Page 248 - Narrative Autopsy

19th Feb 2013, 5:00 AM in Bridle Gossip
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Narrative Autopsy
Average Rating: 5 (1 votes)
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Author Notes:

Newbiespud 19th Feb 2013, 5:00 AM edit delete
A lot of this stretch of comics is inspired by my own experiences on the DM side of the table. There's really no substitute for learning by doing, and persevering even when you feel like an idiot.

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



Blyndir 19th Feb 2013, 5:01 AM edit delete reply
For Story time, what was your most difficult "Get right back on the horse" event?
Zuche 19th Feb 2013, 5:05 AM edit delete reply
That was foal play, Blyndir.
More of a TaunTaun 19th Feb 2013, 5:09 AM edit delete reply
Well there was this one time on Hoth...
Raxon 19th Feb 2013, 10:12 AM edit delete reply
You'll get saddled with unnecessary baggage if you rush into things with unbridled passion.
CJT 19th Feb 2013, 10:27 AM edit delete reply
As a player, making a replacement character after mine got killed (the group uncovered a golem we weren't supposed to find for a few more levels, and my character took his duties as meat shield seriously).

The first version of the replacement character was rather dark. A few weeks later, I revised it, and that's where Sir Corin came from (initial pitch for v2 was "played like a cross between Inigo Montoya and Don Carnage").

It turns out that I have a "mourning period" after any given character death that interferes with the generation of new characters in the interim.

As a DM, both of the abortive campaigns in my "Rune" homebrew D&D setting were learning experiences. In the first, I was reminded that engineering a TPK is a bad idea no matter how much I disliked my brother's character. I think I turned two people off of gaming by doing that, which I regret. In the second, I learned that the "simulationist" approach (make a world or an adventure map and hope the PCs wander to interesting spots) doesn't work very well, and I should instead focus on a flowchart of possible encounters, adapting terrain or cueing NPC encounters to ensure that the party always ends up doing something interesting.

I'm still a terrible DM, but at least I now have a better handle on game priorities (interacting with interesting and memorable characters, going interesting places, doing interesting things, and working towards PC goals) (obligatory "...and kill them" joke goes here).
Digo 19th Feb 2013, 12:16 PM edit delete reply
I think anything that crosses with Montoya or Carnage can be a winning ticket.
HSDclover 19th Feb 2013, 12:31 PM edit delete reply
I've run a couple campaigns which just encourage the players to go do what they want. It always seems to turn out well, but what you need are players (at least one really) who have an idea, and the story seems to form itself.

For example, the most successful one I ran had a largely aquatic world (think ~ 80% water on the surface, and the largest continent was the size of Europe, nations existed on archipelagos instead) where one of the players decided to get a ship and hire the others (and some NPCs) as his crew. What might be obvious is that having a ship in this world is a license to go where you please, so they made a living getting passengers, transporting goods, totally not smuggling, and doing quests when they showed up. One of the most interesting and entirely unplanned story arcs started when they were bringing a group of passengers and supplies to a group of islands. The night before they arrived in port, assassins snuck onto to boat to kill a passenger (a random encounter, nothing more) for apparently offending a crime ring in the islands. Instead of blowing it off as a random encounter, the captain of the group took great offense to this and spent the next several sessions quickly and quietly hunting down every member of the crime ring with the help of one of the assassins and the guy who was the target.

My point is, the best way to have an open ended player driven campaign is not to make a world and hope that they stumble on interesting points, but to make the entire world interesting, so that no mater where they go, an organic story can grow. Also, like I had said earlier, it helps to have at least one player who is good enough to let his character's motivations drive the story (be it revenge for attacking his passengers, personal greed, lust for power, or other goals of their choosing).
CJT 19th Feb 2013, 3:55 PM edit delete reply
"Making the entire world", in this context, would mean planning out every race, nation, city, and person-of-interest on an entire planet. _That's_ what I mean by the simulationist approach: generating everything ahead of time and placing it all ahead of time. It's a huge amount of work, and most of the work is wasted (details are invented that are never used in-game). This doesn't seem to be what you did.

What you're doing is dynamically generating content as the players head towards it, based on a very general/loose framework made ahead of time. That's a much more effective approach to world-building, and I'm slowly learning to do it.

Where it bit me, though, was on a much smaller scale. I'd had a forest, with interesting things in it. The adventure involved exploring the forest, finding enough of the interesting things to generate the needed plot coupons.

I'd generated the forest ahead of time (dropping a couple dozen dice on to a page to represent locations, connecting them with random lines to represent paths; that was quick). Then - and this is the simulationist part I should have avoided - I decided ahead of time which encounters were in which locations.

The players wandered around the forest missing almost everything, and as a result didn't know how to resolve the problem they were presented with (an infestation of alien plant life, more or less).

What I _should_ have done was either a) make a list of the encounters they needed to find, and every so often put the next one at the map location the players had just wandered into, or b) skipped the map entirely, and just describe them following forest paths and finding the encounters I wanted them to. Both of those would have had much less wasted time during play and much more fun for the players. It wouldn't even have been railroaded: the order in which they find plot-encounters is flexible, and as long as they find enough of them to uncover the plot, they don't have to get them all.

The key is, _not_ having a rigid framework. I clued into that far later than I should have.

This doesn't mean maps and world-building shouldn't exist - it means that they should be collections of plot hooks, not inflexible descriptions of mundane details.

Does this make it clearer where I'm coming from?
Chakat Firepaw 20th Feb 2013, 10:15 AM edit delete reply
OTOH, there are players who absolutely _loathe_ the quantum ogre[1]. If the players figure out that those 'fixed' encounters were going to happen no matter which way they went they will, rightly, consider themselves just as railroaded as if you presented them with a path bordered by impassable forest.

You can get away with forcing some mobile encounters and/or example of common encounters[2]. Unique encounters that you want them to have are better served by giving the players a reason to go to them[3].

[1] In one of these caves lives an ogre, which one it is will be determined by which one the players choose to enter.

[2] e.g. The alien plant life includes many of these carnivorous trees. The players encounter one early on but then regularly see more that they can easily avoid.

[3] Some examples: The plot hook points them to it, there is evidence of something there visible at a distance, it looks like a good vantage point to see what's going on, they meet someone fleeing from whatever it is....
Digo 19th Feb 2013, 5:13 AM edit delete reply
Get right back on the horse? You mean getting the PCs back on track?

For me it was a Western adventure that had shades of the old "Wild Wild West" TV show. The PCs had just acquired a train from an inventor and were supposed to use it to go East and do some quests there (Multiple stops allowed them some choice even though it's a train with set paths). The idea was that the BBEG was building an army and the PCs needed to build their own army by convincing the Confederates and Union soldiers to join together against a common enemy. Instead the players drove their train West toward the last known whereabouts of the BBEG, thinking that one mid-1800 steam loco was going to win this war.

They ended up getting lost going West without a map and wandered into a town trying to get directions. They didn't find the BBEG, but did find his *ARMY*. I ended up having the BBEG's army blow up the train with dynamite, forcing the party to trek on foot for a couple sessions back East before we got back on the right path of the adventure.

Could be worse though, I could have TPK'd the party considering the army was about 4,000 men strong to their party of 6.
scowdich 19th Feb 2013, 5:39 AM edit delete reply
That's a pretty bad outcome, considering that you were literally railroading them.
Digo 19th Feb 2013, 6:25 AM edit delete reply
I know right? I thought I had trained them better to realize the danger of tracking a 4,000-man army, but it seems they wanted to choo-choose the wrong direction and get themselves boxed.
Zuche 19th Feb 2013, 6:31 AM edit delete reply
...You engineered that set-up deliberately, didn't you?
Ryuutakeshi 19th Feb 2013, 5:45 AM edit delete reply
The first and only session I ever ran involved the party at level 1 living in a small border village as the neighboring evil empire invaded. They, a small team of 5, attempted to take on the army of 3000... and they were winning.

Nothing short of a literal fallen angel was enough to get them to retreat back so that I could finish laying out the groundwork for the story. They were fighting lvl 8 soldiers... and killing them. At lvl 1.

I have not DM'd since.
Zuche 19th Feb 2013, 6:32 AM edit delete reply
Was this in D&D? If so, what edition?

Sometimes, the best way to motivate a group facing an army is to point out how many depend on the party to survive and how the party is in no position to save them if it insists on holding its ground. They might not care, but then the army might be content to plunder around them and move on.

This is one reason quest awards have become so popular with some DMs, especially when they award more xp than "Kill things and take their stuff."

Sorry it didn't work out for you.
Ryuutakeshi 19th Feb 2013, 10:21 PM edit delete reply
4th ed. I was expecting the party to help evacuate the civilians in the town and get to the capitol since they didn't have a prayer of stopping the army (not to mention they admitted to liking the few town NPC's I made, like the town founder and the militia captain). Instead they blew up the town in order to kill a bunch of the enemy, sent the civilians ahead on their own, and decided they wanted to go guerrilla.

And, in a desperate attempt to get them to not die, I dropped a fallen angel into the battlefield. I admit that might have been pushing it. But at least they decided that retreating was actually a decent strategy at that point.
CJT 19th Feb 2013, 10:29 AM edit delete reply
This reminds me of an anecdote one of my DMs gave about running a Dragonlance module.

The setup was that the PCs were supposed to run from a dragon assault on their keep. But the PCs took a bit of convincing.

The line that did it was:

"So how many dragons are coming at us?"

"15 more than you could ever possibly kill."
Tatsurou 19th Feb 2013, 11:20 AM edit delete reply
I tend to get really into character and dead set on courses of action. I think my response to that would have been, "I roll for intimidate in an attempt to make those 15 run crying to their mothers." I would then domy best to give a ferocious and intimidating war cry speech and roll.
I've done that twice. Both times, I succeeded in turning the tide of battle. First time, I rolled a nat 20, which led to the entire enemy force literally running home with their tails between their legs (it was an army of werewolves, and we were all out of silver and fire). The next time, I rolled a one. After some time of thought, the DM decided that the enemy creatures laughed at my feeble attempts to intimidate them...and because of how long I'd made the speech, by the end they were collapsed in paroxysms of laughter. The party rogue then ganked the whole lot with sneak attacks to vital points. Rogue got good rolls on hit, damage, and stealth.
AABaker 19th Feb 2013, 5:38 AM edit delete reply
One time I was in a group exploring an abandoned temple. We were looking for this lost prince and there was evidence he had passed that way.
We don't find the prince. What we do find is a sword, broken in half. And each half being protected by a guardian. These things just radiated evil. So, naturally, the party's first idea is kill the guardians and take it. The moment this happens the temple ruins start to colapse, but we dive through a portal and end up in a resort town.
Now my character suggests taking the thing to the local temple and letting them do an exorcism or something on it. Nope, the party decides to handle it themselves. And by handling it, I mean they put the sword back together and try to smash it with an axe. Cue a demon rising out of the sword remains, crashing through a window and flying off into the night.
Now of course the party realizes we screwed up bad. So they decide to get back on track, by paying our bill and skipping town before anyone notices the window.
Zuche 19th Feb 2013, 6:31 AM edit delete reply
There's something awesomely funny about an adventuring party more afraid to be caught out for breaking a window than unleashing a demon.
maukkanapa 19th Feb 2013, 8:53 AM edit delete reply
Unleashing a demon means you get to kill it, which usually gains you at least experience. Get caught breaking a window? The owner of said window, most likely a retired adventurer twice your level, will demand compensation. Seems logical to be more afraid of losing money than progressing towards becoming more powerful.
Digo 19th Feb 2013, 12:19 PM edit delete reply
There was once a merchant I made who was an "Epic Level Commoner". No real combat skills and the worst progression of saves and attack bonuses, but just for being 10 levels above the party it made him difficult to catch anyway. :3
CJT 19th Feb 2013, 4:00 PM edit delete reply
In Pathfinder, the Aristocrat and Expert classes are actually pretty sweet, within their spheres of influence. To the point where taking a level in Expert has been tempting for a couple of players in our group on occasion.

High-level NPC classes can be just as epic within their specialties as PCs can be, and for RP-heavy campaigns (like the one I'm in), that earns them a lot of respect.
exdeadman 19th Feb 2013, 5:41 AM edit delete reply
At one point I had the entire party turn down the introduction to the campaign that night...
LoganAura 19th Feb 2013, 6:01 AM edit delete reply
Hm, railing. Obvious thing I do is to get an NPC who knows about it to remind the party of the stakes (I do that regularly in Classical)
Another is to simply bring a character to lead them with some bait (Like in AoH2.0 with the parents :V
Raxon 19th Feb 2013, 7:31 AM edit delete reply
A 'get back on the horse' story? I could talk about the can opener incident, but I suspect that would too much for you goys.
Dirk 19th Feb 2013, 7:35 AM edit delete reply
I play a modern real world setting, in Wales.

At one point, they were supposed to be toppling a growing fairy court that had the involuntary support of the local homeless and poor, through potion laced soup-kitchens.

They decided they'd rather have their characters catch the train to London. I can't remember their reasoning, but it was likely something silly.

This was the second or third time they'd done something similar, blowing off the questlines to go and set things up for later times - later times we weren't going to ever get to if they didn't actually play.

So I had the ticket master ask them where their tickets were, as they had forgotten to get any at the station. I gave them a chance, and told him he would be swayed by a bribe.
They failed the roll.
And so decided if they couldn't pay to get him to shut up, they'd intimidate him into it.
They failed that roll too.

So the ticket master stood up to their posturing, at which point the barbarian of the group smashes his 'lucky plank' over the ticket master's head.

At this point, I gave up trying. And told them that they now had arrest warrants, as the driver would be reporting them. They would all be getting ankle bracelet trackers, and would be refused exit from their hometown until they could prove they weren't dangerous.
Gden 19th Feb 2013, 8:00 AM edit delete reply
I probably just missed it, but what are they talking about with the thing related to pinkie pie? I guess I could wait til thursday to find out, but I'd also like to hear what everyone else thinks.
Raxon 19th Feb 2013, 8:22 AM edit delete reply
The DM broke Pinkie when we weren't looking.
*Sigh* 19th Feb 2013, 8:25 AM edit delete reply
Presumably that the DM tried to silence her with her Poison Joke symptom. If that's not it then I'll be surprised along with you.
Theo 19th Feb 2013, 8:48 AM edit delete reply
Or because the DM stole her sonnet.
Lyntermas 19th Feb 2013, 9:16 AM edit delete reply
I thought that the main thing was that the DM used her to portray Zecora as the bad guy at the beginning, which just made her look ridiculous to her more sensible friends.
Raxon 19th Feb 2013, 9:45 AM edit delete reply
Good point. Setting a single player up to look like the fool is a mean thing to do.
Gden 19th Feb 2013, 11:01 AM edit delete reply
I thought it was silencing her thing, but it wouldn't surprise me if it was both items.
CJT 19th Feb 2013, 11:52 AM edit delete reply
She didn't seem to be very silent during play. I'm going with Lyntermas's interpretation ("...but I wrote a sonnet and everything!").
Digo 19th Feb 2013, 12:21 PM edit delete reply
Unless the player sets themselves up, then it's just hilarious.
Stairc 19th Feb 2013, 9:22 AM edit delete reply
I disagree that the DM railroaded the players to a huge degree in this session. Applebloom definitely, made major suggestions - but the party decided to go with them. If the DM had had another NPC offer some other suggestion as well that seemed a bit worse - the players wouldn't even have noticed it.

For example:

Apple Bloom: You should all go home overnight!
Players: Aww... Railroading!


Apple Bloom: You should all go home overnight, rest up and form a plan. Also, getting some magical defenses would be good too.
Snails: Naww, let's go fight the enchantress! I bet she's beautiful... And evil! And even if she's expecting us, I bet you all can fight her!

(Made obvious for the sake of example)

Having an NPC that is known to be foolish, incompetent or is disliked by the players heartily endorse an alternative course of action is a good way to get the players to turn away from it. And interestingly, the mere presence of an in-game NPC endorsing another option makes the players feel like there are clear options that the DM is fine with you taking (even if those options always existed anyways). Having the DM's characters acknowledge and encourage various options makes the game feel less linear.
Raxon 19th Feb 2013, 10:16 AM edit delete reply
That said, if the party chooses to follow the foolish NPC's advice, have it play out realistically. Don't tell them "Nope, sorry. There's a mountain in your way. Looks like your only option is to go with the other plan."

It's really mean to offer them choices and then yank them away when they choose something you don't want.
Stairc 20th Feb 2013, 9:48 AM edit delete reply
Absolutely Raxon. And if you really want to ditch the worries of railroading altogether, there are very easy ways to structure your adventure design to give players extreme amounts of freedom but still know enough to run the adventure with minimal extra planning (or even less planning than normal).

And Clarification CJT - the impulse of players to feel that what NPCs say is what the players are supposed to do is the whole power of this technique. Because the DM's NPC is suggesting another option - the players assume that the DM is happy with you going that direction in addition to the one endorsed by the more competant and trusted apple bloom.

Fun fact - I often use NPCs that have reputations for incredible incompetence just as frequently as NPCs with reputations for incredible brilliance. If my always-idiotic dupuee endorses a course of action, the players immediately begin doubting that path. It's a lot of fun.

However, as mentioned for Raxon, these are pretty basic tricks of making players *feel* less railroaded - whether they're railroaded or not. I mention it because the players mention railroading in this comic, despite not being forced to do anything. They weren't actually railroaded, they just felt that way (which is pretty ridiculous considering they went off the DMs plans enough that he had to improvise).

In truth though, players feeling railroaded is the real issue. Whether you get around it by providing them actual choices (as I prefer) or just the illusion of choice - that's up to you. =)
CJT 19th Feb 2013, 10:38 AM edit delete reply
There'd be a real risk of the players following the Bad Advice NPC in the campaigns I've played in. Partly this is due to the implication that any DM-offered advice is what we're supposed to do, and partly this is due to confirmation bias (Leeroy Rainbow would be *all over* Snails' suggestion no matter what).

The group I play with now tends to use NPCs and DMPCs as a "hint system". We can plan amongst ourselves, but we always have the option of asking NPCs for advice, and they'll tend to point out the obvious flaws in any plans and summarize the major hooks/options available to us.

It works for us, though I realize that depends heavily on the group's gaming style. A group that's not in the habit of asking for advice would need a pushier NPC (exhibit A: Applebloom).

And speaking of Bad Advice NPCs, I am totally going to have to put Wheatly into a campaign one of these years. Just because he's a good guy doesn't mean you should listen to him...
Digo 19th Feb 2013, 12:35 PM edit delete reply
That reminds me of the dungeon my D&D campaign was on before going to hiatus. It was a factory from an age long since past that made Warforged. The party unknowningly started up the main computer which was sentient. It had a split-personality issue for having been shut down for eons--

Ezmeralda and Ellie (Based off Pinkemina and Pinkie).

Since the PCs only see their faces on screens, they assumed they were separate entities (and indeed, even the computer personalities didn't know it was one entity).

Naturally the PCs all were drawn to the happy party-time ellie personality...
CJT 19th Feb 2013, 4:05 PM edit delete reply
I've toyed with a similar set-up for an undetermined future campaign. The PCs would reactivate the genius loci of a ruin... and find out that it's the magical equivalent of GLaDOS.

If they survive being played with for a while, it'd give them as a gift to another genius loci it had relations with... based on Castle Heterodyne.

Yes, I'd ship that :).

Making the campaign survivable for the PCs would be a challenge. An alternative would be to reflavour it into a Paranoia campaign. Or just to spin it as an updated take on Tomb of Horrors. In both of those cases, survival isn't a terribly large concern (for the DM).
darkwulf23 19th Feb 2013, 10:57 AM edit delete reply
I know this doesn't have to do with anything but I'll tell this story anyway encase someone else finds this amusing. Anyway around Saturday when the season finale aired I had to work and never got around to watching it. Now given that that was the season finale I knew that there is going to be something major happening so I didn't read the comments on here because I didn't want the story ruined for me. Well yesterday I was playing world of warcraft when I happen to look down on the general chat and saw someone say "Twilight now has wings". God **** it.
Raxon 19th Feb 2013, 11:11 AM edit delete reply
Someone spoiled it for me in these very comments a couple days ago. I feel your pain. Incidentally, it's more complicated than that, but suffice it to say I like the episode even more than Too Many Pinkie Pies.

The songs. So many songs. SEVEN MOTHERBUCKING SONGS! This pleases me.
Digo 19th Feb 2013, 12:37 PM edit delete reply
The episode's score was indeed the best part I'd say.
darkwulf23 19th Feb 2013, 3:16 PM edit delete reply
I know right, I watched it on youtube yesterday kind of irritated that show was spoiled, then my girl Twilight started singing. Right then, I knew Twilight was right, everything was certainly fine.
Raxon 19th Feb 2013, 4:11 PM edit delete reply
Fast pace, lots of well toned plot, songs galore, Derpy made an appearance, and Pinkie did some good visual gags.

I have nothing to complain about.
Digo 20th Feb 2013, 6:30 AM edit delete reply
Heehee, you said "well toned".
CJT 20th Feb 2013, 8:16 AM edit delete reply
Heh. "Ascend" on fimfiction has a couple of throwaway lines in that vein.

(It's a Twilicorn fic, and one of the best I've read; Dash ends up inspecting Twilight's new wings at one point.)
JacenCaedus 20th Feb 2013, 3:31 PM edit delete reply
forgot about that fic, can't remember where I left off on it though, ah well time to re-read
Zuche 20th Feb 2013, 1:37 PM edit delete reply
Music to your ears, was it, Digo?
Zuche 20th Feb 2013, 10:56 AM edit delete reply
Ah, yes, the songs...

Cthulhu needs your help,
He's working hard to drain all your SAN,
Won't you give him a piece of your mind?
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn...
Tatsurou 19th Feb 2013, 11:30 AM edit delete reply
I have one 'get back on the horse' story that's pretty unique, I think.
I was playing a paladin. The BBEG was a necromancer.
During a major battle, several critical fails in a row led to my character dying. At that point, the rest of the party fled, and left my body behind. I had to roll up a new character.
I rolled up a Death Knight. THe backstory? The necromancer raised me as his unwilling servant. Same character, same backstory, same motivations...only now I was unwillingly evil and turned against the party.
This actually played out well, because the DM, as it turned out, was bad at phrasing BBEG orders. I was able to assist the party on a regular basis against the BBEG by deliberately misinterpreting orders. When the BBEG was beaten, I managed to seize the artifact that was the source of his immense necromantic powers and used it to sustain myself as a Death Knight.
Note: the DM had no intention of the BBEG making Death Knights like that, as he thought our party couldn't handle that without the paladin...but he said I could make up any character and backstory as long as it fit the setting.
Raxon 19th Feb 2013, 11:51 AM edit delete reply
Brilliant. I applaud your character design.

I particularly like stories with necromancers, because they seem to always be played in one specific way, just like paladins. I could play a LG or NG necromancer fairly easily, unless it's a setting where the mere act of speaking to the dead is actually evil and corrupting.

Cue one necromancer who, instead of raising zombie servants, and instead doing stuff more like 'Crossing Over with John Edward' where she's a bit mysterious, but she's known all over town as a standup gal. She makes her money being the resident undertaker, and is versed in a vast selection of funeral rites. She also makes some side cash by letting folks talk to their deceased loved ones, helping them take care of unfinished business, whether it be legal hangups, like interpreting a slightly dodgy last will and testament, or coming to terms with deceased parents, or even just giving people a proper chance to say goodbye.

'Friendly Neighborhood Necromancer' may sound like an oxymoron, but it's all in how you play it.
Karilyn 19th Feb 2013, 2:08 PM edit delete reply
What about Jade Curtiss? He's a Lawful Good Necromancer.

The campaign I'm DMing right now also has a Necromancer as the main NPC. He's an Elven Necromancer, in an elvish society which is relatively tolerant of Necromantic activity (It's just another form of the art of magic. Perfectly natural).

He's interested in bringing about world peace, and doesn't want to be a ruler of a new world order. Of course, he's slaughtered hundreds in the process of bringing world peace (sacrifices must be made). But I'd still say he's Lawful Good. Especially now that he's recently started to fall in love with a Half-Elf, and has begun to view mortal races as something other than life-support systems for future corpses.
Cain 19th Feb 2013, 9:26 PM edit delete reply
well there is that voodoo shaman I have, a sheet I had Scales help me make a few months back, the Elves are a bit leery of necromancy but I would have played the guy (have not touched him since)with a bit of a whimsical approach to playing him, as if he was near stoned the entire time
Raxon 20th Feb 2013, 1:30 AM edit delete reply
Oh, that's good. That's very good.

"Sure, man. I'd love to hook you up with your Aunt Sue. Step on into my pad and share some spirit weed, and we'll find her. Far out, man."
Kadakism 19th Feb 2013, 11:41 AM edit delete reply
My first ever DMing experience was a disaster. I was ill prepared and had no idea how to improvise when the players did something I wasn't expecting. The adventure was a pretty simple one. The local mines had been collapsing lately, after which the miners trapped inside would get attacked. The ones who managed to get away came back with strange bite marks on their bodies. So the PCs were sent to investigate. Cue my inability to play any NPC and my blatant attempts to railroad the party. Two hours later, my friends are all packing up their things, telling me that I'm probably the worst DM they've ever seen and that I need to get my stuff together before I try to run a game. I was angry for a little while, but I knew they were right. So I started pouring over my books and spent the next eight months creating a new campaign. Now we've been running in my world for the past two months and everyone's loving my story. But if I hadn't picked up and tried again, it would have never happened.
terrycloth 19th Feb 2013, 11:44 AM edit delete reply
One party, deep in an annoying magical dungeon, found a deck of many things and lost two characters to instant inescapable doom. We had to make new characters, which the GM had the party unfreeze from stasis in the next room. We'd bring the characters to the next session and be able to keep playing.

I made a half-dragon arcane archer... the other guy made a specialized dragon-slaying paladin with a vow to slay all dragons. Fortunately the rest of the party made him make an exception for me since PVP is never fun.
Digo 19th Feb 2013, 12:40 PM edit delete reply
I once made a mage-slayer fighter and ended up in a group of all arcane spellcasters. I didn't know beforehand what the party makeup was and expected there would be only 1, maybe 2 at most. Not all 5! O_o
Malbutorius 19th Feb 2013, 11:20 PM edit delete reply
I remember this one game, the DM had all make PCs seperatly, we dident know who the other players were, turns out, we all wanted to play as someone Evil, Turns out, we all thought everyone else was going to play neuteral or good, Turns out, being a Lawful good Palidan in a party of Evil PCs is hard, I was able to get away with it by making my PC Extremly Nieve and being completly Oblivious to the other Party members evil, Why? Because when he met them he ended up accidentally using Smite Evil and it dident effect them (In my Campain 'Smite' is devine retribution through servant, if said god has plans for said follower aiding them then so be it), Thus, I am a Lawful Good Palidan in a Party of Evil Adventures, Fun times were had.
Chakat Firepaw 20th Feb 2013, 9:56 AM edit delete reply
"That ain't even the biggest elephant in the room."

"Yes, well... you'll have to talk to my brother about that one. You know how he works for Ringling Brothers...."
Moonrush 20th Feb 2013, 7:43 PM edit delete reply
At one point, the goal was "get the cute, squishy diplomat to the peace negotiations" and the party's plan was "loot everything and explode everything unlootable"... until they remembered that "squishy" had a very easy to annoy bodyguard who was not cool with that. Wasn't the DM, either, I was the bodyguard and simply being in character.
Railroading? 21st Feb 2013, 5:03 AM edit delete reply
Man, I once came up with a campaign that was fairly convoluted. There was a lot of concern that I'd have to railroad the characters just to keep the plot moving.

To my surprise, they ended up trying to pull the "Overly Clever Character" card in every scene, and each decision played right into my script. Flawelessly.

Example? The home of a good-guy had been attacked by a pacl of summoned, Lovecraftian monsters. I needed a way to draw those creatures back and engage the good guys to lead them as a clue.

What happens? One of the chars manages power-stunt back in time to witness the event. The monsters spot him, he flees back to the present and one follows along.

Brilliant! They just... kept... doing that and I ended up awarding bonus XP at the end for making my job so easy.
Thestralpony 29th Sep 2015, 7:59 AM Just a rant. Feel free to skip it. edit delete reply
Ok, I don’t know if you’re using real people to help you with this comic by playing things out for real or not but these player’s logic (in this part of the comic) doesn't make sense. Why are they blaming the DM for their own choices? First they claim that Apple Bloom railroaded the campaign and then complained that the DM didn’t give them accurate information.

First of all, they didn’t have to do anything that Apple Bloom suggested at all because she’s an NPC and as such her role is to point the party in the general direction of the campaign's story in one way or another. All she did was give her opinion on what she thought they should do in the forest and then pointed out the obvious during the next day in Zecora’s hut. Nothing Apple Bloom did force the other players to do anything. They could have just ignored her the entire time she was with the party and did their own thing. But instead they just went along with what Apple Bloom said because they just didn’t seem to want to make an attempt at a group decision. That’s not the DM’s fault.

And second, The DM gave the character Pinkie Pie information that she would have been able to find out in town by herself. The info was, of course, false because nopony knew anything but rumors and gossip. This, again, is not the DM’s fault. It isn’t realistic to assume that everyone knows everything and that nothing is ever hidden from the public or misconstrued by rumors. In short, just because the DM knows something, it doesn't mean that the world will. Getting mad at the DM for not sharing info privileged only to the DM is just plain childish. The information given to Pinkie was in fact accurate information because if any of them bothered to ask around town for info, they still would have ended up with what they already knew.

These characters lines of logic is just… Never mind. I said my peace. I know you’re going to say something along the lines of, “This is a very old part of the comic”, and I know that. But like I’ve said on Youtube before; “If no one questions the past then the future won’t change”. Or something along those lines anyway. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I look forward to catching up and reading the rest of the comic.
Thanks for putting up with my rant and peace out!