Monday, May 2, 2011

I Guess Some Things Never Change...

Back in September, my old buddy Mike (who I gamed with through much of high school and college and who I've bad-mouthed at least once-or-twice on the blog regarding his penchant for "ranger-ish" characters) sent me a link to a New Yorker article via Facebook, with the message:

this article reminds me of you

Being me, I didn't read it till tonight (because I am terrible about checking Facebook and I'm not a huge fan of emailed links in general) while trying to find something to do while I wait for Mediafire to answer my damn technical help request. Anyhoo, the story (which you can read here), is one man's tale of childhood role-playing fun/misery at the hands of a sadistic, mentally unbalanced individual.

Now, I haven't actually seen or talked to Mike in more than a year or two. As far as I know, he knows nothing about my book, my blog, or my recent gaming escapades down at the Baranof. In other words, he tells me this story of maniacal Dungeon Mastering reminds him of me from our past gaming history...which ended 'round about 1997!

What's more, I can't remember ever playing a single game of D&D with him when I was acting as Dungeon Master. What the hell gives? I decided to ask him, and wrote a simple message:

Um...that's depressing. Was I that much of a maniac in our games?

To which Mike replies:

Not quite. But very close: there were definitely many timeswhere you went out of your way to maim & kill our characters and you relished in our destruction. At times, interpretations of the rules were thin and and against the concensus of the rest of the group. You are enjoyed being in the power position. But the whole while you were very entertaining. If nothing else, it made for memorable experiences. Do you remember the Elfquest module we played at your house?

I have omitted the (multiple) smiley faces from his text.

Now in all truth, I really don't remember what the hell he's talking about. I mean, ElfQuest module? I remember maiming my little brother and his buddies in a troll fight or two...but I can't recall running EQ for my peers.

" relished in our destruction..."

Maybe I AM some kind of power-tripping sadist. That's sad...that's just really sad.

My poor, poor players. I was just considering the last two-three days how I could be nicer to them. Not because they're complaining (well, Randy complains...but he sure does die a lot), but because I WANT them to live long enough and advance in level...I'm tired of this cruddy "goblin warren" adventure. And I daresay they are, too.

What?! I can hear my players say (especially Randy) want us to actually go up in level, JB? Hells, yeah. We've had a few sunny days here of late, and sunshine in Seattle always puts me in a summertime mood...even in April and May. And High Summer was always the time for high level play back when I was a kid.

It's weird, but I associate the dark of winter with new games, new campaigns, and newbie players...and warm weather with much more potent game play. Looking back, I can see that I was running mid-level pre-gens (7th level or so) last summer, and this has been a trend with me for some time.

Well, that and (apparently) being a brutal, murderous (if entertaining) game master.

Huh. Stuff to think about. Especially since the damn Mediafire is still down.


  1. That story is categorized under fiction. Are you fictitious too?

  2. @ Grat Sax: These days, I often feel like I am.

    Though should I be more worried that I remind the guy of a fictional character? Hmmm...

  3. "Waaah! My character died!"

    Tell them to suck it up and make them play zombies.

  4. JB -Maybe you should consider dropping the traditional XP system? Unless you intend on starting and running a year or more campaign, with committed players who turn up every week, a more forgiving XP system might prove useful.
    I have toyed with 2d6 Roll to Advance, and my players appreciated it. Levels are decided at the end of play for the night, giving that last roll, considerable meaning.
    For a 20 or less session campaign, might be helpful?

  5. @ By the Sword: Ha! Actually, I was exaggerating the level of sadness at the table...all of the players seem to be quite good sports about it all, and have no (or little) issue with rolling up new characters.

    *I* was feeling a bit weepy and sensitive last night. That story was a bit "on the dark side" (my own childhood was much more idyllic, despite some rough patches)...this morning I'm feeling much more chipper (6 hours of sleep helps!)!
    : )

    @ Jovial: I dislike random advancement, but I was thinking of some giving players a bonus level to their next character if their current PC died! Each new character would come into the game with more potency, until they finally found a level that would prevent them from getting killed.

    "If you strike me down, I will only come back stronger."
    ; )

  6. If you're up for a really funny and quick read, check out Carlton Mellick's "The Kobold Wizard's Dildo of Enlightenment +2". It's about a bunch of D&D characters who come to the realization that they are living in a game of AD&D, under the command of horny teenage boys and the DM has no clue of how to actually play the game. It is the funniest and most accurate account of a bad game of AD&D I have ever read.

  7. I roll into Baranof ten character sheets deep, yo. I had the ability to set my expectations in advance, though, based on Randy's tales of being sodomized by the Grim Reaper nightly. I honestly don't mind dying a lot if I know it's in the cards; even less so if it's done creatively or amusingly.

    That said, the only time I've seen level two is when we started at level two. =)

  8. @ Gatz: Soon, man, soon. I just hope you're ready to graduate from a level 1 "savage" to a level 2 "brute."
    ; )