Page 1173 - The Road More Trodden

24th Jan 2019, 5:00 AM in The Return of Harmony, Part 2
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The Road More Trodden
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 24th Jan 2019, 5:00 AM edit delete
For all of his natural abrasiveness, Discord strikes me as a very positive-minded creature most of the time, forgetting momentary annoyances and mainly only remembering the happy parts later.

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



Digo Dragon 24th Jan 2019, 5:06 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
"forgetting momentary annoyances and mainly only remembering the happy parts later"

Something something Rose-Colored Glasses something. That tends to be a detail of problem-players in my experience--they don't seem to remember the negative parts. The GM only figured that out a bit too late when he asked Discord about their previous game and had a sudden epiphany. Well, better late than never with the GM, and hopefully Discord himself figures it out.
Randonimity 24th Jan 2019, 9:17 AM edit delete reply
It might be because they're also not the ones who were miserable for most of the session. To them, it was all great fun! They got to do what they wanted, how could it have been a bad session?

It's because of horror stories about problem players that I always ask the other players in my games for feedback on my performance/behavior/attitude either at the table or in private (when the player is somewhat shy and don't want "face-to-face confrontation").
Digo Dragon 24th Jan 2019, 10:26 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Indeed, it is as you say. If the problem-players can be taught empathy towards the pother players, they might learn to be better in the future.

I too ask my players for feedback. It works well in privacy, like this one time years back that a player had an issue with my Wild Magic rules and I never knew because he didn't say anything at the table when I asked the group about them. I only found out from a spectator who watched a session and had a conversation with the player after the session.
Randonimity 24th Jan 2019, 6:11 PM edit delete reply
RE the wild magic thing - It might have also been something they realized later after the session and having an "objective outside party" to discuss their feelings with helped things click? But I'm glad you were able to talk things out with your player :)
Free 24th Jan 2019, 3:30 PM edit delete reply
Is it? Or is it better to brush off the negativity of an event rather than dwell upon it, moving past it and on to new experiences with a positive outlook? DiscorDM has obviously been at this for a long time. I'm sure this is not the first table that hasn't vibed with his playstyle, but he's also had positive experiences using it, so why should he change? Which experience is more valid? Who gets to decide who is a "problem" and who just isn't a good fit? And, really, what is he supposed to do about this except take the out when even his actual friend at the table is more concerned with their own guilt than talking to him? He *knows* they're all upset, he knows *why* they're upset. This was a very quick exit and these players haven't been shown to be mean or petty people, so I'm pretty sure no one said goodbye or even the more polite players like Rarebear got to thank him for at least stopping by only because he didn't give them the *chance* to say anything.

DiscorDM acknowledges he doesn't fit this table and accepts their feelings about it; he's not holding it against them or displaying any sign of bitterness about being essentially told to leave, though he clearly understands exactly what is happening. That, to me, is NOT the behavior of a "problem player." I think it's also an admirable trait that he isn't going to let it stop him doing what he does the way he wants to do it. This is a hobby, something he does for fun; there's no reason for him to get bent out of shape about one bad session when there are so many more things to look forward to. I wish I had that kind of self-confidence to deal with criticism and accept it without taking every little thing to heart, even from strangers, much less friends. Yeah, I always have something to work on and I never want to stop improving myself and my skills, but just because someone doesn't like some particular aspect of my personality or work, doesn't mean it has to spiral into some deep self-evaluation every single time. And while I fully expect we'll get more insight on his actual, personal feelings in the next page or two, at this moment, I'm very impressed with his decorum and maturity about it.
Zaranthan 25th Jan 2019, 12:11 AM edit delete reply
"there's no reason for him to get bent out of shape about one bad session when there are so many more things to look forward to."

Discord has a massive advantage over most of us TTRPG players: the prospect of playing with different people.

For most of us, we've found the 3-5 other people who want to spend their spare time rolling the bones, and that's it. If the best answer to the situation is "welp, we're just not clicking, I'll just bow out of the game," that means we're not playing ANYTHING for the forseeable future. We're back to being lost nerds drifting from hobby shop to teacher's supply store, hoping to trip over another fellow gamer and maybe possibly get invited to another table.
Mr Wednesday 25th Jan 2019, 12:46 AM edit delete reply
@Zaranthan, that’s a really interesting point. I hadn’t thought of that.
Free 25th Jan 2019, 11:17 AM edit delete reply
@Zaranthan I'm sorry you feel that way or that you find yourself in a situation like that, but insinuating that's something worth holding against someone is just being unfair because they have something or an advantage you don't. There are a LOT of options in our modern world to connect to people who share our passions and interests, something the original TTRPG players didn't have and very much were trapped in the sort of situation you describe, but I'm happy to point out that isn't the case anymore. Perhaps you prefer face-to-face, and I hope you have the chance to have that in some of your games, but that's a small thing to compromise, in the end, if it means you get to play with people regularly who you actually like, mm?
Valtharr 26th Jan 2019, 6:04 AM edit delete reply
@Zaranthan I think you're touching on a very interesting point, and something that bothers me a little about the TTRPG community as a whole. I've seen a couple of times, not in person, but in forums and comment sections like this one, where someone sees someone else play or run a game differently than they or their group would, and immediately criticize them for playing "wrong." Which is so ridiculous to me, since no other type of game allows you to play a game as freely and open-endedly (is that a word?) as Tabletop RPGs do. Like, there are probably a lot of people who, for example, would turn their nose at a group who literally doesn't do anything but "here's your quest > go to dungeon > kill the monster > get the loot > repeat next session." But like, if that's what's fun to the players and the GM, who cares?

My players, for example, are total goofballs. They like shooting the shit, doing dumb stuff, having fun. Not much for serious drama or character development with those guys, which, I admit, frustrates me a little because that means I can't really tell all the stories I want to. But still, they're having fun, and I usually end up having fun as well. But if you would transplant them into another group, they might be seen as "problem players" or end up being punished by the GM or something. In fact, I remember one time in a comment section telling the story of when we were playing Call of Cthulhu, and one of them got a bottle of strange blue liquid and then used it to make stew, which he not only fed to the other characters, but also ate himself, which in *my* game just resulted in most of them getting some minor madness effects, but someone else in the comment section said if *they* had been the GM, the PCs probably would have undergone horrifying transformations or something.

Different playstyles work for different groups, and what seems like problematic behavior in one group, is just really funny in another. What one group of players sees as an epic story with deep character development, another might see as a boring rail-roady slog. And in this case here, DiscorDM might have just run his games differently, and his group was always okay with it, but our group here obviously doesn't gel with it. Hell, when this campaign started, Rainbow Dash's player pretty much was under the impression that DM is doing it wrong, because DM decided to run a D&D game that's not focused on fighting and killing and action. Sure, in the end it turned out she liked it still, but in a realistic scenario where the existence of a webcomic didn't kinda rely on her being a player, she could have also just said "this is boring, I wanna kill stuff, see you guys!" and as long as she hadn't been an ass about it, that would have been fine.
Valtharr 26th Jan 2019, 5:06 PM edit delete reply
ah, dammit, I meant to @Free, not Zaranthan
Mr Wednesday 27th Jan 2019, 12:08 AM edit delete reply

I’m reminded of something Robin Laws wrote about GMing. I found this in a PDF of Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering

“Everybody comes to the gaming table for slightly different reasons. Our biggest task as GMs is to direct and shape individual preferences into an experience that is more than the sum of its parts. Accepting that each player's preferences and desires should be given roughly equal weight first requires us to compromise on our own tastes. This is easier said than done. Many of us become Game Masters in the first place because we want greater control over the gaming experience. We want to express our creativity and try out the cool ideas we've had bubbling away in the back of our minds.

It's all about striking a balance. If we sacrifice our own tastes too much, we'll get bored, and bored GMs run boring games. On the other hand, the most innovative campaign concept in the world means zip if you can't get your players excited about it. It's all well and good to talk about the things that the average player generally enjoys, but nobody's group is average, and being generally satisfied isn't good enough.

The key to great GMing is to figure out what your each of your players wants, and then to find a gaming style that contains a little something for everybody, including yourself...It's better to alter the storyline of your adventure or the motivation of an NPC than to send the group away fed up and edgy. Never get so caught up in the details of your creative effort that you fail to achieve the fundamental goal of providing fun for everyone.”

Valtharr you said basically that. And I agree with it. The point of a game is to have fun collectively, so if the experience works for your group, then perfect. If it works, do it. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with DiscorDM’s immersive playstyle per se, rather my issue is that he was running this particular session for his own enjoyment first and foremost, not taking into account the desires of the players, and using their desires as tools to mess with them. Now, if they’d come to him asking for a unique challenge that took them out of their comfort zone, that’d be fine, but he didn’t.

Re: DiscorDM, those two last sentences I quoted are the most important, because that’s where his error lay. I suppose I feel that since he’s so experienced, DiscorDM should have noticed that nobody was having the fun he imagined they would. He (and to be fair, everyone really, Twi, MainGM, the cursed players) made the mistake of forging ahead with what wasn’t working, hoping it would come around the horn and be fun.
ThatGuest 24th Jan 2019, 6:35 AM edit delete reply
What if Starlight is going to be Discord trying to be a player and suffering along with them?...... :|
Rastaba 24th Jan 2019, 6:59 AM edit delete reply
That’ll make some future episodes quite interesting to see play out if they pull double duty.
Anvildude 24th Jan 2019, 8:59 AM edit delete reply
See, at that point you have the DM taking over Discord's character for the big parts- and that could be what explains the change in attitude.
ThatGuest 25th Jan 2019, 1:46 AM edit delete reply
That or after being a player awhile and seeing how tough it is he’s hesitant to be an insufferable prick towards the party again.
Tempestfury 24th Jan 2019, 7:19 AM edit delete reply
Heh. And here we have people thinking that DiscorDM was an asshole.
Digo Dragon 24th Jan 2019, 7:34 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
Just cause you're an icehole doesn't mean you can't be polite. ;)
Newbiespud 24th Jan 2019, 7:54 AM edit delete reply
Everyone knows that being an asshole is a binary trait - either you're 100% an asshole or you're not.

Toric 24th Jan 2019, 8:22 AM edit delete reply
True. You either are or you aren’t. But a small subset of confirmed assholes have gained the ability to mitigate the power of their presence on command. Truly a dangerous skill.
Classic Steve 24th Jan 2019, 8:33 AM edit delete reply
Eh, you might be an asshole to some people and not to others.
HappyEevee 24th Jan 2019, 1:20 PM edit delete reply
I think a lot of it comes down to prior experiences with people and tables. Personally, I think I'd have fun at a table with DiscorDM, but I also think a number of people would hate every minute of it. To each their own; that's why it's important to play with groups who are a good fit for everyone, something DiscorDM clearly recognizes here.
Steel Resolve 24th Jan 2019, 3:21 PM edit delete reply
Discord is not an asshole. He's a spirit of caprice. A force of nature, if you will. DiscordGM is even more so. He's probably quite self aware about how harsh he is to players, but he takes pride in it. He is a challenge rating unto himself. A unique experience only to be savored by those with a strong enough will. He thinks he cannot change, and so he will only ever be appreciated by the elite few who get him.
GrayGriffin 24th Jan 2019, 5:10 PM edit delete reply
No, DiscorDM is not a force of nature. He's a human, dealing with humans, who needs to have empathy with humans. Don't...what's the opposite of "anthropomorphize"?...him.
Mr Wednesday 24th Jan 2019, 6:41 PM edit delete reply
Lionize, maybe?

I think at least some of DiscorDM’s reaction here comes from Main GM being more assertive. It seems to me DiscorDM isn’t getting used to being told “no”.
GrayGriffin 24th Jan 2019, 9:27 PM edit delete reply
"Lionize" usually means "hold up as a positive example," though, doesn't it? And it doesn't imply treating a human like a force of nature/deity.
GrayGriffin 24th Jan 2019, 5:11 PM edit delete reply
I dunno, the "we could have made excellent adventures together" line sounds kind of snide/assholish to me. He's basically telling them "haha look at what you're missing out on by removing me from the game." Kind of an unnecessary parting shot, even if I do have some understanding of his reaction in the last page.
ZhonLord 24th Jan 2019, 7:05 PM edit delete reply
I don't know, to me he sounds more like "This group has so much potential, I wish I could stick around more." Regret, not a parting taunt.
GrayGriffin 24th Jan 2019, 9:27 PM edit delete reply
Looking below, Spud has confirmed it as negging, which is a backhanded compliment, so yeah...
Guest 26th Jan 2019, 3:18 PM Poppy edit delete reply
Moonlight Shadow 24th Jan 2019, 9:53 AM edit delete reply
DiscorDM is an asshole, but not a whole ass. ;)
Digo Dragon 24th Jan 2019, 10:27 AM edit delete reply
Digo Dragon
So you're saying that his portrayal here in the comic is... half-assed? ;)
you know that guy 24th Jan 2019, 2:12 PM edit delete reply
Some might call him a piece of ass if they really fancy his style.
Cygnia 24th Jan 2019, 11:45 AM edit delete reply
Oh hey, there's some serious negging there on DiscorDM's part.
Randonimity 24th Jan 2019, 6:02 PM edit delete reply
I was struggling to figure out why exactly DiscorDM's farewell was raising my hackles and you figured it out! Thank you!
Newbiespud 24th Jan 2019, 6:22 PM edit delete reply
Ding ding ding!
Malroth 24th Jan 2019, 9:59 PM edit delete reply
Newbiespud doesn't know how to write for jerks, He keeps making Dischord seem magnanimous kind and brilliant.
Newbiespud 24th Jan 2019, 10:37 PM edit delete reply
That's potentially very true. Jerks often don't think of themselves as jerks in their own head, though.
GrayGriffin 24th Jan 2019, 10:39 PM edit delete reply
To you. Considering how multiple other people have clearly been able to see him as a jerk, you may want to reexamine your own biases and opinions.
Guest 24th Jan 2019, 6:30 PM edit delete reply
A neg(ative) is a backhanded compliment, right? Maybe I'm slow but I can't find one anywhere.
Tempestfury 25th Jan 2019, 12:37 AM edit delete reply
I think the intention is his 'We could have had great adventures together' is the negging comment?

Which, if that was the intent, is a strong failure on Spuds part. That comment is something I would have said, regretting the lose of potential, but accepting their desicion. Nothing backhanded about it.
Mr Wednesday 25th Jan 2019, 12:44 AM edit delete reply
Is this “everything I don’t agree with is a failure of the author” thing just the fashion, now?
Balrighty 25th Jan 2019, 8:00 AM edit delete reply
Personally, I'd love to start seeing things in the way of suggestions. "Spud clearly wanted the situation to be read as having X interpretation, and while some readers got to that conclusion and maybe even thought it obvious, others clearly didn't and they might have had Spud changed Y, Z, or E things about how DiscordDM or the situation was presented."
Newbiespud 25th Jan 2019, 8:41 AM edit delete reply
I mean, I am dead. Being the author and all.
Free 25th Jan 2019, 11:02 AM edit delete reply
@Mr Wednesday It's a failure of the author when he's in the comments being passive-aggressive and snobby to people who didn't arrive at his same interpretation of the characters and plot, then insinuating there's something wrong with THEM for not getting it within a specific context that not everyone has and isn't presented *within* the comic, allowing others to use "Word of God" to beat other commenters over the head with like a cudgel to get their way in an argument about whether certain behaviors make someone a terrible person or just someone they personally would not get along with.
Balrighty 25th Jan 2019, 11:25 AM edit delete reply
Okay, so what is your suggestion for how he could have communicated the outcome he had intended to a larger portion of his audience than the portion that he did successfully communicate to?

Alternatively, given that DiscordDM was written from day one to be a subtle manipulator (and remember that "DiscordDM is a subtle manipulator" is not the same thing as "DiscordDM tries to be a subtle manipulator"), isn't all of this confusion over whether DiscordDM really is manipulative (besides the bad blood) a triumphant success on Spud's part?
Balrighty 25th Jan 2019, 12:01 PM edit delete reply
I want to clarify what I'm getting at with my request for a suggestion on how to write a manipulator character better. DiscordDM is supposed to be a manipulator. Spud intends to write him such that he is a manipulator and the audience is intended to conclude that he is a manipulator. Except, short of outright declaring at the beginning "DiscordDM is meant to be read as though he's a manipulator", Spud HAS to leave some room for ambiguity. That's just the nature of that sort of character.

So what was Spud supposed to do to avoid being damned if he did, damned if he didn't?
Mr Wednesday 25th Jan 2019, 11:37 AM edit delete reply
This cudgel thing is getting fashionable too, I see.
Brigid 25th Jan 2019, 11:55 AM Uh, what? edit delete reply
@Free, where is Newbiespud being passive aggressive or insinuating *anything* bad about the people who don't get what he was aiming for? Heck, earlier he admitted he might not have done the best job writing Discord's character.
Spud at Work 25th Jan 2019, 3:36 PM edit delete reply
Nah, I've been a little more heavy-handed than I should. Sorry to those I've made uncomfortable by picking a side here.

I didn't want to jump in, but when the discussion was reaching "holy flame war" levels, coming in to at least tamp down on some of the wilder speculation was the only way I felt I could moderate it quickly.
Free 25th Jan 2019, 10:46 PM edit delete reply
@Spud I appreciate the apology, and also apologize for not being as constructive as I could be.

@Balrighty Well, Spud IS working with screenshots, so he has to make some concessions to the medium being used; namely, he's taking something out of context to being with, so he's fighting against that to get his own interpretation across. An expression that might have meant one thing originally, is now meant to mean something else. I sometimes have trouble figuring out what emotion the characters are actually displaying, and the intended tone of their speech is often lost on me. Is Discord being smug and maybe a bit taunting here? Or hasty and forced good humor? Well, I can see both, but only one is…"correct."

If everything DiscorDM has done so far can be just as easily interpreted as him fulfilling a role or purpose in the game as a straight-forward antagonist, I cannot fairly judge him as his own character and feel confident in doing so. He's hardly even spoken *as* himself *for* himself, so I hardly know anything about him or his motivations. The things we're talking about *right now*? Didn't come from the comic, they came from author's comments, because that's the only window we've been given so far. That's just the pitfalls of watching an arc unfold instead of being able to look at it all and see the pattern that emerges from start to finish; this entire discussion could be jossed as early as the next page and I'll have to admit my interpretation was flawed up to this point, or it might not and I'll just have to deal with not seeing eye-to-eye with some people. Maybe everything Spud's been saying up 'til now will suddenly just click into place. It could take as little as a single line of dialogue to totally change someone's perspective of a character, but if we never get a glimpse into the character's true self and their worldview or motivations…mm, how to word it…it feels incomplete? The antagonist *is* providing half the story, after all, you don't have a story without conflict, but you should understand *why* there's conflict or it feels directionless.

Furthermore, a LOT of my personal issue with interpreting DiscorDM as the antagonist here that he's meant to be is that, well…I sympathize more with the GM than the players to begin with and think it's kind of shitty that they aren't really being made to take responsibility for their own decisions and behaviors that led to this situation in the first place, and MainGM is taking *even more* responsibility onto themselves to "fix" everything. If I'm walking into something already conflicted about the characters I'm supposed to be rooting for, and the "bad guy"…doesn't actually do anything all that bad to them, I'm not as likely to see him as negatively. It's not all on the writing for DiscorDM himself, he's actually been a very enjoyable character (which also plays into the issue; he's not *supposed* to be that likable), but everyone else's up to that point and whether or not the negativity feels disproportionate.
Archone 25th Jan 2019, 6:00 PM edit delete reply
Well, he was rather unpleasant to me, when I noted that he had ended up portraying Discord as a rather arrogant but otherwise rather good natured and pleasant fellow who showed up at the request of a friend and provided a custom tailored adventure for players whose reactions were... varied. If anything, he reminded me of Frasier or Niles Crane from that old sitcom "Frasier," especially given the way he focused on psychology. (So for those of you who must cling to the anti-Discord position, just imagine him throttling his little brother - while both are grown adults wearing suits - and screaming, "You took my Mommy away!")

And thank you for the apology, Spud. I'd like to reiterate what I was trying to convey in previous comments: Your portrayal of Discord GM isn't a FAILURE. You tried for one thing... it came out differently than you intended. Work with it. Roll with it. Discord GM the way you've created him is a far more entertaining than some cackling asshole GM who only showed up to derail a friend's campaign. A lot of us really do like the character. A friendship with Fluttershy is just one possibility - what if some of the players show up at Main GM's place for an unexpected visit and find him playing with friends in Discord GM's campaign? (yes, I'm thinking of that episode where Spike and Big Mac invite Discord to play, and before it ends Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy are eager to join in)
Toric 24th Jan 2019, 11:48 AM edit delete reply
For all that I've been fairly critical of Discord as a DM, I'll be honest that I can sort of sympathize with him here given the last page. I understand that the main DM is burnt out on this evening, but his last 3 comments on the previous page, taken together, are a fairly blunt indication that Discord DM is more-or-less uninvited for a while. Planned or no, deserved or no, it may be the most direct rebuke of his actions/playstyle, and it is coming from the only one at the table he really knows. That's not really easy for anyone to hear, and this does seem like a "graceful" exit of someone who doesn't feel welcome. Again, no comment on what may be deserved or intended by it, just that it can be difficult to receive.

That said, from my comment on the previous page about staying after a game to hang out and decompress, Discord DM doesn't seem like the type to linger after a game anyway. I kind of think he's the kind of person who finishes the session, packs up, and leaves. At least, that's the impression I get with his methods and what we can interpret of his dm philosophy. He seems like the person who would rather think about and anticipate the next session (or have his players do so) than discuss it and potentially reveal the man behind the curtain even slightly.

I also think this is a scary moment for Fluttershy's player. Given her past shy and nervous behaviors from the beginning, she seems like the kind of person who wonders if they belong in any group. Some of it may be a feeling of being ignored or lacking meaningful contributions, and some might just be discomfort with social situations. Even if I'm off-base here, I think it's clear she feels Discord DM doesn't think he's welcome, and it is more than possible that she worries she had a role in creating that feeling. Again, this is suggesting only that she might feel guilt, with no comment on if she is guilty. That she feels compelled to speak with Discord DM before he leaves, whether it's for her own benefit or for his, speaks well of her character and observation skills for not being satisfied with leaving things as they are. Given her discomfort, I am impressed with the decision. Whatever my judgments of events so far, I am always happy to see people try to address problems rather than brush past them.
Mr Wednesday 24th Jan 2019, 3:14 PM edit delete reply
I agree with all of this, Toric. I can see why Main GM would be so harsh, as they’re trying to make the players feel like they’re all on the same team. (Probably, I’d say, taking out their self-anger on DiscorDM, too)

All in all, this session was a very bad introduction between some very different people. The group didn’t get the full benefit of DiscorDM and his style, because those things were turned against them. DiscorDM didn’t get to integrate into the group, because his antagonistic role kept him at a distance.

It’s extremely brave and extremely admirable of Fluttershy to go after DiscorDM at this point. She and DiscorDM really did a number on each other. (Makes sense. They both have high empathy and solid intuition, which made it easy to find each other’s weak spots, and the tone of the evening meant they pressed each other in those spots pretty hard).

And I guess lastly, just because I didn’t approve of DiscorDM’s methods of the Main GM’s reasons for making this particular session, does not mean I now feel happy watching DiscorDM slink away like a kicked puppy. In the future, perhaps with everyone more on the same page, DiscorDM will let everyone have as much fun in a session as he had in this one. Which if he does, will be pretty great.
GrayGriffin 24th Jan 2019, 5:13 PM edit delete reply
Really? Word of Spud says DiscorDM turned off his empathy. Which seems logical to assume when you remember he got the complete wrong read of Fluttershy's motives and meaning.
Newbiespud 24th Jan 2019, 6:20 PM edit delete reply
To clarify, and I did use most of these words before, he turned off all empathy that didn't contribute to useful and exploitable knowledge of the players. Not zero empathy, just not really doing the right thing with it.
Mr Wednesday 24th Jan 2019, 6:33 PM edit delete reply
Yes, exactly. I understand that. DiscorDM wouldn’t have been able to do the damage he did if he didn’t have a good read on everybody. Fluttershy happens to be the only one in the group who turned it around on him (except for Dash, who didn’t give a dead dog for his tricks). He was being at all empathic in the usual sense, but he was using the skills associated with it.

GrayGriffin, I’m on your side. He acted like a total dick before. When I’m refering to his interaction with Fluttershy, I’m pointing out that he found what she was most insecure about and made her play it up. I don’t think that’s a good or reasonable thing. Similarly, she found the ugly little truth at the heart of his game.
HappyEevee 24th Jan 2019, 1:16 PM edit delete reply
I hope Fluttershy and DiscorDM can have a good talk and sort some things out. My interpretation has been that they were both able to see things about each other that they like to keep hidden, so maybe this session will lead to Fluttershy getting a little stronger and overcoming more of her troubles, and DiscorDM becoming a little more sensitive to player needs. Twilight has had some self-realization, AJ and RD had a good talk, the Main GM has sorted some stuff out, I can see this being a net positive from a troubled session.
Robin Bobcat 24th Jan 2019, 4:30 PM edit delete reply

I know a GM like that. He gets so wrapped up in 'I created player interaction and story-driven plot!' that he forgets that it was done by huge amounts of chaos, including detroying things the players had worked months to achieve...
SweetKaiser 24th Jan 2019, 10:00 PM edit delete reply
While he may have been entirely too much in just about all respects, I have to say I empathize with DiscordDM's comment about table dynamics, largely because as a player I struggle with it myself a lot. The problem is, similar to Twi's player, I'm an optimizer. But the table I've been with lately isn't. For me, digging through books, uncovering forum posts, and trying to iron out as much consistency as possible is just fun. It's what I do for all the games I play, tabletop or no. But the rest of the table sometimes thinks I'm just trying to steal the show/wreck the encounter/etc. For me, optimization isn't about being better than the other players, it's about bringing out the best of your character. So for me, trying to tone things down just feels so unsatisfying. But when it's that or not really playing at all, there's not much else to do is there.
CaptainMolasses 25th Jan 2019, 7:24 AM edit delete reply
I'm going to admit that I'm very confused. Most folks in the comments here are very confident in saying that DiscordGM was being a jerk during this session, but I just don't see it. He's a poor fit for the group, sure, but I fail to see what he actually did that makes him a jerk. Can someone please fill me in?
Guest 25th Jan 2019, 8:14 AM edit delete reply
Some of it is probably your perspective not providing enough context, but some of it is also other people's perspectives assuming context that wasn't supposed to exist. Discord's actions have been very open to interpretation, but some interpretations come with the baggage of "anyone who doesn't agree with me is a horrible person for wanting to enable someone like Discord." So in general there's a lot of tension on this topic fueled by too many things to give a good answer on.
Newbiespud 25th Jan 2019, 8:47 AM edit delete reply
That's Discord GM's whole strategy, though. To be open to interpretation, to have plausible deniability. To look good on the surface while also slipping in some manipulations at the right times. That's how I've been writing him, and the crazy thing is that it's been working on real people.

Take the "We would have made some excellent adventures together" line. On the surface, it's a bittersweet hopeful parting line from someone who has no hard feelings about the situation. But the subtext there is 'You'll never know unless you invite me back and try again,' which puts the onus on the group to either accept on his terms or reject his entire premise and potentially feel guilty about doing so. It's manipulative on a very subtle level that most guys don't have to deal with very often, and Discord GM's probably not even doing it consciously - that's just his personality.
Kereminde 25th Jan 2019, 9:21 AM edit delete reply
Frankly, all conversation is manipulation on varying levels. Every comment, every question, even a blunt "yes/no" manipulates the emotions of those hearing it. Heck, merely having no input in a conversation while having a presence is also manipulation.

And lest you think you can avoid it by deciding not to be manipulated . . . you just were.

Is it conscious or not? Not the issue. The issue is how it makes you feel - because if you feel okay about it, it doesn't really matter. If you feel bad about it, upset, or angry, it matters a great deal. And once your emotions are hit, it stops mattering whether or not it was intentional.

This is why apologies exist. And yes, those are also blatantly and obviously manipulative (especially sincere ones).
Newbiespud 25th Jan 2019, 10:22 AM edit delete reply
You're not wrong, but that's muddying the waters a bit, isn't it?
Kereminde 25th Jan 2019, 11:21 AM edit delete reply
Of course it's muddying the waters - manipulation, by its nature, isn't something which is always crystal clear. And sometimes when it is, the goal may not be the obvious one. That's the danger of someone who's skilled at manipulation.

Can you be sure you're being manipulated? Or not? I'm never sure, and I grew up with people who loved nothing better than to . . . meddle. For my own good, of course, and very subtly. To the point sometimes where you could sit there wondering if they meant for you to reject the efforts.

I'm serious. Everyone needs to deal with manipulation, no matter what race, gender, orientation, hooves or paws, whatever. It's a key part in the foundation of civilization, and is an absolutely crucial component of leadership - being able to convince people to do something. It's all about manipulation. The verbal equivalent of sleight of hand.

It just really bugs me, deep down, coming from an era where manipulation was performed very blatantly and very openly on children through cartoons - and this was acceptable. (Still is, but that's another can of wyrms.) Word choices, subject choices, nonverbal cues, word emphasis, tone . . . all of these are basic tools for communication which are meant to manipulate the recipient. Thus people are always manipulating others, even if they're not consciously aware of it.

The question is, of course: what do you do once you know this?

Also food for thought: if you're playing at a tabletop game, you're engaging in manipulation of others yourself. If you're the GM, you're trying to manipulate everyone.
Cygnia 25th Jan 2019, 10:24 AM edit delete reply
I'm morbidly wondering how many would be so quick to side with our guest GM if the pic base was Trixie or Starlight Glimmer instead.

"It's manipulative on a very subtle level that most guys don't have to deal with very often."

But this is something that a lot of women HAVE had to deal with in our lives -- both in professional and personal outings. NS has hit the nail on the head here.
CaptainMolasses 25th Jan 2019, 10:48 AM edit delete reply
I won't deny that his comment in this particular page was manipulative, but I'm still missing what he did before this that was so bad. I'm not saying he did nothing wrong, I'm saying whatever he did wrong has gone right over my head, which worries me.
Toric 25th Jan 2019, 11:17 AM edit delete reply
Highlights from most of his critics (without attempting to provoke an argument):

-Getting angry at Fluttershy for resisting being cursed in and/or out of character--right or wrong not an appropriate reaction
-Taunting Twilight (and co. perhaps) for being upset in a fashion that blurred in/out of character conversation
-(subjective) running a game/villain that appeared to deny the players agency and/or compelled them to play characters they had not built (curses contrary to the nature and alignment of the characters)
-resisting or at least questioning Main DM as he reasserts control
-choosing to continue his gm style even as some of the players grew visibly discontented
-Discord maybe doesn't see any problem or error in his style or behavior/won't admit to one, even if he does recognize that he isn't meshing well with the players

Again, merely commenting that these are some of the main points of contention that people have discussed. Not strictly speaking indication that Discord is a bad person, only that his behavior/choices in this session are at best poorly considered for his audience.
Hankroyd 25th Jan 2019, 1:22 PM edit delete reply
@Toric :
For me the Fluttershy's curse was a dick move and a fiasco ... But hey, nobody is perfect.

Taunting PC AND players is twice as fun ... And again it's a game. It's not like the Mane 6's players were risking their life in this game.

For the 'curse', yeah, I can see why some people would love them and other would hate it. As a GM I maybe used it once or twice, but as a player it's something I would enjoy, I'm kinda of partisan of 'Limitations allows to be creative'.

- The only resistances I remember is during the Fluttershy's debacle and when Discord leaves away after the rainbow nuke fails. And in both case, I think it's only DiscorDM caught up in the moment. Once he come to his sense, he submit once again to the DM's directions.

- I had a lot of fiasco, trying some thing I wasn't really fitted to do as a GM. When things starts to go south, it's usually very difficult to change what you are doing. Either you stop everything and say 'this didn't work sorry, there is no point going on.' or continue and say 'Well, I tried and I know that sucked, let's never do that again.'
But to be caricatural : If you make a scenario with 95% fight with people that all about RP and relationship between NPC ... well, you will have a really hard time to change it to something else on the fly ... even if you see how unhappy your players are.

- I don't think DiscorDM has problems or made mistakes with his way of gaming ... it's just it wasn't fit for this specific group and he didn't know it until he was fully commited.

Now there was our little magic purple control freak ... maybe without her, the scenario would have worked better, or not. At least she acknoledge her flaw like DiscorDM acknowledge he wasn't made to GMing this group. #NoNegging.
Toric 25th Jan 2019, 6:11 PM edit delete reply
So...what precisely should Twilight’s player have done this session? What was there for her to do until after the break? What was there for the party to do other than get cursed?

How is it that Twilight is completely out of line to be upset by exclusion and to try and make progress in the only available direction, but Discord didn’t make any mistakes in dm style when he did lose his cool at Fluttershy and he did neglect Twilight at the table? Why should Twilight, the player from the start of the campaign, have left to accommodate Discord? And “taunting players is double fun?” Maybe not when they aren’t having fun, don’t have any options, and you’ve recognized dissatisfaction with the session.

Everyone who blames Twilight but gives Discord DM a pass, I genuinely don’t understand. I’ve long conceded that Twilight reacted badly, but do people genuinely see no context, no external force that may have provoked her? What. Was. She. Supposed. To. Do. This. Game?

Forgive me, this isn’t all on you, but the “little magic purple control freak comment” is incredibly unfair and unreasonable.
Guest 26th Jan 2019, 2:40 AM edit delete reply
He made everyone except RD and MainDM uncomfortable and annoyed out-of-character, and didn't care about it.
Kereminde 25th Jan 2019, 11:24 AM edit delete reply
"I'm morbidly wondering how many would be so quick to side with our guest GM if the pic base was Trixie or Starlight Glimmer instead."

As I don't know who those are . . . it wouldn't particularly matter to me. Here's a better experiment of thought:

If this was an XKCD strip series where there was only stick figures and text, would this be as debated?
GrayGriffin 25th Jan 2019, 8:48 PM edit delete reply
Okay, judging from their arcs, guest GM Trixie would likely have designed her as an NPC who can outshine all the players except for Twilight, likely in a mistaken attempt to give Twilight's player "a session where her character can shine." It gets derailed when Twilight decides that her character has no reason to respond to the IC taunts and results in the DM using Snips and Snails to railroad in the Ursa Minor.

I dunno how guest GM Starlight would have worked out, especially since her character wasn't set up as an antagonist right from the start, and honestly the Equal Quartet gets a lot more NPC screentime.
Archone 25th Jan 2019, 6:13 PM edit delete reply
Yeah... speaking as someone who has spent their entire life dealing with manipulative individuals... Discord GM lacks the one thing that every negging, passive-aggressive, psychologically abusive person shares in common: Self-centeredness.

He's not manipulating the players to make them feel bad about themselves. He's not trying to destroy their confidence so they'll feel they need him around. He's not looking to make them feel quietly unhappy even as they provide him with money or material possessions. He's not seeking to reduce any of them to a trophy on his arm. He's not isolating them from friends who might protect them from such sleazy manipulation. He's not making his victims question their own reality. He's not making them feel obligated to provide him with what he wants, as if it were their duty and they're the selfish ones for being reluctant about it. He's... providing them with a challenging game.

Motivation. What's his motivation? He showed up at a friend's request, to play a game. He put work into creating what he thought would be an enjoyable experience. There was no attempt to enrich himself at the expense of those around him. (and frankly, suggesting that those of us who don't associate him with the very real manipulators and psychological abusers we dealt with in our lives is rather condescending and insulting)
Balrighty 25th Jan 2019, 6:42 PM edit delete reply
Again, I ask: if Spud meant from day one to write DiscordDM as someone who, while not intentionally manipulative, is nevertheless manipulative, and he did not succeed here (arguable to say the least, as the character did come across as manipulative to at least some of the audience), how then should Spud have written this character to more incontrovertibly convey that character trait?

Because I started rereading this arc (back to 1038), mostly to see it all again with a fresh perspective. Firstly, to read it in one go, to see if Twilight's reaction comes across as an overreaction (we the audience, saw her become dissatisfied with the session over the course of weeks/months, which paints her less as a control freak and more as someone with more patience than Job; does that impression change if one reads the story and experiences the breakdown of the session on a timescale closer to that of the session itself?). Secondly, to see if DiscordDM comes across as manipulative, now that we know that's how he was meant to be read.

It's there. As early as a hundred pages before this one (and maybe earlier), we can see DiscordDM's manipulative nature coming through. This isn't something certain mean-spirited readers projected into the comic, invented wholecloth, leading Spud to buckle under pressure, change directions, and rewrite the character; DiscordDM always was this way. Although yes, it is subtle; I don't remember noticing it the first time I read through, either.
Kereminde 25th Jan 2019, 6:59 PM edit delete reply

Assuming it is there, as you say, there's one other component which is important and not addressed. Is it being done maliciously?

Is the very act of manipulation malicious, as so many seem to imply? If so, I'd say we need to mark Matt Mercer and Matt Colville as very malicious folks; those two either manipulate their players or advocate doing so for the purposes of the game. These are two names which get associated with extraordinary talent for GMing, but they're very manipulative along that road - the difference is, it's openly in the interests of making everyone have a good time.

And Colville has even admitted a few times he's failed on that front, and part of his advice is a recognition any GM is going to fail at it once or twice (and that it's fine to fail, just learn something from it).

So. Is manipulating the players evil, unconscionable, and entirely unacceptable? That's on you folks to figure out, but the sort of perception of "manipulation is wrong" is why I've started to become a misanthropist in the last few years.
Toric 25th Jan 2019, 8:07 PM edit delete reply
Think of it like making a joke in public. Whether a joke is appropriate is often determined by how it is received. It’s possible that people are too thin-skinned to enjoy it, but it’s still an error in judgment to make a joke where it is not welcome. Judging from the reaction of the players, Discord DM did not correctly judge (or care) what was appropriate. At least, that is error. At worst, he amused himself at the expense of his players.
Kereminde 25th Jan 2019, 9:45 PM edit delete reply
"Think of it like making a joke in public."

Interesting. It's a thing which exists as granted nowadays, but when I was growing up there would be jokes being thrown around which were potentially always . . . hurtful. You know the drill. Blonde jokes, and a slew of others I won't even hint at here.

This is also a common complaint when a joke falls flat on someone, or if they take offense. "Aww, grow a thicker skin." It's a common counter-point of "these jokes are not acceptable, as they hurt people" . . . but start digging, and you'll find more and more jokes are built on what can be construed as mean-spirited jabs.

It's back to what I said above, there's a context issue with jokes. Not just tone of voice, nonverbal things, but personal experiences can turn a joke into a slight from one person to the next without warning. And currently, going "sorry, that was a mistake" has been disavowed currently as an appropriate response . . . sadly.

"Ah yes, we're being insulting and mean by telling you you're seeing things wrong."

To be honest? More than a few people on both sides are very deeply invested in their arguments. Some for understandable reasons. It's a perspective and communication issue, and the worst part of it?

Neither side is right, or wrong, because of the experience-context problem. People have had similar things occurring in different contexts, so their reactions are different. It really is important to sort out where the emotional connections are, and try to disconnect them. Otherwise, conversation spirals inwards to just shouting at each other and not actually communicating.

Of course, I should note. This is also blatant manipulation, with the goal of getting the conversation out of that death-spiral. Thus . . . I'm decidedly just as evil as DiscorDM, in the value system being applied.
Archone 26th Jan 2019, 1:05 AM edit delete reply
@Kereminde speaking as someone who has been bullied for... a lot of different reasons (back in the page where people described their experiences with high school, I gave a brief litany), I find that whether or not jokes are mean depends on... the intent. I've heard some absolutely hilarious jokes at my expense, or the expense of groups I belong to or that I respect. I've also heard jokes about people and groups I despise that were not funny at all... because the joke-teller wasn't trying to convey humor so much as their hateful opinions.

But... speaking as someone who has been bullied, my advise is (among other things) to... grow a thicker skin. Many of the taunters and "jokesters" will stop once they fail to get a rise. Some never will - they don't care if you don't react, they'll do it anyway because they're too stupid and hateful to care. But if you take it with dignity, more and more people will see them as the bullies they are, and fewer and fewer people will laugh along.

Or as I like to put it, it's why Dennis Leary stopped being funny two presidential administrations ago.
Balrighty 26th Jan 2019, 1:48 AM edit delete reply
Based on the comic and the author's commentary since, I'd say DiscordDM is anywhere between "probably not malicious" to "definitely not". It's also beside the point. My view is that there are two main questions that needed to be asked: "Is it harmful?" And "Are you continuing anyway?"

DiscordDM doesn't get a pass on being an active source of harm (for whatever definition that word has in a TTRPG scenario) just because he's only there at the behest of MainDM, or because of the "ruthless villian" challenge he was asked to create for the players or his role in bringing that character to life.

All the horror stories about problem players that disguise their antics as "chaotic stupid" or even worse, the tired "lawful stupid Paladin" trope? I'm sure plenty of them are not intentionally malicious on their respective player's parts. It's still harmful, and they don't get a free pass. And neither does DiscordDM.
GrayGriffin 25th Jan 2019, 8:50 PM edit delete reply
Ah yes, we're being insulting and mean by telling you you're seeing things wrong. Meanwhile, your telling us we're seeing things wrong is perfectly justified and reasonable.
Guest 26th Jan 2019, 2:48 AM edit delete reply
He might not have done it on purpose, but he still did give the players -not the characters, the players- a bad time based on their personality traits, leaving many of them upset and feeling like trash for having those traits, and he didn't see anything wrong with it.

Maybe you personally never met them, but I can guarantee you that people can be manipulative or even abusive jerks and totally oblivious of it/ persuaded they're doing you a favor.
Kereminde 26th Jan 2019, 8:48 AM edit delete reply
"Maybe you personally never met them, but I can guarantee you that people can be manipulative or even abusive jerks and totally oblivious of it/ persuaded they're doing you a favor."

Yup. I grew up with one, had several as teachers through high school, and more as immediate superiors when I got a job. On all ends of the spectrum of "malicious" to "unintentionally harmful".

It is, unfortunately, a necessary tool to have at hand.
Guest 26th Jan 2019, 4:40 PM edit delete reply
A hammer is an useful tool, it doesn't mean that it's acceptable for someone to bash my legs with one, regardless of the intent.

Same for manipulation. Yes, all language has manipulation built into it, as a for of communication. It doesn't mean that using it harmfully, intentionally or not, is ok.
Kereminde 27th Jan 2019, 12:27 AM edit delete reply
Ah, since we've decided to embrace hyperbolic analogies fully, shall we proceed or simply stop?

I'm all for stopping. There's not much leeway to argue against "something which is unintentionally harmful is not okay", since that tends to strip away context necessary to judgement.

Not that it matters any. When someone equates manipulation with having someone sledgehammer a leg? There's no useful discourse left.
Anonymouse 1st Feb 2019, 3:26 PM edit delete reply
To be honest, I'm glad to see the ass-end of Discord's involvement. He reminded me of a past (extremely bad "you can't win until i feel superior to all of you" type) DM and watching what he did to the players was just painful for me :<c So I'm glad we won't be seeing him again for a while.