Monday, February 14, 2011

Some advice for the players

 I thought I would do something a little different today and...

Oh, happy Valentine's Day, by the way.

So, some years back I was in a Dungeons & Dragons (2nd edition) game run by my brother, Donald.

Donald.  The enemy.

It was a Ravenloft game and he had done a pretty good job setting the mood, the tone.  We were in a campaign to battle this lich and we were pretty low level so the idea was to thwart the thing's plans at first rather than confront him directly.  One night I had to work late and I was going to be a few hours late, so I gave permission for my character to be used by someone else.  I arrived at the game...

And none of the other players would look me in the eye.  And Donald was grinning.

When the GM is grinning like that, you know you are in trouble.

It seems that the after the short bridging sewer adventure the lich had mobilized his army and was coming to town.  Coming out of the sewers, the gang was informed of this.  What did they do?  Did they grab their gear and horses and tear out of there?

No, it was time for a bath.

Later, another herald came to town to announce the lich would be at town any day now.  Did the gang light out of there?

No, it was time for a good, hearty breakfast.

Finally the lich's army had arrived.  Hordes of vampire soldiers, ghouls on leashes, unholy thing swooping through the air.  Certainly it was high time to get the hell out of there!

Nope.  The gang watched the parade along with the rest of the town.

Eventually someone got it into their heads that they should check out the mayor's mansion, where the Lich was hanging out.  Ultimately they were captured, disarmed and thrown into a dungeon.

And that was when I showed up for the game.

So, what can players learns from this?

Recognize when you are in over your head.  GMs do not always throw fair fights your way.  Remember The Empire Strikes Back?  The bad guys had all the muscle on their side and running away with most of the rebellion intact was considered a victory.  Players must assess the threat and determine whether or not they should stand their ground or flee.

Listen to the GM's warnings.  Fair GMs give players hints that things are going to get bad, they provide opportunities for players to make spot checks, listen rolls.  They use NPCs to drop hints and clues (i.e. a terrified out of his mind villager who informs the player the soul-sucking lich king is coming to town).  Heed these clues!  If the GM has repeatedly given you the hint you are in a world of hurt and you fail to heed him then you deserve to have your character killed.

There was another incident a couple years later unrelated to the above.  Donald was running another game and I wanted to play a swashbuckler, as I am such a huge fan of the seventies Musketeer films (the ones starring Michael York, Charleton Heston, and Christopher Lee).  I was running a half elf, and during the game Donald did not miss an opportunity to make fun of my character class or the fact that my character looked, to his mind, effiminite. It proved to be pretty frustrating as the jokes got old relatively quickly.  The final straw hit when I discovered two other players-Cal and James-were running half elves as well and I did not know this.  Why hadn't Donald picked on them?  Because their half elves looked indistinguishable from humans.  So fed up, I quit.

Were my actions immature?  Perhaps.  But I think the incident brought up some important issues in regards to player and GM conduct:

Players stick together.  If the GM is being unfair and picking on a particular player, then it is up to the rest of the players to stand up for him.  Even if you do not like that player, if he is being wronged then you must stand behind them.  Players should not be so terrified of the GM that they keep their silence.  It is only a game, the GM is a mere mortal.

So if you think a fellow player is being treated unfairly by the GM or another player, do not hesitate to speak out.  By the same token, try and keep your ears open for those subtle (and not so subtle) clues your GM is dropping, either.

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