using an excuse like the world just happens to be built in such an anarchic fashion that allows the character to be an asshat and get away with it. I feel that Zak's list of points above are a good account of what makes a game of this style work and when you lose accountability for actions and the character fearing death if they make a stupid action it hurts the game overall.


    I think that was my point. In post 33 you said swap a few characters and basically that's exactly your game every third saturday. I just didnt see that in your list above or in the bit I've read about your game. I dont think your game is much like the one Holmes described at all. His game seems to be the unrestrained power tripping that David talked about earlier. To me your game looks almost completely different (especially in matters of intent or agenda) with probably a few similarities in terms of proceedure.
  • I think it's easy to undercut the possibility of facing consequences for a characters actions by using an excuse like the world just happens to be built in such an anarchic fashion that allows the character to be an asshat and get away with it.

    I am not saying that there are never consequences and I take exception to the idea that it is "an excuse" designed to coddle player "bad behavior" if the circumstances of the fictional setting are not such that they will inexorably "end up alone and dead in short order." If you have a straight out of the slush pile "Barbaric Age of Adventure" backdrop to your game (which may be entertaining to play in even if the PCs aren't themselves inveterate agents of chaos) most of these kinds of PC actions are inherently dangerous but widespread lawlessness and the ineffectuality and/or corruption of the authorities tend to make long-term additive consequences avoidable or postponable, even if the short term consequences are mortal and real.

    For example, consider the burning down of some guy's bar. You might easily be killed by the bartender and his corhorts, by soldiers guarding the town, by being trapped in the flames, or other mischance. You might be identified and have to leave town or risk arrest and execution. BUT, if you can burn down the tavern without anyone recognizing that you did it, slay anyone who recognized you, or flee the town without being caught, it's not implausible to move on to further banditry somewhere else. It's not GUARANTEED, either - for example, what if unbeknownst to you the tavern owner's mother is a witch and uses her magic to track you down, etc.

    If you have a fantastical, preindustrial setting, mayhem is not necessarily always going to be answered with legal or poetic justice.
  • edited February 2012
    @Vernon R

    With all due respect, Holmes' is dead and not here and if I can blog about my game every day for years and have a tv show about it and still not have people grasp very basic things like what edition I use or how to spell my 3-letter-long name or whether my players backstab each other I doubt Holmes can effectively communicate the entirety of his play experience in a short essay aimed at a non-D&D playing audience in a popular magazine.

    Therefore I respectfully ask that we do not keep talking about what Holmes' game was or was not like. I stand by what I said in comment #33.

    If you are alleging that my players do not do the things I said they do in comment 33, then that, too, goes in the aforementioned hypothetical "I decided Zak S is a pathological liar here's why..." thread
  • Can we just slap a big old moratorium on the Holmes Discussion, please? That ship has sailed. That orc baby has been put to the sword (or not).

    Let's talk about;

    "There's a certain style of play which includes all the things in the subject line. Have you played in this style? Was it fun? Was it terrible?

    If it was fun, what do you think made it fun, and would it be possible to recreate now?"
  • @Zak: So I can totally see why a single creative agenda isn't necessary for this kind of game, but do you think it's actively destructive? Would the game shut down if everyone was making schemes, or if everyone was wanting to have character goals, or to roleplay their character, or whatever?
  • @PeterBB

    Oh no, I think that it can pretty much work any old way.

    My advice was to the DM: do not count on any particular agenda holding sway, at least in the beginning.
  • Zak

    Never said or meant to imply you were lieing. My take was simply that the consequences in your game sound like they would be a lot different than what Holmes stated in the article.

    Apologies to anyone offended by bringing up the article again but it has some excellent examples of this style of play that we are talking about. The most interesting and problematic character in the article is the dwarf who had minimal intelligence and tended to attack random NPC's and general cause trouble for the group and they seemed to revel in it. Does anyone in their play experience have a long running character like that and how does the GM have the world respond to such a character?
  • @Vernon R

    I have had several PCs like that in my game. Their ability to survive tends to be tied to how the player plays their sociopathic dwarf. The more actorly sociopathic dwarf tends to go down fast--in a funny way (and not mind), whereas the more tactically minded sociopath tends to live to be a nutjob another day.

    Both are fun.
  • Most of our high-school D&D play was like this. I remember our DM constructing an epic quest for all of us in the Dragonlance setting (which only one player was familiar with), and we proceeded to shit all over the setting and cause as much chaos as the evil we were attempting to stop (mostly because we didn't want anything bad to happen to us personally). When chaos was being rained down on a well-known city, my character (an afflicted kender rogue) decided to split off from the group and start looting. He managed to get a fair amount before we made off in a ship. Unfortunately one player (who was playing an evil character with his alignment hidden) decided to use his size to his advantage and take a good portion of my bounty. Which I stole back later. Which he re-acquired. It was kind of a running gag.

    Also, my character's rival had destroyed a caravan I was on in the first few sessions before our PCs knew eachother. Something about being possessed by an evil spirit and sometimes going all super-saiyan and destroying things? I can't remember the details. Now, I as a player knew who it was, but because my character never pieced it together, he was oblivious to the fact that this gruff asshole was actually evil-incarnate traveling with the party. I must've rolled 20 or so Wisdom checks, and failed all of them miserably.

    At another point the DM let someone play a well-known character in the setting, some elvish noble, and we treated him like we'd treat any commoner. The character was annoyed as all hell. The player thought it was hilarious.

    So, I mean, sometimes the whole inter-party rivalry and dickishness could get borderline annoying, but being friends with everyone at the table meant we could read eachother pretty well and we knew what our boundaries were. If someone seemed to be getting legit annoyed, you backed off. If people were laughing and going along with it, whatever, just keep the game going in that direction until people got bored with the tangent. As long as you're not super-attached to your PC, it's all in good fun. I lost 3 characters in the course of a few months (pretty high for most 3e games I played) and one wizard PC of mine must've lost his spellbook four or five times. You just kind of rolled with it and made up the fun as you went along without taking the events in the game as a personal attack, whether it's from another player, or from some really bad luck the DM informs you about.
  • edited February 2012
    Thanks, Zak, for bringing this thread to life without talking about rape. Your list of principles is fantastic! The only one I'm not sure about is this one:
    Posted By: Zak S8. Split XP Evenly Between The Whole Group Unless You Want Backstabbing
    How does that fit into this whole style of play? Are you saying, "Don't do this. It's not part of the game's style," or are you saying, "Here's a switch, flip it purposefully"?

    In other words, do you think that "backstabbing" is not part of this playstyle, or just an optional part?

    If it's optional, how often does it come up in your "pornstars" game? Sometimes? Never?

    How does its absence of presence affect the feel of the game? How does it change the attitude of the players? (For example, I could see some people feeling comfortable about playing if they knew backstabbing was not on the table.)

    This is all making a lot of sense to me, and all the replies in this thread have really helped. It is very much like I remember a lot of my gaming from high school. Except we weren't enjoying it because we really, really wanted to get more out of gaming, and it seemed like the only other tool in our box was horribly railroaded epic novel games.

    Here's a quote from Jeff Rients's blog which kind of sums it all up, to me:
    I've experienced this before. Here's my EnWorld sig:

    exasperated DM: "Underlying what? ... motivation? Do you want to play Dungeons & Dragons or not?"
    I can dig that.

    Now, a question:

    Those of you who are saying, like me, "I used to play in this style," and mentioning experiences from high school and similar:

    * How many of you still play games in this style today?
    * How many of you don't, but wish you did?

    (I have a followup question, so let me know.)
  • * How many of you still play games in this style today?

    I am these days. It started with the release of 4e; I got excited in D&D again. (My experiences with 3e were not that good.) Playing 4e wasn't delivering what I wanted so I hacked it a bit to follow the above list. (Except 8 and 17, though I've tried to speed up character creation. And 2, but most of what I see in this list is what makes a creative agenda possible.)

    The thing that allowed me to enjoy this was, I think, playing all those Forge-designed games for years and getting that out of my system. Now I know I can do that thing reliably; time to focus on other stuff.

    The game design aspect of making a hack has been incredibly rewarding.
  • @Paul T

    Backstabbing is optional.

    Usually it does not come up, but we have played games where (on purpose) the xp rewards have been jiggered so PvP is incentivized.

    Both ways are fun.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Paul T.* How many of you still play games in this style today?
    I do, but less messily. I mean, I'm better an GMing now than I was back then, and the games we use are better designed. Back in high school we used a system that I made which, while functional, was confusing and weird. Lately I've been trying to redesign that specific game from the ground up, with a more cohesive vision (frex: pointy-hatted wizards and tree-hugging rangers out, Helter-Skelters and Snake Eaters in). It's been a load of fun, and I really look forward to unleashing releasing it for other people to play.
  • Like I said earlier, this is still my main mode of play for games with distinct GM-player roles.

    I think a benefit that hasn't been mentioned yet is how easily a session can be generated from this style of play. Every stupid, antisocial action naturally leads to a dozen obvious consequences, half of which have to be dealt with immediately. Dealing with those consequences lead to more consequences, etc. Dealing with the consequences of a character's actions is almost as fun as any actions in the first place.
  • edited February 2012
    @Zak: Your first post is awesome. I love your numbed list. #1 is like my fucking gaming mantra... I want it printed in huge type on the first page of every game book.
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