Why Acolyte is Gone.

Acolyte was my Dungeons and Dragons character for my buddies role-playing campaign.  He was a seven foot tall automaton made of metal.  Metal that resembled ribbons wrapped around the body of some humanoid.  The metal was a deep, copper color.  He had no discernible facial features, but you could still feel his gaze upon you.  His voice was deep and reverberated within his metal frame.

Acolyte had awoken at the base of a very tall cliff.  He was wearing robes that he innately recognized as belonging to a monk monastery.  He wandered for a time, wondering where he was and how he had gotten here.  On the peripheral: he also wondered what he was and what was he for?

He traveled for a handful of days before stumbling upon a caravan of dwarves.  They were gracious enough to escort Acolyte to the nearby town of Antimor, a small village on their trade route.  It was in Antimor that he was wrangled, along with some other adventurers, to go and kill some feral dogs.  After tracking the dogs and purging a small village of goblins, the adventurers returned to town of Antimor to find it empty and filled with dead bodies.  As if the town had been ransacked a century ago, everything was faded and covered in dust.  The bodies had shriveled into skeletons.  It was then that an apparition appeared, sending several adventurers sprawling into unconsciousness, and marking the rest with an omen from the Goddess of Destruction, Yarsk.

Acolyte traveled for a time with the adventurers, but after realizing that he had no place with this party and or even within this civilization- he decided to leave.

The important thing to remember was that Acolyte was approximately 6 weeks old.  He could speak and have cognitive thought, but everything in this world was shiny and new.  More importantly he did not understand how all of these humanoids interact and deal with one another.  He had vague memories of monasteries so the only place that Acolyte really felt comfortable was at a monastery they stumbled upon.

What ultimately led to Acolytes departure was that the players and the GM had a different vision for what my character was supposed to be like.

For those who are DnD savvy, Acolyte had a 9 (-1 MOD) Charisma.  He was brusque and intimidating, and when he did make a charisma roll it never went well.  To me, I interpreted this as, “Acolyte does not understand the world and has a lot to learn.”

I tried to play Acolyte carefully.  I tried to role-play him as a newcomer who observes and attempts to imitate what he sees and experiences.  The bard in our party, Hugh Halfnir, a half human half orc half halfling, thought I was some sort of a game, so he was constantly putting money in me like a Plinko machine.  The barbarian, Mustafa Covfefe, was always trying to intimidate people.

Acolyte saw these interactions consistently and deduced that the language of the land was gold, and failing that, you used your strength to get what you wanted.  And this worked to great effect for other people!  The combined effort of several party members managed to negotiate 30 GP into 100 GP as a reward once.

We made it to the next large city and Acolyte began his own investigation into various things.  For Acolyte though, greasing palms, attempted bribes, and intimidation did nothing but fail outright.

There was a dwarf who recognized this weapon I was carrying.  The weapon was used in an assassination, so Acolyte tried to press him.  The dwarf clearly seemed to recognize the dagger, but he refused gold and told me to leave.  So I made a very good threat: “Tell me what you know, or I will tell everyone that you sold me this weapon [that you fear].”

I didn’t get a dice roll.  I got threatened right back with force and a summoning of the city guard.  Another PC chastised me for my behavior.  That was disheartening.  The other PC’s don’t get chastised for intimidating people (even when it fails).

What the GM did was attempt to hand wave Acolytes misunderstandings by saying, “Over the walk back [another character] tells you everything about when its good or bad to bribe someone or give them gold.”

That was approximately the time I realized that I wouldn’t be playing Acolyte for very long.  The GM had his own formulated idea and perception about my character and was attempting to use his GM powers to affect my behavior.

Acolyte did not consume food, but he did consume purified metals.  I was almost always critically low on food, so eventually I had to find some blacksmiths.  There are two big companies in town.  One of the people I failed to intimidate the session prior was one of said blacksmiths.  The two blacksmiths shops were across the street from one another.  For obvious reasons, I enter the shop of the blacksmith I didn’t upset.

There was a counter with weapon shelves, and the blacksmith proper was behind huge leather curtains.  I asked for ore, got the normal confusion that comes with any purchase, and then the man went to the back out of sight.  So I followed him.  There were men back there and anvils I guess?  I was yelled at to leave immediately.  I reiterated that I was here to purchase iron ore.  They ended up shoving me (pushing me, I was quite heavy) back into the antechamber.  They then demanded that I leave.  Don’t come back.

I went to the dwarf I pissed off.  He recognized me, and actually apologized for being so curt with me before.  I ask for iron ore again.  He said he might have some in the back.  I insisted he get it for me.  Again- he might have some in the back.  The dwarf didn’t head back for it (he was helping someone else) so Acolyte decided he’d go to the back.  But!  He had learned his lesson!

He went around the back of the shop and found a backdoor, and knocked instead.  Two of the PCs assumed I was going to break into the shop, followed me, and began to tell me to stop what I was doing.  The dwarf came to the back door, I requested iron, and then he told me to fuck off for being rude.

Three interactions where I didn’t get to roll a single time to persuade, deceive, or intimidate.

So the GM’s NPC’s are reacting to Acolytes actions with confusion and anger. But as the player- I get it.  I’m doing it on purpose because I want to have the opportunity to learn things from these interactions.  All I encounter is a world telling me to stop.  I have several other characters telling me to stop doing things like that as well.

I don’t blame them for what they have been doing.  They can only play their characters and or run the world.  They all perceive me as something other than what I’m playing.  I think my character was too nuanced.  But not in way that they couldn’t understand, too complex of an idea to successfully come across in a role-playing game.  The other players and the GM don’t see my inner workings or see my notes, so all they get to interact with is what I present them with.  They treated my character like an adult, when really, he is only 6 weeks old.

There was a solid disconnect between Acolyte and everyone else.  So I figured the easiest thing to do was quietly retire the naive Acolyte for someone who was more suited to this party and the world.  I’m not really mad at anyone, just stopped having fun trying to make my character fun.

People immediately shifted to attempting to talk me out of it by saying that they liked Acolyte.  But that’s not the point.  The Acolyte I want to role-play isn’t the Acolyte they want to see.

The GM especially was trying to convince me to role play him differently, citing that my 11 INT and 19 WIS meant that Acolyte wasn’t stupid.  But those numbers on the page don’t mean shit!  Acolyte is 6 weeks old.  Intelligence and Wisdom are just fancy names that encompass a myriad of different mental faculties.  Acolyte was logical and perceptive, but he wasn’t truly intelligent or understanding.  I thought it was a wild party foul for the GM to tell me how to play my characters personality.

But in the face of a world that rejects Acolyte, Acolyte decided it made more sense that he just go attempt to solve the conflict on his own.  He left the party at the tavern they were staying and set off into the night.  It appears though, that he died mere minutes after walking away.

There was a bridge crossing a river near the tavern.  In the morning, the players came outside and noticed a gathering at the bridge.  They found Acolytes arm and some strange stains on the bridge.  He had been killed or captured, within eyesight of the tavern.

So my new character is going to try on purpose to meet the needs of the world and the party.  Its a much simpler character idea so I hope that it comes across well, and that he meshes nicely.  Here’s to hoping I can enjoy the DnD campaign as it progresses.

-DTM

I Back-flip Into Holes

I’ve always envied you Emily.  You have maintained a focus on yourself and your goals your entire life.  You’ve been falling down holes for years.  And luckily its usually the same hole!

My hobbies shift with the times.  I get really into various things for like a year or two and then I move to something else.  Well recently I sold off the majority of my Magic cards.  I also traded in a huge portion of my Batman comics because I just couldn’t keep up.  Last year I was in an in between phase when I decided to run a Rogue Trader RPG campaign.

Its probably my only solid hobby right now.  I am reading for entertainment less, I’m not getting through my video game backlog, and I have essentially stopped watching shows.  I fancy myself an ‘immersive GM,’ so I spend my time writing what I hope are interesting settings, quests, and enemies.

I bring all of this up not to brag but to emphasize how much time I spend on this.  I’m always thinking about it, planning for it, and writing down ideas and quest lines.  Most evenings after work I probably sit down and write at least a little bit.  I agonize over it, but I really love it.  It’s fun and satisfying!

But Emily, I back-flip down holes.  I throw myself into whatever my current hobby is hard.

So I decided I’m going to run a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign for my work.  Some of my coworkers will get to be players in their very first campaign.  I’m going to have to write a campaign that’s not only exciting, but introduces these people to the campaign setting.  On top of all of that, the quest line needs to slowly teach them how to play the game.

One campaign was sucking up a huge portion of my time.  Now I’ve agreed to two!  I’m going the distance.

Did I mention I’ve never officially run a Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition campaign before?  So I need to learn how to GM it like a boss.

But fuck it, ya know?  I’m enjoying writing.  So much so that I am considering writing an official book.  So to keep my writing muscle flexing and getting swole, you and I are starting a brand new blog in which we will write a story back and forth, 500-ish words at a time!  Starting next Friday?!

BUT FUCK IT, YA KNOW?  I’m going to start my own writing project on my own goddamn blog.  I have been playing with the idea of writing a motherfucking prequel story to the Killian Rage from my goddamn Rogue Trader campaign.  It would be my first semi-serious online novella series.  Just to see how it goes, fuck it.

You may occasionally trip and fall into a hole Emily.  And its refreshing to see someone so dedicated to their self and their hobbies.  But I’ve never been known to trip.  My hobbies go too fast and hard for me to nurture them appropriately over the course of years.  So if I’m going to full enjoy a hobby, the only way I know how is to overload the machine and shove the whole damn thing into a hole.

And then I’m falling; surrounded by the elements of my work.  Running two campaigns, and potentially three blogs at one time?  Sometimes you see the the ground rushing up to meet you and all you can do is point and scream:

“ROLL INITIATIVE!”

Murder Hobos to a New Extent

It’s almost fitting that this post follows my previous one debating what to do about my players inaction.

So Pretzel just glanced at my screen and burst out laughing.  So for those who do not know: murder hobos.

Murder hobos is a slang term for Dungeons and Dragons adventurers.  You are a murder hobo because traditionally the players go from town to town killing people.  A vagrant that walks into town, kills the local problem, and rides off into the sunset.

My players killed approximately 100,000 people in one stroke.  So my players are winning this unspoken competition.

As always: the explanation.  My players were sent to a planet owned by another Rogue Trader.  A queen from one of the kingdoms had recently been kidnapped and she wished to return to the feudal world kingdom to save her daughter.  When she attempted to return to the planet herself her reemergence from a space ship sent the populous into an uproar.  So she hires some intrepid explorers to go in and retrieve her daughter.

Stuff happens.  They manage to infiltrate the capital city where the castle is located (and presumably the princess) but the problem came when they had to escape.  The riotous mob had located them and it was a long, dramatic gunfight through a dense city.  Seven explorers doing combat with approximately 50,000 angry civilians.  It was a very tense ending to the session.

When my players returned to their ship, they silently agreed to destroy the city entirely.  They lowered their 8 kilometer ship into orbit and blasted the city into a black smear ala Rogue One.

I was really enjoying the session!  My players, for the first time, we’re working together as a unit.  They understood the risks and we’re working to make sure that everyone passed tests as a group.  I was very excited.

Then they committed genocide.  Now- it makes sense.  It was an emotional reaction to what they had just escaped.  The session was supposed to end on a juxtaposition of a reunited family against the burning capital city below.

What I found curious, and on some levels worrisome, is that they all just allowed this to happen.  There was no deliberation over the event.  There wasn’t a discussion about what the super advanced race of people should do.  They showed up as angry gods and delivered an apocalypse from the sky.

So an emotional reaction- which is fine.  But without anyone asking questions are debating what course of action should be taken, will they understand any repercussions I deliver against them in the next session?  I don’t jump in to remind them of things when they do discuss action together because I want them to ask questions.  I cannot expect them to know the universe, but on some level their characters do.

Should their be a penalty for them not asking, “What would happen if-?”

Realistically here’s what should happen:

The players failed to scan the system so they did not notice the reclamation satellites in the system, and more importantly the Aquila Magnificus located on the planet.

They knew that the planet was owned by another Rogue Trader.  They did not investigate who owned the planet at the time and did not ask what this Rogue Trader might do with a feudal world.  Things that some of their characters likely know, but they didn’t think to ask I suppose.

Now in their defense they didn’t know the city would rise against them and chase them through the city.  Killing civilians in self defense would not have warranted more than a miffed Rogue Trader.  Which I’m sure is what they thought when they vaporized the city.  But they also didn’t ask me, “Will they know?”

So given the circumstances.

Do I give them a break as the GM and gloss over this or do I do what should happen.

So killing approximately 100,000 people is obviously a cruel retribution.  And there is no way that the crew of their ship will be quiet about this when they return to Port Footfall.  So word will get out.

The Aquila Magnificus is a dedicated beacon that summons the Ecclesiarchy.  The Ecclesiarchy are the arm of the Imperium that spreads the Imperial Creed.  Similar to religious missionaries..  And a mysterious ship came and destroyed a huge part of their flock that was promised them.

So the Ecclesiarchy will be furious, and the Rogue Trader will essentially be out a lot of money.  Word gets out on Port Footfall.  Rich people grease some palms and the party will be discovered probably within 3 months.

It will likely be a much shorter time before that Rogue Trader knows.  Days I’d bet.  I know this because of super secret GM stuff, but the players will be finding out in the next session.

I’m not sure yet what I should do.  I don’t want to seem “unfair” because essentially to many of my players it will likely feel like I’m abusing my power as the GM to promote my agenda of not killing 100,000 people per session.  They didn’t ask me questions so they did not have a clear vision of what would happen.

Will they blame me for not telling them ahead of time?  Is it my duty to tell them ahead of time?

But at the same time the universe should feel like it has a real world feel to it with real repercussions for player actions.

So Emily.

What do I do?

-Agonizing GM

“We’re done. We’re ready for whatever…”

That was said to me by some of my players last session.

Maybe not verbatim but definitely that meaning.  They were done doing stuff and were ready for whatever I had in store.

This really disheartened me.  And in some ways it confused me.

During my last post I talked about how they finished the first quest and they were free to roam the Koronus Expanse.  And I was really excited about this because it means I didn’t have to railroad them.  I didn’t have to explicitly control what they do.

I wanted them to feel slightly underpowered in the beginning.  I gave each of them a boon (kinda like a wish) and they each got some totally bitching archeotech (analogous to magical items) equipment.  So now they are powerful, they are much richer, with a spaceship that they had to work together to protect.

It also meant that I could slow down the missions and take more time to write them since my players have the option of fucking off around the Koronus Expanse.  I prepared a lot of star systems to explore so that there were real things they could encounter.

I wrote missions and populated a job board for them with options.  Quests they could take to represent people coming to the party and looking for explorers to hire.

I prepared a lot for the first session of freedom in the Expanse.  We sat down and I presented them with their badass equipment.  I was eager to see what they wanted to do.  After most of an hour they all sort of just looked at me.

“We’re ready for whatever.”

I-

What?

You can do whatever you want?  I’m taking my hands of the wheel for the first time.  Does no one have anything they want to do?  I think in the moment my façade broke and my exasperation showed.  Not a single player in seven had something they wanted to pursue.  The players talk a lot but I was hoping this was the moment that character building moments and events could take place.

After I prompted them they finally decided on a mission.  But I’ve been thinking about that moment all week.

Maybe the issue is that the world is too big?  The ‘blue sky’ problem definitely comes up.  When someone comes up to you and says, “You can do whatever you want!” you get far more intimidated and stumped than when someone says, “Choose A or B.”

A bit of it must be that the people aren’t familiar with the Universe.  And there isn’t shit I can do about that.  The lore is all available but I’m not going to demand that they read it all.

Also the fact that its a sci-fi universe is more difficult as well.  Dungeons and Dragons should just be called “Familiar and Safe Tolkien Fantasy Tropes.”  Its way easier to function in DnD campaign because its much smaller in scope.  A sci fi universe typically involves spaceships and galaxies.  You don’t have magic to rely on, you have to get clever with your thinking and how you use technology.

Part of the opening missions was teaching them about the various things that can be done.  How to information gather, negotiate, evaluate stuff.  I was hoping that would carry over but maybe they thought the only reason we were doing this was for a specific events.  I suppose I can still be explicit about what needs to be done but I want to put currency back in the players hands by pitting them against interesting challenges.  If I write the challenge and then prompt them on how to beat it its less satisfying for them.

I think in my effort to teach everyone first and let them free second I’ve accidentally set up a standard of “you don’t need to do anything because its all preordained.”

On another level I think that some of the players aren’t really fully invested.  No one asked me to run a campaign because they wanted one.  I decided to run one and asked who wanted to play.  And that distinction is important.

Ellis is going to run a Dungeons and Dragons 5.0 campaign and some players seem to be much more excited.  They are really diving into the rule books and looking at how their character is going to develop.  This is a campaign that people asked Ellis to do, so they are far more excited.

This isn’t a bad thing but I think my Rogue Trader campaign isn’t necessarily a huge deal.  Saturdays (when we play) isn’t necessarily “we play Rogue Trader on Saturdays” as much as it is “we all hang out on Saturday and play Rogue Trader.”  It seems the same when its written but the difference is that for some of my players they don’t care if we play or not.  Hanging out is what we do on Saturdays.  They don’t look forward to playing Rogue Trader, they look forward to hanging out.

Hell, one of my players brought board games to play when he came to session on Saturday “in case we didn’t play.”

In the end we have fun and that’s what I prioritize.  I have fun and I think most of my players do.  Their personal engagement might not align with mine but in a group of seven players its probably hard for all of them to be on the same page.  Writing for Rogue Trader has been a fun and unique challenge.  Learning to manage my players and expectations will just be a new challenge.

And don’t get me wrong, some of my players get really invested in certain scenarios and that’s so much fun for me to write for.  Its a mixed bag but hopefully with time everything will be sculpted into a deep, rich campaign.

I just wasn’t ready for, “We’re done.  We’re ready for whatever…”

-DTM

 

 

 

So you want to be a Dungeon Master?

Over the last few months we have been talking nonstop about Rogue Trader and the campaign you would be running for your friends. I know next to nothing about Warhammer or Rogue Trader, but I’ve been enjoying listening to your story ideas and helping you brainstorm. I love telling stories and creating stories for real people to act out is a new and fun challenge.

Well, today you told me I should run my own tabletop campaign. I quickly responded with a no thank you. While I am a storyteller and it has been SUPER fun talking to you about your campaign, I really don’t think I’d make a good dungeon master. I don’t have the motivation to create a game, much less the patience to run it for a group of people. It sounds like a very quick way to ruin friendships and give yourself a headache.

But not everyone feels the same way, of course. Obviously there are people out there who get a great deal of satisfaction out of building and running games for their friends, otherwise Dungeons and Dragons would have disappeared years ago and it definitely wouldn’t have spawned the thousands of other role playing games on the market today. A game can’t explode in popularity like D&D did without some people out there who really love reading up on tons of rules, creating complex but adaptable plotlines, and wrangling sugared up nerds. I know lots of people who DM. Hell, I married someone who likes to DM.

So what’s the pull? It can’t just be the storytelling aspect. Like I said I love telling stories  and, honestly, running a campaign sounds like hell to me. But it’s obviously heaven to others.

I think it all comes down to how people tap into their creativity. Everyone, well most everyone, likes to be creative, but not everyone likes to express their creativity in the same way. Some people paint, others play music, and I like to write stories. My DM friends also like to write stories, but in a different way.

When I write a story, I start with a concept. Usually, it’s a single scenario that I’ll put my characters in and then, using what I know of the characters, I’ll let them write the story. Basically all of my fiction stories are campaigns, except I get to be the DM and all of the players. And I like it that way honestly. I’m an introvert by nature and I like writing my stories by myself. I’ll let other people in when they’re done, but they definitely don’t get to be there during the creation process.

Well people who like to DM like to write stories just like I do, except they like involving other people in their creation process. Some people like creating in groups, which is perfectly fine, just not my cup of tea. Also, allowing people to be a part of your story means the story will be more dynamic and unexpected. There’s also little change for writer’s block. An entire group of people can’t get writer’s block at the same time.

However, as appealing as that sounds, I’m not running a game any time soon. I am the textbook definition of an introvert. I can barely play in a D&D campaign, much less run one. But at least I understand where the motivation to be a DM comes from.

-EMS