Page 1153 - Pursuit of Pride

8th Dec 2018, 6:00 AM
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Pursuit of Pride
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 8th Dec 2018, 6:00 AM edit delete
You can be the most flexible, improvisational DM in the world, but hubris will still get you every time.

I, personally, still have a lot to learn.


FanOfMostEverything 8th Dec 2018, 6:07 AM edit delete reply
Heh. It's "Apple Family Reunion" IRL. Fond memories aren't something you can churn out like a factory. They arise organically from having fun together. You don't need grandiose gestures; you just need friends.
Digo Dragon 8th Dec 2018, 12:38 PM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Eeyup. All the great stories I have were just stuff that arose from gaming. Never planed things purposely to make a story out of them.
Luke 8th Dec 2018, 6:11 AM edit delete reply
Mutual forgiveness, and mutual understanding.
ZhonLord 8th Dec 2018, 6:13 AM edit delete reply
Hear hear.

I've been running a campaign based on the Lankhmar, City of Thieves books. It's been a lot of fun for my players, but I almost ran the campaign into the ground with a near accident on a risky arc.

I have a player who wanted to be an integral character to the plot, which has resulted in a lot of ability to land plot hooks and keep the party focused, but it also became a dangerous pitfall when the party encountered an event that applied a long-term torment on them. It affects any time they go into combat, and the roleplaying side of it resulted in each one taking it differently and seeking ways to address it that make sense to them. His character went off into a... for lack of better word pocket dimension attuned to his mind, where his personality fragmented a la Raven's mirror in Teen Titans.

The party rallied to help his character pull himself together again, but the setup for how they were supposed to help was so vague and lack-of-direction that several party members were ready to say "enough of this bs" and either have the plot fast forward, or else end the campaign then and there.

I managed to keep it together and get them through it, but it was also a painful lesson. I know full well the feeling of going overboard with one's own ideas and forgetting player engagement.
aerion111 8th Dec 2018, 6:17 AM edit delete reply
There is, to some extent, still a way to 'encourage' such grand stories to happen; Be willing to escalate things into the absurd. Some GMs try to calm down the shenanigans when they get too wild, and that is good for keeping things on track for the plot. But unless the plot is to kill a god, you won't have much god-killing, for example, unless you let the players escalate things until they're face-to-face with a god, going 'I'm gonna kill you!'
Like, some GMs decide to go 'yaknow what? Sure, you can find an explosions-merchant' even though the players were SUPPOSED to solve stuff subtlety.
khyrin 8th Dec 2018, 10:33 AM edit delete reply
This is also known as the Exalted Principle. The g******ed handbook tells you not to be afraid to let your players stomp around in Warstriders(think Gundam), so long as everyone, including the GM is having fun!
Boris Carlot 8th Dec 2018, 6:32 AM edit delete reply
Man, I can relate to GM here.
Hankroyd 8th Dec 2018, 6:37 AM edit delete reply
After 25+ years of playing and GMing, I sill have a lot to learn too.

Very heartwarming page.
Kyu 8th Dec 2018, 6:57 AM edit delete reply
I’m glad they both admitted fault and apologized. Would have rang a little hollow if only one was made to be at fault.
DeS_Tructive 8th Dec 2018, 7:16 AM edit delete reply
Hubris? Pffft. Not me.
Guest 8th Dec 2018, 8:08 AM edit delete reply
Only the Sith deal in absolutes!
Hankroyd 8th Dec 2018, 2:49 PM edit delete reply
AHHHHHH That means Guest is a Sith !!!!!!

Run away! Call the Jedi if there is still one ...
Mr Wednesday 8th Dec 2018, 6:11 PM edit delete reply
You rang?
Guest 8th Dec 2018, 8:44 AM edit delete reply
Oh gosh.

RIGHT in the empathy.

Ya Spud, that's a good turnabout. Start the arc on everyone trying to be "their" best, everyone from the players to both GMs. End the arc on everyone finding their way past that by acknowledging it, and communicating.

Good show. Much approve.
ZamuelNow 8th Dec 2018, 10:12 AM edit delete reply
"I wanted to impress you" is an interesting problem for some of us GMs. Things ranging from genuine desire to make others happy to not having other creative outlets can heavily skew just what we do in our campaigns. Of special note of something that doesn't apply to the comic is play by post. Our players may be having the time of their lives but GMs literally can't tell due to what looks like apathy due to slow post speeds and lack of response to questions since there's no face to face contact.
Randonimity 8th Dec 2018, 7:09 PM edit delete reply
I know the feeling of wanting to impress people all too well (be it in PbP or D&D). It was kind of a disaster because I was hyperfocused on how good my prose was, on how surprising my twists are that it became less about engaging the players in the plot and more of "LOOKIT ME, LOOKIT HOW RLY SMRT ME IS!"

And the lack of face-to-face in PbPs makes ooc communication incredibly important. Before the advent of discord, AIM chat groups were a thing and those proved to be very helpful to both GMs and players. Even if the accessibility and real-time progress of discussion was also a double-edged sword for people who weren't as active in the group chats/preferred a one-on-one messenger chat arrangement.

I guess I just got lucky that the communities I got involved in had mature individual who knew when to take their issues into private messages so we could hash out our differences/issues without causing a massive drama-flame-war-fest. (Or it still existed and I just wasn't aware.)
Dragonflight 8th Dec 2018, 9:48 PM edit delete reply
I occasionally struggle with this too. I've been running a forum board - based RPG for many years now. People come and go, and the actors change, but the story keeps moving forward.

But... I have depression issues, and don't always post on time. Others have lives, and aren't always available to post regularly either. Life happens, and it makes posting irregular, and a little forced, sometimes. Which can drag out the game.

At the moment, I'm down to just a few players, and posting is sporadic. It's too bad, really. The game was a lot of fun back in the day.

(That said, I'll plug the gamesite, in case people are interested. :) It's at "". It's Mekton, using a homebrew version of Mekton Zeta with bits of other stuff thrown in. It's set across a chunk of the multiverse. Part of my player hook was, "It doesn't matter who you want to play, or where they come from. I can make it work!"

To that end, I've had pilots from Macross Frontier, Lensmen, several mages from Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, An Exalted Solar, a pure-energy being no older than a ten year old, a self-made Iczer (due to all the powers he's invested in,) a magical princess from a universe based on a cross between Spelljammer and the 80's Flash Gordon movie, a Spectre from Mass Effect, a Mechwarrior, a couple of Transformers, and a few original homebrews tying it all together.

So yeah. I've had fun running it. Wouldn't mind adding more people, though.

If anyone were interested. ;P
Guest 10th Dec 2018, 2:27 AM edit delete reply
Mekton?! I'm a player for a homebrew PbP Mekton game, myself!
Ours is a little more restrictive than your own, but it's set in Europe circa WW2.
Guest 8th Dec 2018, 11:00 AM edit delete reply
I think this might explain some of the problems with DiscordDM, too. Bear with me, this is gonna be some speculation, but... He might not necessarily understand this lesson quite so well. Like, being the grand "impressive" DM might be all he does. Like, look at the page where MainDM shuts him down and insists Discord leaves to give the party some respite. To me, at least, DiscrodDM reads as kind of... surprised, or taken aback, when that happens. He concedes 'cause it's not his game, which tells me that in his games, he doesn't back off much. It's the Discord Show 24/7.

And don't worry, I'm not gonna rant about how DiscordDM is evil or whatever, I'd wager that his approach probably works fine for his own group(s). In fact, if MainDM is accurate, then it absolutely does. What I'm saying is that he lacks range - he just has his one style, and doesn't really read the room as much as he should. Hence why he singles out Twilight when she starts getting angry - he just figures that it's her who is completely, 100% wrong for objecting. (Note: not excusing Twilight of all responsibility. As this page indicates, it's 50/50.)
Digo Dragon 8th Dec 2018, 12:43 PM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
"I'd wager that his approach probably works fine for his own group(s)."

You might yet be surprised. I've played under a DiscordGM like this and he was always bragging about the great games he had with his previous group. Well we tracked down the other group once and asked. They hated him as much as we did. They just didn't complain about it as much.

Some GMs forever live in their own little bubble.
Guest 8th Dec 2018, 2:57 PM edit delete reply
That's true, but I'm willing to give DiscordDM an inch at least for now. After all, he's not the one bragging here, it's MainDM - one of his former players - building him up, not himself. While MainDM was an inexperienced player at the time, and might have a rose-tinted perspective, I think it's too early to discredit her opinion entirely.
Digo Dragon 9th Dec 2018, 10:06 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
I'll be willing to forgive the DiscordGM if he can genuinely understand his personal bubble was unhealthy.
Guest 8th Dec 2018, 8:15 PM edit delete reply
In DMcord's case, we know at least one player enjoyed it. So, for that, I'd personally give him the benefit of the doubt.

I'd say miscommunications don't define a person's normal response/behavior in a situation, on the reasoning that they aren't correctly interpreting the situation they're in.

It's... wrong, I think, to judge a person based on things they did while under the wrong impression. Or, when they're acting without all the information. It is, I think, doing the very same thing they themselves are doing: you'd be making assumptions of their character based on behavior they wouldn't normally be doing, had they accurately understood the situation they were in.

Personally, I haven't judged any of the characters so far, because this whole arc had been about nobody stopping to communicate. No one's behavior is accurate to the context, only to their own incomplete perspective.


Admittedly, that isn't any different than the example you gave. I wonder if the GM you're referring to would've been any different, if he'd known. But I'm sadistic enough to pop bubbles like that, so I dunno.
Mr Wednesday 9th Dec 2018, 1:04 AM edit delete reply
Well Guest (8:15 poster), I might agree with you if a judgement is held to be one, permanent opinion. But if you make a judgement, receive new information or context, and then re-judge, from where I stand you’re just being a person.

Additionally, people who lack information or full context do and say hurtful things very often, so I guess it’s a question of intent versus effect in that case. A single interaction might be the one determinant of your impression of someone—there may not be another chance. If I don’t know what constitutes someone’s “normal behavior” then I have no choice but to decide based on what I see and experience of that person.

DiscorDM lost his temper at Fluttershy. She was upset. Later, when he apologised, she was less upset. This works perfectly, but it wouldn’t have worked if he had ignored the situation. He took the time to introduce new information, and gave her the opportunity to see him in a different light.

I say all this though, as a person prone to judgements, so take it with a grain.
Guest 9th Dec 2018, 9:35 AM edit delete reply
I'll admit I'm not too clear on the direction you're going with this response, but mine also meandered just as much, so it's all the same.

But, whichever direction you're going, there's definitely a point worth adding to the conversation as a whole: We, as humans, are naturally tribalistic in mindset. It's an inherent part of being human, it's something that's physically built into our brains, and it's something we can learn to watch out for, but can never fully remove from ourselves.

What tribalism is, is that when we judge someone, we slot them into categories based on what we know about similar people. And when we mis-judge them, we slot them into categories they don't match with (if it's even possible to categorize a person in the first place). Getting one thing wrong about a person naturally leads to getting several other things wrong, which snowballs from there.

Add to this that our ability to perceive things at all is based on our ability to recognize those things, and you have the basic groundwork for racism. You *also* have the basic groundwork for a pattern of mis-judging, and both cases lead to people being hurt.

Like, just using DiscordDM, here: so many different people have so many different views of him, and are saying so many different things. But how can that be possible, if he only has a single personality? Are all but one subset of these people wrong, or is everyone just drawing their conclusions from too little information? What if everyone is working off real facts, but they're all different facts?

And that's how you get lynchings and witch hunts: people seeing, like, two details, and thinking from there that they've seen all they need to know. I'm not different, I'm just more hesitant on account of having made many more mistakes.
Mr Wednesday 9th Dec 2018, 12:20 PM edit delete reply
I’m familiar with tribalism. I think you may have overlooked an important aspect of my argument: namely, that we are using different definitions of “judgement”. From what I understand, you hold a judgement to be one instant in which we categorize other people based on prior experience. I’ve been saying that a judgement can be changed in spines to new information—it isn’t a static thing.

I’m not quite sure why you’ve brought in racism and witch hunts and lynchings. These are great instances of matching people to a pre-determined stereotype, but that’s not what’s been happening with DiscorDM.

I think your point about tribalism applies better to the debate itself than to the object of that debate. the fact of disagreement made tempers flare—as the debate went on people got angrier, not really because of anything DiscorDM was doing, but because there were people around who wouldn’t accept the other side’s view. After a point, the debate was mostly about making sure your own side was represented on a page (and I say that as a participant) because every position the two sides could occupy had already been established.
Guest 9th Dec 2018, 12:44 PM edit delete reply
No, I don't think judgements are static things, and I wasn't saying that. That'd be unbelievably stupid to say, and personally I wouldn't have bothered with tact if I saw someone say such a thing. I'm talking about experiencing a person in a short span of time, then spending no time after to learn about them. Miscommunication: the set of conditions necessary to *cause* a judgement to be a static thing, rather than something that can be updated.

I was saying that racism and such all operate off the same "mechanic" as tribalism. They're the same flaw in execution, just to a more extreme degree.


The point you describe is tribalism. A person drawing lines between themselves and other people, categorizing people by presumptions and judgements, with those themselves coming from what little information could be gleaned from a single, thin slice of a complex human. Snap decisions made in minutes, trying to measure the value of decades.

But this is all meaningless talk, if we both did the same thing. Hindsight is only so much drivel if it's never turned forward...
Mr Wednesday 9th Dec 2018, 2:01 PM edit delete reply
You’re right. This is entirely unproductive and we should stop before it takes a bad turn.
Big Lurker 8th Dec 2018, 1:05 PM edit delete reply
A lesson I've had to both learn and re-learn as a GM...
Sensei Le Roof 8th Dec 2018, 1:38 PM edit delete reply
I'm too nervous to try DMing... so I guess I don't have to worry about it so much.
TheStratovarian 8th Dec 2018, 3:53 PM edit delete reply
I had missed the nature of him stepping out discord force-fully.

I just, hrm.

This is a poignant moment. And while they've burnt a bridge in a sense. They are trying to rebuild it.

And i'm not going to point fingers, but for the veteran players in a sense here. There is something they did very wrong that is easy to happen.

They should have noticed twilight as a player was getting angry, was getting frustrated. They should have cared. What they did was going along and hazing the freshmen because it was fun, forgetting maybe what it was like back then on the receiving end.

Because, angry players stop caring about other players. Un-Friendly Fire happens. Players get tpk'ed by an angry player, then walk. Angry players and very unhappy players exist only to break a game.

Worse, they carry that anger and frustration into other games. And onto other players who are innocent, or gms that they break and cause a cycle of trouble if its not curtailed.

What is done here, is how you can fix that kind of rift. What needs to generally be done. And often isn't.

Anyhow, good luck on keeping up this poignant moment.
obscurereader 8th Dec 2018, 8:10 PM edit delete reply
I definitely agree with this. Bad experiences tend to stick with people just as hard as good experiences - and they tend to inform decisions going forward. Ideally, things should've been addressed far earlier, but if things are getting done now that's good enough, I think.
Mr Wednesday 9th Dec 2018, 1:06 AM edit delete reply
I really like what you’ve said here.
MiqoRems 8th Dec 2018, 7:43 PM edit delete reply
oh GOD this is such stress relief to finally see happen!
obscurereader 8th Dec 2018, 8:08 PM edit delete reply
Yup. We're finally starting to get past all of this, thank goodness - it was exhausting to read.
Mr Wednesday 8th Dec 2018, 10:23 PM edit delete reply
Yes the faster this is in the rear view mirror the better.
Dakkath 9th Dec 2018, 1:10 AM edit delete reply
This page is super cathartic to finally get to.

The question is, what's next?
obscurereader 9th Dec 2018, 1:17 AM edit delete reply
Probably getting into the finale of the two-parter from the show - Twilight and the DM make up/work out some solutions to their current predicament, people start getting uncursed/making up for stuff that's been happening, they launch the Friendship Nuke at Discord, aftergame reflection once Discord's down and the session winds down, then cut to guest comics while the next arc starts getting worked on?
Balrighty 9th Dec 2018, 9:50 PM edit delete reply
I feel like there's going to be more to this conversation (or at least there should be). That they both need to delve into exactly what they were unsatisfied with in this session and what lead up to it (the latter probably applies more to MainGM), and try to get more specific as to how to avoid or work past those issues. Because I don't think either of them ever need another session like this.
Archone 8th Dec 2018, 10:17 PM edit delete reply
This is actually why I've been supporting Discord GM. Setting aside the specifics of how he handled things, the diceless/statless gameplay and all... he was literally making the whole adventure about THEM. About the player characters. This wasn't just "an all powerful entity shows up, now try to defeat it." This was "an all powerful entity shows up, and it specifically intends to focus its efforts on YOU guys. Because it regards you as a legitimate threat."

I commented in the previous page about how my biggest failing as a GM was being "too nice," which led to serious issues with rules enforcement and player misbehavior and whatnot. But I think my best attribute was that I always tried to make it all about the PCs. At one point I told them point blank, "You guys are on railroad tracks... that I'm building for you, in the direction YOU want to go. So tell me where you want to take things in this campaign, and I'll prepare the next adventure accordingly." I made it very clear: this was their story, and I just needed to know which way to take things so I could spend a few days whipping up the next adventure.

Which... leads to another point. Main GM is not Discord GM. Two different GMs are going to have two different playstyles. And if you look at the MLP: FIM show itself, there's a definite lack of outright villains. The closest things to a repeatedly appearing Big Bad are Chrysalis, and... Dr. Caballeron. The plots and the conflicts are driven quite nicely without the need for an actual nemesis.

Maybe Main GM will start focusing on storylines based around the Mane 6 without worrying too much about making sufficiently interesting NPCs? After all, they're all definitely reaching the "mid level" tier, where the characters start accumulating properties and titles and cohorts and the gameplay shifts from "ragtag bunch of young heroes" to "up and coming influential powers."
Free 8th Dec 2018, 11:15 PM edit delete reply
But if you look back, that was actually part of the *problem* the players had the GM's evolving playstyle: they were trying to focus too much on this big overarching storyline about the PCs and not making them want to explore the world as much, deliberately asking for more (pony) NPCs to interact with. Like, I don't have specific pages, but it was right after Zecora's arc when they did their "alright let's talk about what we liked and disliked" review since the session didn't go very well.
obscurereader 9th Dec 2018, 1:15 AM edit delete reply
@Free, Er, technically that references are incorrect - the criticism after the Zecora arc was more about the DM's manipulations (i.e. deliberately giving bad information to Pinkie Pie OoC to sow discord) and railroading the party with Applebloom.
(For reference regarding the Zecora arc:

What you are referring to did happen and is true - it just was after the previous Dragonshy arc, not the Zecora arc.
(Reference pages:
Free 9th Dec 2018, 2:16 AM edit delete reply
@obscurereader ah, mah b, then
Just reread the entire comic last weekend and it got all jumbled up in mah brain XD At least someone knew what I was on about, though, and the point stands. My pride is merely scuffed.
Archone 9th Dec 2018, 3:16 AM edit delete reply
No, as Obscure pointed out, the problem was with railroading, not building things around the players. The GM was trying to make things go a certain way, instead of just laying down tracks in the direction the players wanted to go.

Also, thanks to Obscure for showing page 180, where Fluttershy points out what I've been saying about Discord the enemy NPC. "Sometimes the challenge, um, you know... makes the victory better. That's... kind of the point, isn't it?"
obscurereader 9th Dec 2018, 3:44 PM edit delete reply
"No, as Obscure pointed out, the problem was with railroading, not building things around the players. The GM was trying to make things go a certain way, instead of just laying down tracks in the direction the players wanted to go."

This is an inaccurate paragraph since the point of my response was to correct when the references Free took place chronologically - I still agree with Free in that the events occurred and the DM had issues with "trying to focus too much on this big overarching storyline about the PCs and not making them want to explore the world as much", I was merely pointing out Free's recollection of when the events took place was incorrect, as the conversation he was referring to took place just after the Dragonshy arc rather than after the Zecora arc. In addition, the problems you are talking about in this paragraph are not mutually exclusive - both were merely addressed at different points in the comic, as displayed by the pages I referred to (which you should know, seeing as you quoted page 180), and either way both of them are still problematic issues to overcome with regards to dming.

"Also, thanks to Obscure for showing page 180, where Fluttershy points out what I've been saying about Discord the enemy NPC. "Sometimes the challenge, um, you know... makes the victory better. That's... kind of the point, isn't it?""

This paragraph quotes page 180 correctly (so thank you for that, good job), it merely has an issue with improperly comparing the the scenario then (that being, to quickly paraphrase, Fluttershy having a rough night and suddenly coming back in to save the party after they bite off more than they can chew against a much-higher-leveled-but-still-statted antagonist using her roleplaying and in-game skills - or more accurately, having her in-game skils used as a prompt for extremely good roleplaying) vs. the situation now (the party being up against a "challenge" in the antagonist of Discord that is, unintentionally or otherwise, impossible to complete through the system or through roleplay due to the massive out-of-system power granted to the character through DM fiat negating any influence the players could have on the story - I have gone over this before, so I'm giving a simplified description here) in-context. A challenge is only a challenge if solutions to the challenge can be accepted - if solutions are not being accepted (ex: Discord ignoring Rarity's OoC stealth attempt on page 1150 before Regular!GM unsubtly tells Discord!DM to have Discord leave the players alone) due to DM fiat, then the so-called "challenge" isn't a challenge, it's a cutscene the players have no input on and have to sit through until the DM lets them do something.
Subhumanoid Guest 9th Dec 2018, 4:05 AM edit delete reply
You say this is an adventure about the characters, but they're basically props for Discord to show off how powerful he is, to rub their helplessness in their faces until he gets complacent and gives them a victory cutscene. The PCs may be featured, but it really isn't their story and none of the choices they're allowed to make are meaningful. Four of them have had their characters remade by DiscorDM, which I've seen done in games by several GMs, often permanently (well, until the players left or the characters died). All they can do is endure the route written for them until they're allowed to guess what the DM wrote for them to do. The session isn't written around the players, it's written around Discord; who the players wrote to be is irrelevant.

The only session they know DiscorDM for has them sitting alone until he visits them to re-write their characters, lording over them and reveling in his dominance over them, and not wanting to leave when they were finally beaten and broken. They don't know him, and their only reason to give him any trust is their own faith in the MainDM, but it's possible their friend has poor judgment or that DiscorDM might betray them.

Once, years ago, I played a super hero game where the GM started the storyline with our street-level heroes joining the hopeless fight against Thanos from the original Infinity Gauntlet limited series (this was years before the Avengers made it to the big screen). I spent the session knowing that my character was going to be saved by GM fiat or we'd all die and wake up after the event (it ended up being saved by GM fiat). Nothing we could do mattered, and the GM lost interest before the actual storyline could really begin. Our characters didn't matter, and all I ever felt was helpless and frustrated.

I've seen omnipotent enemies in other RPGs, but never one that worked when it was the main antagonist for the PCs.
Archone 9th Dec 2018, 7:52 PM edit delete reply
You guys keep returning to the "Discord is all powerful and can't lose unless he lets it happen." Except that is clearly not the case. They ("they" as in "both GMs working together") made the situation very clear: Discord can be easily defeated by the Elements of Harmony. Discord has taken steps to prevent the Elements from being used. The moment the Mane Six successfully restore their ability to use the Elements, they win.

Hell, you want to talk challenge, look at the old CRPG game "Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager." An old school game using AD&D 2nd edition rules and set in the Dark Sun "fantasy post-apocalyptic" setting. The final battle: the High Warrior has created a ritual to bring the Tarrasque to life (Note: in Pathfinder a Tarrasque is Challenge Rating 25. An ancient Red Dragon is CR 19). You have to fight the Tarrasque AND the High Warrior AND the High Warrior's elite troops (fighters, templar priests, etc). And you are limited to at most four adventurers who max out at level 15.

And once you beat the Tarrasque (which you should probably do as quickly as possible, because of the massive DPS the thing has), you have about ten rounds before it RESURRECTS, in which to place four artifacts on four pillars in order to end the ritual and save the world. It is NOT easy... expect to lose at least one team member (or else do a LOT of reloading).
(Incidentally, I highly encourage anyone remotely interested in old school CRPGs to check out both Dark Sun: Shattered Lands and Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager. They're available as abandonware, since they're a few decades old at this point)

As for the Infinity Gauntlet series... here's the original comic, available to read online. I agree with you: the "street level" heroes were simply unable to do much of anything, though they certainly tried their best.
Mr Wednesday 9th Dec 2018, 8:11 PM edit delete reply
There’s plenty you keep returning to, Archone. We probably aren’t going to budge at this point from highlighting the issues we see with Discord’s omnipotence. You say that like you expect us to suddenly realize we’re wrong.

It’s intersting to see Thanos brought up, since that character is essentially Jim Starlin’s DMPC, and any time Thanos gets even close to being defeated, threatened, or changed in any way Starlin doesn’t approve of, he’ll whip out the Retcon hammer and restore the status quo.

“Oh yeah, that Thanos who got defeated was definitely a clone! Real Thanos was obviously busy then, defeating all the Avengers, the Justice League, and the Green Lantern Corps at the same time!”

Thanos also presents the problem of too powerful an antagonist: he gets EVERYTHING HE WANTED, with no catch. He did destroy half of the universe, curb stomp all of his enemies, and only wandered off to be a farmer because he got bored. Even Darkseid (the OG cosmic god) has things he can’t do, and his quest for the anti-life equation is usually futile.

As an example of a better caliber of villain, one of my personal favorites: Khan Noonien Singh. He’s highly intelligent, and when he wants to, he leverages that intelligence. However, his planet-sized ego is only ever a hindrance. Yes he IS that smart, but that’s never enough for him—he needs people to KNOW it, and he consistently gets led into traps because of it. Nevertheless, he is able to die on his terms, and even what he sees as the score between himself and Kirk, taking a loved one for a loved one. He’s far from invincible, but he’s still dangerous.
obscurereader 9th Dec 2018, 10:44 PM edit delete reply
"You guys keep returning to the "Discord is all powerful and can't lose unless he lets it happen." Except that is clearly not the case. They ("they" as in "both GMs working together") made the situation very clear: Discord can be easily defeated by the Elements of Harmony. Discord has taken steps to prevent the Elements from being used. The moment the Mane Six successfully restore their ability to use the Elements, they win."

See, there's a huge problem with this scenario you keep ignoring and downplaying, Archone - that being that in the steps taken to prevent the use of the Elements, Discord proved capable of taking the Elements immediately before they could be given to the Element Bearers to prevent the one thing that could beat him from working. This is the point that proves the "Discord is all powerful and can't lose unless he lets it happen." bit you keep trying to say isn't the case, as once Discord magically took the Elements (I don't recall it ever being explained how he got them, and Celestia IC was like, "I don't understand... That chamber is protected by a powerful spell that only Luna and I can break." and "If they were teleported... Could he have been lying in wait...? Where? How? This doesn't make any sense...", so it definitely seemed like some bs DM fiat thing), it was basically game over for the players for all the relevance they had to the scenario at hand - the only reason the players would be able to get them back at that point, if Discord the character was every bit as powerful, pragmatic and ruthless enough to just take them away like that as presented, is if Discord Let Them Have The Elements. There is no way he could've been tricked or cajoled into giving them up, given how important they were as artifacts.

Logically, all Discord had to do at that point was just make sure they never got the Elements to ensure his win - him giving them back, even if they were cursed to be unable to work the Elements (which, btw, didn't come with any logical solutions for removing the curses, so technically the party is still technically fucked until the DM provides a solution), is precisely Discord giving the players an opportunity to win for no sane or logical reason other than to torment or taunt the player characters and gloat about how superior he is when they simply don't work cause of Discord's machinations (which was precisely what he was doing on pages 1149 and 1150). There are no rules in the system or given by the DMs to make it clear to the players they have a fighting chance - no stats to ground the character to the same ruleset, no secondary magical artifacts Discord hadn't accounted for, nothing. And up to this point, the DMs have done nothing to curb Discord's abilities or define his limits or engage the players with information on how to bypass Discord's powers, so it's not like it's the players' fault they were incapable of doing anything.

Your middle two paragraphs about the challenge are mostly irrelevant as far as I can tell to Discord as a challenge, and seem to be referring to a much more thought out final battle/challenge in a videogame - all of the characters involved would have to be statted in some way as part of the nature of being in a CRPG (with good equipment and junk likely being hidden throughout the game that could be exploited), so all of the characters in that scenario are all bound to the rules of the system. With careful planning and knowledge of how to play the game, what you've outlined is perfectly doable (especially with the ability to reload + look up guides on how to beat the scenario - something that is not available in an actual tabletop rpg, as a note). There are ways to play the scenario with that CRPG to get to the win conditions you've outlined, difficult as it may be - there are no such ways made clear in the Discord scenario as presented up to this point in the comic (which I suspect will be rectified given the current reconciliation between Main!DM and Twilight + the change of heart from Main!DM regarding how everything went down this session). Due to these differences in both medium (CRPGs and Tabletop RPGs with groups of people are different beasts entirely due to one being a singleplayer computer-based videogame that is on-rails by design and the other being a communal interaction game with far fewer theoretical restrictions than a videogame) and scenario execution, your example fails to explain why the Discord scenario works/is okay as a challenge (and is mostly irrelevant to that discussion due to said failure).
Archone 10th Dec 2018, 1:10 PM edit delete reply
@Obscurereader You don't need to be all-powerful to take a few trinkets out of a container. That's 1st level rogue stuff. And the reason why they were taken is simple: because that's the plot hook for the adventure. "We need to stop the big bad with the artifacts we have... oh no, the artifacts were taken. We need to recover the artifacts and then use them." That's the challenge.

As far as overcoming the challenge... you're still treating this as a short, one-shot adventure where Discord wins and evil reigns and the party is upset. This is not the end of the adventure. This is what they call "the Second Act."

This is when things get worse before they can get better. This is when the heroes' vessel is damaged, the team is scattered, hurtful words were exchanged, and everyone's doubting themselves. The title belongs to the bullying rival and the champion is no longer champ. Then comes the third act and the triumphant comeback. The training montage leading to the victory, the juryrigged vehicle moving at ramming speed as friends show up for a last minute save and the doomsday device gets blown to smithereens.

(All of which a good GM WANTS to have happen. A good GM doesn't "kill their darlings." A good GM wants the players to kill the GM's darlings. It's all about creating a good story - a good GM wants the players to get their happy ending)

As for the lack of rules/stats... that's where trust comes in. Because the whole "invincible antagonist" thing is something any GM can do at any time. They can just ignore any deathblows (in Shadowrun there's an actual mechanic for that, allowing for recurring antagonists to keep coming back again and again). Or they can stat out an NPC to be unstoppable (I had a GM do that with an antagonist meant to be a lovable trickster... and was crushed to learn that we saw him as more of an annoying criminal). Hell, the Mutants and Masterminds system incorporates rules specifically ENCOURAGING GMs to do the occasional bit of railroading, with the awarding of Hero Points as compensation for rolling with it. "We begin with the team getting hit by knockout gas and waking up tied to chairs in a locked room. Everyone add a hero point."

(also, I HAVE beaten "Wake of the Ravager." I was simply pointing out that compared to "Tarrasque plus an epic level fighter plus multiple squads of high level fighters and clerics, plus the Tarrasque respawns ten combat rounds after you kill it, and you only get four adventurers who are NOT epic level," Discord's challenge is not all that extreme)

@Wednesday, I agree with most of what you said about Thanos - except that he didn't wander off because he was bored, he wandered off because he admitted the truth, that he didn't feel he DESERVED unlimited power. You look at his behavior and he's basically a spoiled goth teenager howling because the sexy older woman he's crushing on won't return his affections. By contrast Discord (both canon and the NPC in this comic) is a genuinely interesting antagonist.
Free 10th Dec 2018, 2:12 PM edit delete reply
@Archone I generally agree with what you're laying down, here, but it also makes me wonder if Main GM is being overly ambitious with trying to fit their three acts into one session and center it around Discord as a villain worth "a campaign's worth of effort." This is basically their signature set up: throw something at the party they aren't meant to beat in Act I (NM, parasprites, Zecora, Discord), run around in Act II (montage), and final confrontation in Act III for the triumphant victory…or TPK, because it ain't tabletop without risk of critical failure. Now, naturally, not every tabletop player enjoys having this set up thrown at them–it IS more common from linear single player games–and there's always the chance that someone like Twiggly will be at the table to break it. However, their "unwinnable" scenarios have been shown to only be as unwinnable as their table believes them to be; when given a good argument, they've scrapped entire campaigns and sessions mid-Act I. Twilight even tried her signature move at the start of this session, only for GM to put her foot down (finally) on flashback *theoretical* solutions (though fixing Ponyville wouldn't have stopped the session, but it was still nice to see).

Basically, the party has already retrieved the Elements, that's half the solution right there, and Twiggly Wiggly has indicated she has an idea to uncurse her party (whether or not that's actually part of the solution…eh). So yay, win condition nearly achieved!…Except no one's in the mood to celebrate because they're exhausted mid-Act II because interparty drama and unresolved tension, whiiiiich isn't necessarily GM's fault; losing one's temper IC *and* OOC was likely not part of the plan, but still follows their general pattern of misreading their table's expected reactions (i.e. Rarebear's motivation crisis). It's hard to predict how six different people will react to any given thing, so I'm not on the "blame the GM" train, necessarily; a lot of things came up with their players they simply didn't know to be careful of (Shy comes to mind). Something one person thinks is fun and are perfectly content to roll with, is someone else's anti-fun frustration feature, which is partly what the rails argument boils down to: "so long as we get to play the game it's all good" vs "it's only okay if we don't see them."
Balrighty 10th Dec 2018, 6:47 PM edit delete reply
The "all-powerful DMPC who can only be beaten if he himself allows it" is coming from the party's own initial characterization of Discord as (paraphrasing) "an in-universe DM not bothering to hide his power behind the scenes". It's not that he stole the Elements of Harmony, a feat achievable by a 1st-level Rogue; it's that he did so effortlessly and, by all measures, can continue to do so indefinitely. The EoH can only exist in one place. The Mane Six can only exist in one place. And he can snap his fingers to make sure those two places aren't the same place as easy as saying so.

IF the scenario were characterized as "the EoH are items of cosmic Harmony and by their very nature are anathema to Discord and therefore he can only relocate them every so often without hurting himself", then there wouldn't be anyone claiming that he can only lose by his own allowance.

Alternatively, if they took his outburst at Fluttershy and his later gloating about having the world to command and control as instances of Discord embracing lawful tendencies and losing his connection to his unbridled power of chaos, that would also serve to make this a challenge to be overcome outside of him just letting them win.

And those may come out in upcoming pages. But as yet, the character demonstrably has no weaknesses besides the EoH (and those can't be brought into play without his allowance, either).
HappyEevee 9th Dec 2018, 9:09 PM edit delete reply
Great page, Newbiespud! I like the conversation they're having and hope it will be productive so we can see lots more gaming moments with the group!
Mr. Guy 10th Dec 2018, 7:31 AM edit delete reply
Yeah, I played under a DM who was great so long as it was following modules. He had charisma, he could manage a table, and (for most systems)he had a great grasp on the technical side of the game.

The problem was every time he tried to run his own stuff it was awful. He wanted to create specific stories, which greatly limited player choice, and even worse he always used his OC villains. It was a group of bad guys he made in high school that traveled dimensions (so they could show up in any game regardless of system) and were so stupidly OP that they could only be defeated when and where the DM allowed after finding MacGuffin X, Y, and Z. He used and abused DM fiat a lot and we never finished a single campaign of his. Every time he'd promise things would be better, but it would all be the same and we'd lose interest very quickly. I don't game with that group anymore, but I'm told he only does modules and one-shot original campaigns these days.
Archone 10th Dec 2018, 1:17 PM edit delete reply
It's good to know that GM has acknowledged what he can and can't do. Personally I think that if a GM wants a recurring character that the players will actually like, they should make them a non-antagonist who makes occasional guest appearances (so as not to kill the interest with overexposure). Something like... Hassan...