Page 1151 - Beverage Emergency

4th Dec 2018, 5:00 AM in The Return of Harmony, Part 2
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Beverage Emergency
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 4th Dec 2018, 5:00 AM edit delete
FAQ: "Hey Spud, don't you miss the days of FiD where comic pages got three-digit comments almost every week?"
Me: "No, not really."

So by now, the divisive Discord discourse is starting to cast for HP instead of mana, and I can see a few battle lines forming. As fascinated as I am by how various alternate interpretations have slowly entrenched into alternate realities, I gotta prioritize keeping my comic's comment section a civil, unstressful place.

So do you want to know what I think about Discord? Well, I don't know for sure yet. I haven't finished writing him. Even if I do come down with a firm judgment... I'm the author. I'm dead. Some of you will choose to see what you want to see regardless.

You're all seeing the DMs and the players through the lens of your own experiences. Sometimes awful experiences. Players who've been problem cases when DMs give it their all. DMs who've taken things way too far with total disregard for their players. Cases where there's a clear villain, and cases where it's just a matter of playstyles clashing or personal non-cohesion. Even with all the stories told over the many years this comic's been running, I've never seen so many perspectives on this conflict that is perhaps the most central to tabletop roleplaying. I could never have expected all this when I started writing; I'll admit that freely.

What is Discord, to me? I think I have to say something if I want this discussion to cool down for a while. At this moment, with just a small buffer in front of me, Discord is... well, in some ways, a parody of some of the "genius" DMs I've known and heard about over the years, their traits dialed up to 11... and handed a challenging target, which they pursue with all of their ability.

Discord isn't acting with "evil in his heart," in my mind... He's an attack dog. He's only paying attention to the characters' reactions and emotions as much as it gives him data to further utilize against them. And he thinks it's okay because he knows the players are supposed to win in the end and supposedly get a massive, well-earned catharsis out of it. That's how it's always worked, for the best villains of the "genius" DMs.

Notice: Guest comic submissions are open! Guidelines here. Deadline: January 27th, 2023.



KSClaw 4th Dec 2018, 5:05 AM edit delete reply
The DM is allowed to be upset too, Twilight.
Digo Dragon 4th Dec 2018, 5:11 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Perhaps so, but Twi might feel that the GM's idea to bring in DiscordDM is a direct result of how Twi broke the GM's first campaign arc with gathering the elements. This arc is indeed going the GM's way, and Twi has been frustrated over ther inability to affect things or contribute meaningfully due to all the interruptions and the cursed PCs not engaging her.

Another way to put it, Twi thinks the GM got what they asked for, but the GM thinks maybe not what they wanted.
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 5:41 AM edit delete reply
I do feel sympathy for the GM now that reality is hitting home but it's also kind of a 'reap what you sow' scenario. They wanted everyone cursed and squabbling and at each others throats, well......~ta-da~

I know that they're inexperienced but part of me still thinks this idea was on par with "You started a fight at a soccer game. How did you think this was going to end well?" *stands in the middle of a burning city*
Borg 4th Dec 2018, 10:55 AM edit delete reply
I think it's more along the lines of "You started a game of Diplomacy. How did you think this was going to end?" Yes it's a game with a reputation for ruining friendships, but if you chose to play it you probably thought your group would be able to not take it too far.
Bartimaeus 4th Dec 2018, 3:27 PM edit delete reply
"You started a game of Mario Party. How did you think this was going to end?"
HappyEevee 4th Dec 2018, 7:43 PM edit delete reply
Nothing ruins friendships faster than Mario Party.
obscurereader 4th Dec 2018, 8:34 PM edit delete reply
Another thing to note: this whole thing was sprung onto the players without any real warning. Personally, I might be down for Mario Party if I was asked spontaneously, but I'd definitely be more for it if it was planned in advance/declared officially (i.e. "Let's play Mario Party at my place!").

I would not be okay with, for instance, a friend inviting me and some other friends over for dinner, then going, "If you want to get the food, you gotta drink alcohol and play some Mario Party with my friend I didn't tell you about!" when none of the invited people wanted to do any of that or was in the mood for it (or knew it was coming). <- This is a total exaggeration/hypothetical scenario that wouldn't happen irl, but it's the closest analogue I can think of off the top of my head to what actually happened with this session - the players were expecting a group vs. the world game session full of chill slice-of-life antics + growing plots, and instead got tricked and forced into pseudo-pvp by an all-powerful god they had a snowball's chance in hell of beating on their own terms plot-wise. Not exactly a pleasant surprise like a bouquet of flowers or a box of chocolates, especially coming from a trusted friend.
Digo Dragon 4th Dec 2018, 5:07 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
I'm disappointed. None of the bards in the games I ran stashed mini-coolers around my house. :(
Godzfirefly 4th Dec 2018, 7:12 AM edit delete reply
That you ever found...
Digo Dragon 4th Dec 2018, 11:55 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
I'm the divination wizard of my home. You don't put anything in there without me finding out. Heck, I found junk the last owner apparently lost. I have a full BBQ toolset. XD
Cygnia 4th Dec 2018, 8:13 AM edit delete reply
Our party Bard brought Jim Beam -- but wouldn't share it.
Needling Haystacks 4th Dec 2018, 11:23 AM edit delete reply
Seems as good a place as any for this meme.

I want a Mountain Dew!
SilverShadow4 4th Dec 2018, 11:28 AM edit delete reply
Where's the Mountain Dew??

It's in the FRIDGE!!
BunBun299 4th Dec 2018, 9:06 PM edit delete reply
Ewww, I'll take the crab juice!
Winged Cat 4th Dec 2018, 11:50 AM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
The bards I know would more likely bring cookies. And not stash, but share, because they're meant to be used.
ChaoticBrain 4th Dec 2018, 5:21 AM edit delete reply
Did we miss a comic? When did Twilight go gray?
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 5:32 AM edit delete reply
Probably on the walk to wherever she is now after she got a drink. The tone of her speech says volume. 'Hurrah, you finally succeeded in forcing us to do everything you want to do and be damned with what we want to do right?' is what she was probably thinking along the lines of before she walked into the room with the GM, who, if the Spike pics are a clue, is pretty deep in the wine cooler right now...
DuoScratch 4th Dec 2018, 7:16 AM edit delete reply
Probs just a representation of her player being drained from a rough session, as well as she was like that in this particular scene soooooo....
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 7:32 AM edit delete reply
Well, the title of the page is Beverage Emergency and they brought up that they found one of Pinkie's hidden caches of booze in their house. And considering their mood I wouldn't be surprised if they were sitting on the couch hitting the bottle pretty hard. Plus it sets up a joke for when Spike starts vomiting letters, except...the letters will be a metaphor for....something else.
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 5:26 AM edit delete reply
So Discord isn't doing any of this out of malice. I'm sure some probably would expect me as one of his bigger detracters on here to scream at the heavens, say that I know he's evil or just go for denial. But I'm not. I predicted he was being an ass on purpose and my prediction was wrong, that's why they're predictions not certainties. Now do I think he's a saint or that he's just trying to do some wierd psychological healing thing? Hell no, this game still has been a pretty nasty mess overall and he's seemed to be less than observant about everything going straight for the ground.

And once again, I've been there, I've been the oblivious asshole, in my case I was turning into a napoleon, trying to command the rest of the party move for move. After the session that happened though my friend told me that I was kinda being an ass and it brought things into clarity. So while Discord isn't doing this out of sinister intend, I do think for his own good someone needs to bluntly tell him that he's kinda being a prick and making some people unhappy. Yes I know -SOME- of the party aren't having a problem with the game, but you can't ignore players just because a few of them aren't miserable. That's the challenge of the GM, you gotta find the compromise to entertain everyone. You can't just shove part of the group aside because they don't 'get it' or something.
GrayGriffin 4th Dec 2018, 9:04 AM edit delete reply
Man, I don't think DiscorDM really gets the concept of "small victories" either. If I were him, I'd give the players a few chances to uncurse important locations, or recruit NPCs to their side/help protect them from the chaos. They did get to do that in the maze, but it seemed to be more the main GM's idea. Especially since this is supposed to be a multi-session villain.
FanOfMostEverything 4th Dec 2018, 5:54 AM edit delete reply
Irrespective of Discord, in character or out of it, I have to appreciate how well Spike's digestive distress works as a visual metaphor for the usual DM's inner turmoil. To say nothing of all the lessons that are about to come bursting out.
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 6:04 AM edit delete reply
I don't think it's a metaphor for their turmoil....I think it's a metaphor for them being smashed on wine cooler and about to puke...

Twilight should probably stay at arms length.
Malroth 4th Dec 2018, 12:47 PM edit delete reply
How does one get smashed on wine cooler? I ask as a mutant freak with near unlimited alchohol tolerance and nigh instantaneous recovery from being drunk.
THE OTHER GUEST 4th Dec 2018, 8:23 PM edit delete reply
How is you be like me, who gets light headed just from checking the aroma and bouquet of a glass of wine...

Needless to say, I don't drink very often, and I never drink "out" since I'm the one who has to drive myself home.
Jannard 4th Dec 2018, 7:00 AM edit delete reply
Thanks for the clarifications Newbie. I think many people in the comments started to read "evil" or "malice" into the actions of one or more of the characters, and that's usually where trouble starts to flow, because anyone who engages in similar behaviours, or would do so if prompted, will feel morally attacked.

People tend to forget that any one of us, as people with good and bad in us that we are, can "act like an asshole" at any moment, without necessarily being assholes themselves. Hell, a person may actually BE an asshole without realizing their behaviour is problematic.
As you said, often enough in the roleplaying scenario the underliyng problem is the clash of playstyles, but that doesn't mean some playstyles couldn't be considred unhealthy -YMMV-; not to mention actual disgusting people, but I don't think that applies to any of the characters in this comic (except maybe Gilda's player to a point?).

That's why I didn't "pick a side" and still consider that DiscorDM has had problematic behaviour patterns, while also considering that the regular DM has had problematic behaviour patterns, and Twilight's player has had problematic behaviour patterns. And yes, the other players too, but with the exception of Fluttershy's player, the consequences of their actions are all about playstyle clash and some degree of selfish obliviousness, not mean-spirited derision or manipulative intent (well, unless I'm glaringly missing something, which I concede may be happening).
Mr. Guy 4th Dec 2018, 7:00 AM edit delete reply
'Death of the Author' is the biggest load of shit the literary analysis community has ever come up with and that's saying a lot. There's a good reason Twain, Carroll, and Pratchett alike have slammed literary analysis.
Kheldarson 4th Dec 2018, 7:15 AM edit delete reply
Ehhh... Word of God/Death of the Author both have their places in literary analysis. Word of God lets you know wh as t the author actually meant and puts things in context, while Death puts the focus on how the work comes across to readers. The real question is what your analytical purpose is.
Classic Steve 4th Dec 2018, 7:22 AM edit delete reply
I'm with you. And it's all the worse for having a confusing dysphemism of a name.
Borg 4th Dec 2018, 11:00 AM edit delete reply
Personally, when the temporary madness comes over me and compels me to write, I am fond of Death of the Author. I will generally refuse to answer questions about things not established in the story if I am asked; I have never felt it is my place to do so.
Winged Cat 4th Dec 2018, 11:48 AM edit delete reply
Winged Cat
The author is dead? If anyone's got a 9th level spell slot with the right spell list, I've got the diamonds and holy water.
Digo Dragon 4th Dec 2018, 11:57 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
I dunno, I can think of several other ways to more satisfyingly spend 25 grand of diamonds.
Archone 4th Dec 2018, 3:20 PM edit delete reply
There were two reasons why Twain, Carroll, and Pratchett all slammed literary analysis.

1: The Emperor Has No Clothes. Literary critics and professors love to praise massive paperweights filled with polysyllabic diatribes that are supposedly filled with meaning and nuance... and they're often projecting their own beliefs onto the page, seeing things that aren't there, and trying to maintain the charade. Because if they admit they can't see the "deeper meaning" in what they think is an ancient work of colossal wisdom (but is actually centuries old pop fiction filled with cultural references of their day. Like Shakespeare or Cervantes), then they'll be called out for being fools.

2: Twain, Carroll, and Pratchett were all slammed by critics in their day for being too popular. Because popular literature is obviously stupid and caters to the lowest common denominator. Because if the unwashed masses were genuinely intelligent... they'd buy the books written by the critics and professors, instead. (Inside every critic is a failed artist)
Balrighty 4th Dec 2018, 6:45 PM edit delete reply
@Archone, that reminds me of an old saying:

What the book says: "The curtains were blue."

What the English teacher thinks the author meant: "The room with the curtains isn't introduced until after the character entering the room has received unfortunate news, and the curtains symbolize that character's current lack of hope."

What the author meant: "The curtains were effing blue."
aerion111 5th Dec 2018, 5:42 AM edit delete reply
Ah, but WHY where the curtains blue? Because the author decided at a whim that it fit the scene? There's probably a reason the author thought it fit, even if it might not have been a conscious decision. Did it complete the 'somber' tone? Do they associate blue with the walls of their own childhood home? Why did blue feel like the 'right' choice, to the author, in that scene?
Balrighty 5th Dec 2018, 6:23 AM edit delete reply
Because the curtains have to be some color, and when the author threw the dart at the dartboard, it landed on "blue".
aerion111 5th Dec 2018, 12:33 PM edit delete reply
Most authors don't decide such minor things with the dartboard method, though. They decide them by what feels right. Which means it's influenced by their own mind, so to speak.
Balrighty 5th Dec 2018, 1:12 PM edit delete reply
That's my point. Something that minor, by virtue of being that minor, whether decided via dartboard or unconscious childhood association, doesn't warrant the scrutiny being applied to it.
Guest 4th Dec 2018, 11:05 PM edit delete reply
There's something I say, whenever this subject comes up:

Literary analysis is only valid when the writer has studied literary theory.

And that's the beginning and end of it.

It's not a matter of 'communities,' it's not about people deluding themselves so they'll belong to an in-group. It's about the people who study an established pattern of communication, for the purpose of expression, so they can say more with less. Brevity, et. al.

People who try to apply ideas of literary theory (/analysis) to works that weren't written with those ideas in mind, aren't much different than the people who try to speak a foreign language because they think it makes them sound cultured.
Kyu 4th Dec 2018, 7:04 AM edit delete reply
It is nice to get some confirmation that DiscordDM isn’t an evil guy. Hopefully that’ll help curb some of the more intense arguments from both ends of things.

Though the debate itself was still interesting to watch.
DuoScratch 4th Dec 2018, 7:11 AM edit delete reply
Hoh boy, the "you got what YOU wanted," player snipe. The circle is complete for Twilight. She finally gets to feel how much it sucks when all their best laid plans don't work out, and now she feels like she's being targeted. She's not, of course, but she's gonna piss and moan like she was, because this is the first time she's had an experience she couldn't Deus Ex out of.

Personally, I think she's kinda being a baby, and yet at the same time, understandably so. She's not a rookie player anymore, but this is still her first campaign. She hasn't run up against too many true roadblocks just yet, so it's GOING to frustrate her to this point. So no, I don't think she's a bad player, or anything, she's just annoying. Everyone's annoying at some point, and even if it IS understandable from SOME perspective, it's STILL annoying.

Also, I do hope someone picks up that phone, cuz I FREAKING CALLED IT! I knew Discord wasn't some arsehole out to ruin everything! Even if he kinda is on accident. Also, this is why when you have a co-DM, one is the clear cut leader, who makes all the final decisions, cuz this right here can happen. If you bring in a Co-DM, you are not created equal, you are main DM, you make all the final says on what happens, that's the way it has to go, otherwise things get mucked up.

As for thoughts on the next step in the comic, now is the time for the calm. It's time for DM and player to sit down and talk it out, which it looks like things are gonna go that way. It's time to brush aside the bull, and let it all hang out, the frustrations, the mistakes, everything. Once they do that, they can work past all that junk and get back to funtimes again. And considering this is a campaign made in Equestria, I see this as exactly what will happen...ya know...friendship being magic and junk like that. XD
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 7:26 AM edit delete reply
Uh Twilight never Deus Ex'ed anything or did any of what she did on purpose. It's not her fault that the GM left giant gaping holes in their planning that the party walked through. A friend of mine once had a dragon show up to taunt us, and about 5 crits later it was dead long before we were ever supposed to have a real fight with it. My friend didn't blame us though he just stood there blinking and after the session told me. "Yeah, I probably should have played it safe and not let you guys fight him just in case....that happened."

It's actually become something of a hilarious tradition that if he ever has a villain show up early the party will just end up rolling crits everywhere. His villains now use long distance illusions, crystal balls and viewscreens and stay at least 15 miles from the party at all times until the finale.

And technically they were targetted. Spud said Discord was an attack dog. The GM brought him in specifically to take them down. I know I'd feel kinda insulted if a GM brought in another person specifically to make sure we lose and can't do anything but follow their script to a T.
Khyrin 4th Dec 2018, 7:56 AM edit delete reply
CelestiaGM didn't target Twilight.
DiscordDM did.
He planned to curse everyone BUT Twilight.
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 8:32 AM edit delete reply
Discord is in sports terms, what they would call a ringer. A player far above the skill level of everyone else playing to the point that they can probably win the entire game by themselves. Discord is obviously skilled at just destroying parties and keeping them penned in, and that's exactly why the GM brought him in, to unleash him on her 'out of control' party and bring them to heel. It just worked a little too well and the GM didn't really think of the possible consequences or how the party would react to someone just crushing them with no way to really fight back.
Balrighty 4th Dec 2018, 10:07 AM edit delete reply
I don't know that it's fair to characterize Discord (the character or the person) as a ringer. Certainly, they're being used as a ringer, but have we really seen him demonstrate skill far beyond that of everyone else at the table? Or is it just him having so many more resources to use and the willingness to use them all (his insights, however he got them, on what he needed to do to tailor-craft his curses towards the individual players, or the fact that his avatar in the game is a reality-warping god answerable to no one)? I mean, Superman is a ringer compared to Muhammed Ali, but once the playing field got leveled, we could see that it wasn't due to skill.
Newbiespud 4th Dec 2018, 8:07 AM edit delete reply
Don't get too smug, DuoScratch. You're only "right" in the sense that Discord isn't an asshole just to be an asshole, but rather an asshole because he's so far into the game (and his own hype) that he's basically turned off any empathy that doesn't benefit his own ability to read and predict players. That's still a certain kind of bad guy.
Toric 4th Dec 2018, 9:00 AM edit delete reply
Also, with some exceptions, I think the debate had kind of moved past whether Discord was deliberately trying to kill everyone else's fun because it was wrong. I think most people agreed there was no deliberate IRL villainy, and disagreement was more oriented on how appropriate Discord's conduct was at the table. So saying "it wasn't deliberate" is an easy line to draw, but isn't really helpful in some of the other, more controversial debates like "is Discord behaving badly?" or "is Twilight being reasonable or petty?"
DuoScratch 4th Dec 2018, 9:48 AM edit delete reply
@Toric - True, that's why I went into those other questions as well. Though only as an afterthought on the "Is Discord acting badly," one. Gotta admit, that that one was a blink and you'd miss it covering.

@Newbiespud - For now, that's good enough to go on. I'll revisit his exact villain status when I have more info on the dude. So far, I know he's a super quirky person that does have some control issues, and a flair for the flamboyant. A kinda villain on accident so far. If this changes, well, I'll see, won't I? XD

@ThatGuest - I agree to disagree with you. That's all I got on that one.
Mr Wednesday 4th Dec 2018, 10:06 AM edit delete reply
You’re right, Toric. For my part it took me a long time to realise that DiscorDM was just acting in his nature.

Something I’m happy to see in this page is MainGM talking to Twi like this. I’m sorry that they feel bad, but I’m glad to see them acknowledge the actual, as opposed to intended, effects of their plan.
GrayGriffin 4th Dec 2018, 11:22 AM edit delete reply
How would Twilight "Deus Ex" something? She's not the GM. She doesn't have the ability to bring in new items. If she says something and it works, that's because the GM allowed it himself.
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 6:08 PM edit delete reply
I think most of it comes from Twilight guessing the element riddle and her being able to defeat the parasprites in one turn. When both of those are really the fault of the GM.
Haledrake 4th Dec 2018, 12:14 PM edit delete reply
Starting to understand what Spud's other author comment about "what comic are YOU reading?"

Because what comic are YOU reading!?

DiscorDM was clearly targeting Twilight. Like... I'm sorry but you kind of have to be blind to miss it. It's in the text AND the panels.
Spud at Work 4th Dec 2018, 12:35 PM edit delete reply
Yo, calm down Haledrake. I don't want to come back in nine hours to a flame war.
DuoScratch 5th Dec 2018, 1:44 AM edit delete reply
@GrayGriffin - It's not only possible for a character to Deus Ex a story, there's a term for it in D&D. Look up the Henderson Scale. It's worth a looksee, and a laugh. ;p

@ThatGuest - GMs are human too, you can't honestly expect them to think of everything. Not everything that goes awry is GM faultiness. Sometimes, a player is just smarter than their GM. It's not a matter of fault. No one really has to be at fault for something like a player Deus Exing, or Hendersoning, a game. It sometimes just happens.

As an aside, I'm not out to start flame crap in the comments, there's been enough of that. I was just mainly voicing my opinions. If I was a bit too hostile in voicing them, I apologize. I do not wanna be a "shit stirrer," I merely wish to share my own insight into what is occurring. I do know I can get pushy, so if I'm doing that too, I'm sorry again.
GrayGriffin 5th Dec 2018, 3:08 AM edit delete reply
The Old Man Henderson story didn't happen in D&D. Also, Henderson is supposed to be the sympathetic figure in that story anyways, considering what the GM was like. Plus it was still the GM letting the player have things. They could have shut him down at any turn, really. Twilight also doesn't have a 900-page backstory justifying her ability to do anything, she's just good at putting pieces together.
DuoScratch 5th Dec 2018, 6:43 AM edit delete reply
The old man Henderson story doesn't have to be D&D to be associated with it. And honestly, at this point, this is a tomato tomahto situation, and I'm just gonna agree to disagree with you on this. I have my opinion, and you have yours.
Mr Wednesday 5th Dec 2018, 6:15 PM edit delete reply
The whole Henderson thing actually shines an interesting light on this situation, in that most of the actions of GM and player in that game are deliberate, as the story says: "the GM was a bastard who had it coming" which MainGM isn't.

That Henderson GM was adversarial and with a heavy emphasis on railroading. Old Man Henderson was not designed as a highly competent character to solve problems, but conceived of specifically to break the game into pieces. It's not really about Deus Ex, it's about ruthless use of the rules to punish somebody.

Henderson's backstory was a legalistic excuse. Quote: "The point to having such a long backstory was three-fold.
to ensure the GM would never actually read it and
Since he would never read it except for in excerpts I pointed out to justify things, I could re-write and change things around completely at random without anyone noticing and MOST IMPORTANTLY
Convince everyone that I was serious about this character, and that it wasn't simply the game wrecking bullshit that it was."

And then of course the Henderson game ends with the GM's head exploding and another player stepping in to provide a denouement.

The Henderson game highlights what happens when everyone is an asshole to each other, and leverages the rules to further be an asshole. So applying it to this game and these players, is a bit of a stretch in the following way: neither party is acting with that kind of malicious intent.

MainGM seems to lack confidence, and often gets frustrated at not getting to express their full vision for this game. Twilight loves to optimize and problem-solve, with the GM often getting outsmarted or failing to remember some crucial detail which Twi later uses to full advantage.

So bringing in Henderson gives us some perspective, as even in this troubling patch, this group is far away from that level of broken.
THE OTHER GUEST 5th Dec 2018, 9:07 PM edit delete reply
There is, however, The Henderson Scale of Plot Derailment, which measures regardless of the intent of either the GM or the players.

In the Nightmare Moon game, Twilight scored a solid -1 Hendersons: The action has immediately solved the campaign in its entirety. The villain is vanquished, the disaster is averted, the person in distress is saved. Gather your dice and character sheets, gg everyone.

She didn't set out intending to do so, but the GM's inexperience and rigid adherence to their campaign outline causing an inability/unwillingness(?) to Improv their way out of the corner Twilight inadvertently put them in allowed the party to beat the villain and end the campaign in the first session.

That does not, however, mean that what Twilight did was indeed a Deus-Ex-Machina [a person or thing (as in fiction or drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly and provides a contrived solution to an apparently insoluble difficulty].

What would be a Deus Ex Machina would be if Twilight had been allowed to execute her "Failsafe" spell at the beginning of the Discord Session, since while she had discussed the Mechanics of the idea with the GM, she hadn't established with them that she'd actually set the thing up at any point in time prior to the start of the session, so she wasn't allowed to use it.

Every time the game has been derailed through the actions of Twilight in previous sessions, Including the Nightmare Moon encounter, has been done by using information that had already been presented in the game, or by her prompting other players to use skills and abilities that they have legitimately available to them on their character sheets.

That's not Twilight pulling a Deus Ex. That's Twilight picking up the various incarnations of Chekhov's Gun the GM and other players have made available to her, accidentally or otherwise.
Mr Wednesday 5th Dec 2018, 9:51 PM edit delete reply
@THEOTHERGUEST, Really well said! Am excellent, balanced response!
ThatGuest 5th Dec 2018, 6:42 AM edit delete reply
I know GMs can't think of everything, I'm more calling out the GM for poor planning, which is excusable for a first session, but then blaming it on the players and not them. Rather than going "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have made the solution so obvious and put the collectables next door to the starting line." instead they seemed to have gone full saturday morning villain. "Argh! Curse those players for ruining my brilliant plan! I'll get them next time! NEXT TIME!" And each time after that, rather than have the problems happen far enough away that the party couldn't interfere or off camera, they dangled it right in front of the party practically daring them to try and stop them this time!......Then lost it when they stopped them.

The GM is focusing far too much on what they want the endgame to be for their brilliant arc but kinda forgetting about all that middle stuff....and the beginning thingy. Like if they were writing Star Wars their pitch would be "A giant space station blows up at the end!" "Okay.....what happens before that during the rest of the movie?" "Um........stuff......but I don't really care about that, let's get to work filming that explosion!" "Get out of my office."

Also any GM needs to think of redundancies, yes you can't plan for -everything- but you should at least plan for something. Especially stuff you know your party might do. Easy quick fix I would have made for the parasprite mistake? "Yes parasprites eat everything.....including -MAGIC-" *evil laughter after revealing Twilight made more of them with her magic missiles*
Toric 4th Dec 2018, 8:56 AM edit delete reply
Can't help but wonder...when Twilight says "How...did you get here before me?" do you think she means "get to the fridge" or "get to this level of inebriation?" I mean, the fridge shouldn't be terribly surprising, but the implication of the panels and tone is that Main GM is deeper in their cups than Twilight's player. It also makes more sense in the context of Main GM revealing the hidden coolers, as they would have no relevance to a race to the fridge.
Haledrake 4th Dec 2018, 12:10 PM edit delete reply
DiscorDM and DM both made a cardinal mistake.

No campaign action should ever, ever, EVER,


be at the expense of a player.

At the expense of the players, plural, sure. That's where some of the best stakes come from.

But no one should EVER be singled out like this.

It starts from the DM and works out toward the players. You can see it happening throughout this whole arc.

It makes plenty of sense in the show, in the first 3 or 4 seasons Twilight was demonstrably the main character of the show.

It is not okay in a cooperative game.

IIRC Twilight's player is also the second least experienced with this type of game after Fluttershy's (maybe equally inexperienced? been a while).

Both DMs just singled out the "new player," and hammered at her until the other players started doing it too.

This is how you get players to leave games, and even friendships.

You don't gang up on your friends. Especially when you're all supposed to be having fun.
Kereminde 5th Dec 2018, 8:39 AM edit delete reply
I'm not sure I agree there should be a list of "definitive rules" to GM by. Perhaps for your table, perhaps for my table, perhaps for DiscorDM's table. But not for every table.

There should be only one rule, in my opinion: "we're here to have a good time playing a game, so let's help each other do that".

Yes, that means all the rules in the GM Guide are entirely able to be arbitrarily changed as desired, as well as the ones in the Handbook. So long as the people at the table are having a good time, I don't see the issue of it.

It's perfectly possible to have a session, or an arc, or even a campaign at the expense of one character . . . and have it be good. As long as everyone at the table is on board, and it's not sprung on them with no warning.

And yes, I've been that player who was the low person on the totem pole. Knowing it's what's gonna happen, you can have a lot of fun rolling with it.
MiqoRems 5th Dec 2018, 12:23 PM edit delete reply
That's actually *in* most books, as Rule 0... and it's useful here because it's been glaringly obvious for awhile now that, at a minimum, one of the players is having anti-fun, and should have been addressed.
Digo Dragon 4th Dec 2018, 12:30 PM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Offsite comment I read today--
"So, if NewbieSpud has to write an opinion piece on an FiD comic, because of split fan reaction, is it a... PotaTorial?"
Lionhero 4th Dec 2018, 2:20 PM edit delete reply
Spud I am so glad that you are putting your foot down, the comment section isn't friendly anymore. Debates are great but often these have become Ad Hominem Attacks and that just sucks. No matter what your opinion is on the Discord arc, you are a wonderful human being and I wish you the best! (Hug sent through phone)
Guest 4th Dec 2018, 3:36 PM edit delete reply
What I find funny is that MainDM is just now learning the friendship lesson the Mane 6 learned at the Gala in the show.

If Newbiespud included a flashback (framed as DM telling Twilight about what they thought would be the Best Night Ever) set to "at the Gala", it'd be beyond awesome.

"At my table, at my table, they'll finally explore,
All the places and schemes, that now they can't ignore.
It'll be great and they'll see, what great DMing can be,
Tonight at the taaaaaable!"
belmontzar 4th Dec 2018, 5:58 PM edit delete reply
I get that Twilight and her player is getting a bit upset, but at the same time I think the other players are having fun messing with thier characters. Pinkie, Rarity and AJ in particular are experienced gamers having fun with the roleplay I think. Fluttershy is doing her best but notices Twilight's frustration and both Twi and RD are used to different sort of games or stories. For once this entire session has been taking a deeper look at thier personal characters. Flipping around aspects of thier character for the sake of improvization and role play instead of just Luck and numbers.

I also get the impression that in talking to DiscordGM, regular GM mentioned how often TWilight messes with plotlines or plot threads, and that Discord has in reality, been targeting Twilight the entire time. Probably to teach Twilight a lesson about role play, kinda like has been done with Fluttershy before. I dont think DiscordGM is trying to be mean or anything, he wants to show Twilight and remind regular GM about the more mind bending aspects you can have in rp. I think if Twilight talked to her friends OOC Rarity and pinkie would talk about how much fun they are actually having getting to explore thier characters in this new way.
[Wow this was a long comment.. I hope it turns out ok.. yikes.]
THE OTHER GUEST 4th Dec 2018, 8:54 PM edit delete reply
On the other hand, "[DiscorDM] wants to show Twilight and remind regular GM about the more mind bending aspects you can have in rp." is treading awfully close to the line "Your Fun is Wrong." that's been discussed to death in previous pages comments. Very few players approach the table with the exact same expectations for a session, including and especially the GM, and almost no-one plays exactly the same as anyone else.

Twilight's play style is neither wrong nor right, and has developed over the course of the previous sessions, but this is still her first Game. She does RP, when appropriate, but she still enjoys the "Puzzle/Intellectual" aspects of the game more than Turning the RP-Ham "Up-To-11" like players such as Rarity or Pinkie. There's nothing wrong with that, and I'm sure the longer she plays, and the more games she plays in after this one comes to a final close, the more comfortable she'll become with RP, but the Problem Solving and Troubleshooting will always be her primary comfort zone, and trying to force (DiscorDM?*) her out of that comfort zone rather than easing her into things (ManeGM**) is more likely to turn her away from the game altogether.

* We still aren't entirely sure of DiscorDM's motivations for doing what he's doing, so I'm hedging my bets here. I've mentioned before that it wouldn't surprise me if this was one of his goals, but it could also be something we haven't seen yet.

** The first couple sessions the ManeGM prompts Twilight to RP a couple times, being the new player alongside Fluttershy, and even helps play-act a couple scenes, but it's always in a way that's trying to help Twilight participate and they don't push her to try and emulate, say, Rarity. Eventually Twilight does become more comfortable with RP cues and starts responding on her own.
obscurereader 4th Dec 2018, 8:26 PM edit delete reply
So, here's a thought exercise for everyone: assuming you were in Celestia!DM's shoes at the start of the arc and really wanted to execute a story featuring Discord as an antagonist with these players and Discord!DM as Discord; how would you go about doing so to avoid how this arc went and possibly make a really cool story where the players take on a god and win?

Personally, though I'd much rather do something else for this group and the campaign and I seriously lack dming experience (and for the record, I've made extremely awful mistakes in what experience I have done in dming that I regret to this day), I feel as a player there are major things that need to be changed about Discord - how he was introduced, what he can do in concept, how he can affect the players, what bringing in Discord!DM to play him means, how the players react, etc. - which would include, but are not limited to:

1. Dialing back how powerful he is at the start (maybe have him be equivalent to a wizard of Twilight's caliber at first due to getting stuck in the stone and having his skills atrophy from disuse), and giving him control of only a few set areas like the hedge maze (with any changes to the players by Discord requiring the players accept a "deal" of some sort, with full warnings from both Celestia and Discord in-character on how they'd probably get screwed over if taking/making a deal for whatever reason and opportunities to get out of said deal/rp their way to victory and gather information to use without getting screwed too hard to use it). Discord cannot be allowed to change things on a whim and at will too much, God of Chaos status be damned, lest the players go, "Welp, this guy's unbeatable and we have no way of stopping him since his powers are so all-encompassing, we can't do squat, game over man, game over." - He needs some form of limitation (especially due to Discord the character's status as an antagonistic villain), whether that be actual stats in the system or a mechanic made up between the DMs (ex: every hour or so he goes free, they roll a d100 to see if something random/chaotic happens or something and go from there - with the players being fully capable of reacting to and dealing with whatever results occur rather than, "This happens, you can't do anything about it, deal with it." - and if it lands on random numbers, he regains more power and shit goes down, idk).

2. Introduce Discord!DM in to run/help run a breather session before going into the arc, let him and the players get acquainted so they can get to know each other in and out of character - and more importantly, hash out and learn of any possible issues that might arise from their interactions (and if necessary, prepare for the possibility that the entire plotline needs to go back to the drawing board due to irreconcilable issues). Discord!DM as he is now in-comic has made a heavy impression due to playing the villainous character of Discord the Chaos God, and might not be remembered as who he is but for who he was playing and what he did to hurt the players - possible reactions from players include but are not limited to them not realizing his act as Discord isn't his normal deal and/or get pissed off due to this random person walking in and fucking with them if Discord!DM the person is not introduced carefully. Introducing Discord!DM in a much safer, less antagonistic capacity builds rapport, ensures he and the players have time to set boundaries and rules OoC while getting to know one another, and helps soften the blow to the players if he is brought back as an antagonist as powerful as Discord (and who knows, he might end up endearing himself to the party so well that they'd legitimately want him to do it and keep coming back).

3. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT take away the Elements of Harmony right out of the gate (or if you do, make sure the players have some alternative to dealing with Discord the character planned). If the Elements of Harmony are the only way for the players to definitively defeat Discord, then for the love of god do not render them worthless and/or unavailable through any action by Discord (cause that just means he wins, period, and the dms have to either bullshit something/let the players bullshit something to let the players win in a likely unsatisfying manner or nuke the campaign world entirely or some other not-pleasant outcome). The players need a fighting chance to stay engaged, villain threat be damned, and there are other ways of maintaining tension/villain capability in this situation. (For instance, there could be some cat-and-mouse games with the hedge maze, where the party is attempting to regroup together and Friendship Nuke Discord while Discord is attempting to stall for time to regain strength and/or disable them similarly to how it was done in this comic, just with clear limits and ways to break the curses rather than just the players being stuck with their thumbs up their asses and at each other's throats. Or the players could be trying to race the clock to catch and contain Discord as Discord does his best to run away through the hedge maze to gather more power.).

4. Listen to the players. LISTEN TO THE PLAYERS. Listen. To. The. Players. If some players are disengaging due to inter-party conflict introduced by the dms, if they're coming to blows or getting stressed due to what's being asked, if they're miserable, call a time out, check in with everyone, work out what's going wrong immediately and try to make sure it gets resolved peacefully and satisfactorily. Do not ignore what's going on and keep going ic - that'd just subtly reinforce an unhealthy DM vs. Player environment and help lead to the powder keg that was this comic's session, especially taking into account the nature of how Discord the character is designed in attacking their group dynamics due to the Elements of Harmony.

More importantly, in the reasonable assumption that this group of people are friends, they shouldn't be forcing each other to do stuff they don't want to do (especially if the stuff they don't want to do is along the lines of, "Do not reveal the truth. Gaslight the others. Change the subject" or anything else designed to make sure the players come into conflict whether they want to or not) - and the only way to know if they don't want to do something is to ask and listen.

Not to mention, they could come up with some cool stuff you can incorporate into the game like normal. For instance, imagine if Twilight's fail-safe spell had been accepted rather than shut down with extreme prejudice - the party could've saved Ponyville however temporarily it lasts, giving them a small victory to latch onto and feel good about as they move forward to deal with Discord, and sets up early on that, however powerful his magic may be, they actually have a shot at stopping him. It also sets up a plot hook they can look into later if shit hits the fan and Discord grows more powerful - for instance, trying to gather teams of other ponies capable of improving and/or casting the spell to help stall Discord's efforts and stuff, or go on a quest to find an item to supercharge the spell to the point that it is capable of overwhelming Discord's magic long enough for the party to do something - improvisation will greatly help the game and ensure the party stays engaged since they will feel like their contributions and actions have meaning (rather than, say, shutting them down if they try anything other than go do the thing the dm says, which can easily lead to them being miffed at first and then even more annoyed/frustrated when later Discord shenanigans are revealed).

5. MAKE IT CRYSTAL CLEAR WHAT IS IN CHARACTER AND WHAT IS OUT OF CHARACTER. Discord!DM seems to be a Method Actor by nature, embodying his role and playing it to a tee. However, the players might not be prepared for this and things can be taken personally - tying back into ideas 3 and 4 I suggested, breaking character might be required at points to clear the air, make sure everything is all right and that no one's mad at each other irl due to the in-game drama or tiptoeing over stuff trying to avoid getting screwed further or whatever. Last thing anyone needs is for hurt feelings in game to travel out of game and start causing friction among the group as a whole - the fact that it wasn't addressed here was a real red flag all things considered. (Ideally for me personally, there also really shouldn't be any bullshit manipulation tactics being used like gaslighting and blame shifting that can trigger/hurt people OoC, since that stuff can be brutal to deal with and hard to separate even when it's limited to in-game stuff, but it's also understandable to use if that's just how the villain works - they're supposed to be the bad guy, after all. In the latter case, giving chances to let the group riposte and or call out the villain - especially with a good punch to the face as a Shut Up, Hannibal moment - would help to mitigate any issues, but idk how else that could be executed well, would love to hear some suggestions from you guys on that front).


There are definitely more possible ways to fix how this in-universe session/attempted arc went (and probably some issues with my suggestions too), but I mostly just wanted to throw out ideas and see what you guys could come up with as feedback and suggestions.

How do you all think this could've been done better, and how would doing things your way help? Seriously looking forward seeing what everyone comes up with and what their reasoning is!
GrayGriffin 4th Dec 2018, 9:16 PM edit delete reply
Like I mentioned slightly above, give them the chance to save ponies/places that they/their characters care about, whether or not it really has an effect on the final battle. And as I mentioned many pages back, maybe have Discord's curses first target NPCs the players care about, so they get an idea of what he can do without creating intra-party conflict.
Mr Wednesday 4th Dec 2018, 10:54 PM edit delete reply
The important thing is make sure they appreciate the kind of threat they’re facing, without getting their asses kicked in round one.

I’d like to run with GrayGriffin’s excellent idea of first seeing Discord curse trusted NPC’s. The main issue with Discord is that he’s an entirely non-physical threat, and therefore, his presence isn’t sustainable—he has to be used in short bursts. Better, and more interesting, to show the results of his power.

Another thing I think I mentioned a while back was the idea of Discord corrupting the Elements themselves. Picture that—a wave of negative Harmonics that washes over the whole world, leaving only the Bearers unaffected. This justifies Discord stealing the Elements (not just to neutralize them but to turn them to his advantage).

Then, in the aftermath, everything is terribly disrupted. Regular people have all been Discorded (and could range from being annoying to outright dangerous) and nightmarish monsters have arisen. Interesting side note, normally antagonistic creatures might become friendlier, potential allies (even a dragon isn’t as powerful as Discord, but is still useful). People can be saved, but it’s difficult in general and even harder to do en masse.

Then, for the mid-game, between regular adventures, six “focus episodes”. The Elements are localised in specific important places, holding chaos in place by sheer corruption. Elements can be rescued, but only by the Bearer of each. Of course, that bearer will always need the help of the group to get there. The Elements on their own should be useful, but nowhere near as effective as the six combined, though it might be fun to give each element a personal effect, and then ramp up the collective effect as more and more elements are retrieved. As the group does this, Discord’s grip begins to loosen, and some of the everyday effects of his presence get undone—chocolate rain one day, candy clouds next, then later the people are un-Discorded by the group’s mere presence, and Discord loses control of the sun and moon.

The trouble is, once they start making that progress, Discord takes notice, and comes after them hard, throwing monsters at them, savaging them with bad weather, and attacking them psychologically. Ideally, he should be getting more dangerous, and more desperate, with every bit of progress that’s made. So at first he’s treating it like a game and by the end he’s furious and deadly serious. This is where, in guest appearances, DiscorDM really shines. When he shows up, the players stuff just got real.

My vision of this has a Discord who’s more like Loki than Q. Most of his power would come from being able to get around quickly, know things, change shapes, and create monsters (maybe it of nothing, or maybe it’s another limitation that he can only warp, and never truly make things). He’s a god, but not a GOD, and the Elements physically hurt him because they’re everything he isn’t. So he needed to scatter them so they couldn’t be used, and he couldn’t just sit on them.

I don’t have a specific image of the finale here, but it would probably involve some kind of drastic escalation on Discord’s part, and a last struggle to keep him from breaking the world in some way (which he might try to do, knowing he’s about to be defeated). Then, his defeat, and a big celebration.
ThatGuest 4th Dec 2018, 9:24 PM edit delete reply
For me I'd still take the elements away, but only to use them as bait to travel around. Having them be held at different places at crazy, thematic bosses or something.

Make Discord a background mystery threat, things are becoming strange but there's no obvious cause and certainly not the sped up pace of "Discord escapes and 10 minutes later the fabric of reality implodes"

If you wanted to use the parties negative aspects against them, just make a damn Nega-6 and have them be recurring antagonists in the place of Discord. Sentai shows do it all the time, so can you. Hell you could even have the players themselves play their twisted caricatures whenever they appeared.

And if you really wanted to have Discord as a seperate person actively hindering the party, just tell Discord the guy, everything that happened during a session and let him scheme bout what to do without the party knowing. Then in the finale reveal that the whole time there really was a Dr. Claw type person in the shadows plotting against them.
THE OTHER GUEST 4th Dec 2018, 10:08 PM edit delete reply
"If you wanted to use the parties negative aspects against them, just make a damn Nega-6 and have them be recurring antagonists in the place of Discord. Sentai shows do it all the time, so can you. Hell you could even have the players themselves play their twisted caricatures whenever they appeared."

That... sounds like a whole ton of fun... especially if you gave the players a white hat and black hat or some other thematic prop that they could switch around to give the others a visual cue which roll they're playing. You'd have the party essentially fighting against themselves both ways, and maybe integrate something into the campaign later on, like a "Test of Character" or something where the PC's "Come to terms" with their negative aspects or something and the two halves come back together and that character gets a campaign specific thematic feat or something as a bonus...

Maybe make it so that the party can't directly harm their doubles and vise-versa or something, and then have the halves split directions except for special encounters, until that pivotal moment so they aren't constantly under eachother's hooves.
Warlock 5th Dec 2018, 6:51 AM edit delete reply
Actually done this several different ways, each time a most interesting way, though honestly, it was in Mutants and Masterminds instead of D&D.

The first time I did it, everyone had to make their nemesis, the avatar of their character's weakness, except the nemesis was two levels higher than they were. Once this was done, I switched some weaknesses around to make the meta less likely to happen.

But the best time I had was simply using the players as themselves. As I had each of their character sheets, I merely pitted their own creations against themselves. In this game I even had a munchkin player... boy was he annoyed when he got sideswiped first, waking up to find out he now had to fight the entire table solo. Good bit of catharsis for the players, as IC they couldn't hit him, but OoC, now had an excuse to wail on his own weaknesses.
HappyEevee 4th Dec 2018, 8:32 PM edit delete reply
Bards, man. They're never without their alcohol.

I have to say I'm really enjoying this arc and looking forward to how you resolve it. You put a lot of work into this comic and we really appreciate it! :)
TheStratovarian 6th Dec 2018, 4:14 AM edit delete reply
The problem in bringing this kind of gm, this kind of railroad and force. This end result.

What prevents players from walking out of your game?

You win, as a gm, but what good is a gm with that kinda rep among your players left?

Gm'ing should never be a you vs them. Any situation that you get into that point. It is a failure. Because you have placed yourself into the antagonist role. You are no longer the gm, you are an obstacle.

At this point, there is resentment, there is anger, and worse, you've drawn lines between players and the gm role.

A good player will forgive you, and let it slide. A truly angry one will resent this long past any point. A bad one, you've made an enemy.