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  1. I've been playing roleplaying games since 1977, and I have seen some things. RPG games are a great way to get to know people, sometimes better than you wanted to. It gives an insight into their thinking, as well. As most of you who know me, in person or by text on a screen, could figure out, I play RPGs for the STORY. I'm a person who enjoys immersion in a narrative, playing a character, building a world and a gripping moment... and poking my head out a little later and oh, my, it's been nine hours, who's chipping in for pizza? Lot of people like that. Others play for different reasons. We all laugh about the "munchkin," the person who plays as if RPGs were a thing to "win," not caring about style or story, but motivated by sheer power and numbers. I've known a few who were obsessed by gold or XP; one in particular had to be restrained from killing couriers, NPCs, watchmen, bartenders and townspeople, regarding them as little walking packs of XP as opposed to figures in a narrative, much less real people. When a player asks the GM, "Are other players worth XP?" you know that there will soon be a problem. I don't mean trolls. I've known people whose sole motivation in a game was to annoy the other players, and these people tend to weed themselves out sooner or later, either by getting bored or by actual social rift with the other people around the table. This isn't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about people who I've known who got immersed in the story... in a completely cockeyed way, somewhere between the story and the rules of the game. They were PLAYING the game, certainly, and doing so CORRECTLY, and were WILLING to work with the other players... in a non-troll way... but somehow found the line between story and acceptable, and managed to promptly trip over it. I have examples. True Story #1: 1990, or thereabouts, D&D, situation aftermath: the city has been partially destroyed, but the dragon is dead; what's left of the city watch is cutting it into chunks in order to remove it from the Artificer's Quarter. Some enterprising types are bottling dragon blood as hard and fast as they can, for sale to wizards and alchemists, and the watchmen are warning there'll likely be a hella tax on that, as the city is going to need the money to rebuild. Hundreds are homeless and about as many dead. Fires are still burning out of control in some parts of town. But the dragon is dead, and the survivors will rebuild. At the one remaining bar in town, the Lord Mayor, soot smudged and singed, gratefully gives the PCs a chest of gold for their heroism and powerful assistance; it was they who actually brought the monster down. PALADIN: We should give the money back. They're gonna need it worse than we do. CLERIC: I second the motion. ROGUE: Shaddap, you're not here, you said you were out tending to the wounded. CLERIC: I still get a vote in party affairs. BARBARIAN: So maybe we take a cut for expenses, and give the rest back. ROGUE: I could be okay with that. Dragon GOT to have a lair SOMEWHERE. FIGHTER: We could do that and then make up the difference with the people. PALADIN: How now? DM: Come again? CLERIC: Wha? BARBARIAN: What do you mean? ROGUE: Hah? FIGHTER: We take a cut for expenses, give the rest back, and make up the difference from the people. BARBARIAN: I'm still not getting you. DM: What do you mean, make up the difference from the people? FIGHTER: We GOT a reward from the CITY. NOW we get the reward from the PEOPLE. WIZARD: (abruptly looks up from his bookkeeping) CLERIC: (horrified expression) ROGUE: Dude, protection rackets generally work better if you shake down the townspeople BEFORE the dragon poop hits the fan. PALADIN: Dude, I totally do NOT understand how you expect to do this. FIGHTER: We GOT a reward from the CITY. NOW we get the reward from the PEOPLE. I don't know how to make it clearer than THAT. CLERIC: The city IS the people! FIGHTER: Naw, naw, naw, the CITY is the ruling party, the lord mayor, and the guilds and %#$@. The PEOPLE are all these folks runnin' AROUND now who LIVE in the city. BARBARIAN: I still don't understand how you expect to collect. WIZARD: Or what penalties he expects to levy for nonpayment. ROGUE: (laughs) He'll take off his helmet and use the horns like handles! He'll take up a collection! (mimes holding a helmet upside down by its horns) "Pardon me, sir, but we saved your city. Pony up! (mimes shaking the helmet, makes jingling noises) Awright, ma'am, saved the city, pay up! Jingle jingle! Saved your city! Killed the dragon! Pay up! Jingle jingle! Come on kids, saved the city, let's dig in them pockets! You with the cookie, break me off a chunk! Jingle jingle!" DM: (facepalm) CLERIC: (stares at the rogue, utterly appalled. Turns to look at the fighter, and somehow looks even more appalled) PALADIN: (exactly as cleric, about a half beat behind) FIGHTER: (outraged expression) You sayin' we ought to have done all this for FREE? I am OUT of HEALING POTIONS! DM: (deep sigh) Harry, if you look out the window, you see the sky is still dark with the smoke from the fires-- FIGHTER: WE didn't start those fires! DM: --that you didn't start, but the dragon did. Many of them are still burning, and them what aren't are still smoldering. While you sit here drinking ale that the barman gave you free out of gratitude, you hear the distant wailing of grieving mothers, the cries of lost children, the screams of the wounded and dying-- CLERIC: Oh, %@#$, how many heals do I still have? PALADIN: I run outside, I still have a couple lay on hands left. DM: ...the wounded and dying, still far too many to treat or to save. You hear the roars and cries of bucket brigades, shouting at each other about where to carry water, what to do, where to go. There is a crash as a building is pulled down to keep it from catching fire and spreading the flames across the street. Someone blows a horn blast. A church bell is tolling like mad; you don't know why. More screams. More cries of the anguished. Now, Harry, tell me precisely how you're going to get these people, most of whom have lost something, if not EVERYTHING... to pony up? ROGUE: Jingle jingle! FIGHTER: (crestfallen look)...........well, it was just an idea. %@#$. (pause) Say, Robby, when do you want to go look for that dragon lair? ****************************************** ...and this was what I mean. Harry wasn't a BAD guy, but he was NOT clear on the concept, and since he dropped the idea out of shame afterwards, we never DID find out what he had in mind as far as "collecting a reward from the people." ****************************************** True story #2: 2007 or so, D&D. The Sultan of Mahalladoon has a problem: a local wizard has gone bughouse crazy and has taken over a local building downtown. It is a large, tall, local building, located smack in the middle of one of the better parts of town, and overlooking the Great Sook, the main market and economic center of the city ... into which said wizard occasionally lobs fireballs, now, when the mood takes him, reasons unknown. Thus, business is not good, and the Sultan is unhappy. The city guard tried storming the place; the survivors limped back without having even cleared the courtyard. The assassins' guild took a try, and the sole survivor reports that the front door now opens directly onto a fifth floor balcony, whereas climbing IN a third floor window now takes you directly OUT a FIRST floor window, and all FIRST floor windows now take you to the same trapdoor atop the main minaret. Furthermore, if you walk in the front door, find yourself on the fifth floor balcony, and then try to walk back out that same door, it takes you to a windowless room somewhere indoors that's full of ravenous piranhakeets. INTERIOR doors seem to work logically... but anything on the outside of the building is now ensorcelled, and could spit you out ANYWHERE. The Guild has regretfully dropped the contract and refunded the Sultan's money. Said wizard is still cheerfully doing Zod knows what in there, and occasionally tossing fireballs into the Sook when it gets too noisy. And now, said Sultan has contacted the party. Can you foreigners of wisdom and power and magical might possibly help? Payment would be most generous.... if you are successful... FIGHTER: So what's the building look like? CLERIC: Plans are right here. Looks like it's about ten stories, with one of those big onion shaped domes on top. Hefty circumference, stone walls with stucco facing, six different balconies, and a sort of courtyard surrounding the whole thing. RANGER: And every exterior window and door leads anywhere BUT where it APPEARS to lead.... but each destination appears to be consistent; it'll take you to the same place every time. But if you go BACK through it, it might take you somewhere ELSE... but still CONSISTENT. That means we can map it, by trial and error. WIZARD: Except that some of the destinations are more or less instant deathtraps. We know of two, but surely there's more. And we DO know that the trapdoor on the minaret, if used as an ENTRANCE, leads into the reception hall on the first floor. You have to go in through the top, then you start at the bottom, and presumably work our way up; whenever he tosses a fireball, he's seen doing it from the tenth floor balcony overlooking the sook. FAIRY: ... so we DO know how to get IN, but then we have to fight our way up ten floors of Bog knows what. (dirty word). He'll probably know we're coming, too. RANGER: Yeah... that seems likely. And he'll have all kinds of time to get ready for us. No way to get the drop on him, short of figuring out exactly where he is, and teleporting in or something. This seems likely to get some of us killed. FIGHTER: Why don't we just level the building? (Everyone looks at the fighter) FIGHTER: He CAN'T be expecting THAT. And he'll be dead, we collect the reward. Worst comes to worst, we'll have to sift through the rubble for the body. DM: Um... you haven't thought this through, have you? FIGHTER: It'll just fall in the courtyard. Make a mess, sure, but problem solved, right? DM: Um... no. The courtyard surrounds the building to a maximum width of twenty feet from the building itself on any given side. The rest of the building would fall smack into some of the most densely built and populated areas in town. Look at the map. CLERIC: Dude, you're proposing collapsing a ten story building in a densely populated area? FIGHTER: Well, we could evacuate the populace before we do it. RANGER: Hm. Well, he sure thinks big. CLERIC: Do you know anything about building demolition? Because if you're going to try to topple that building STRAIGHT DOWN, I bet anything he's (the DM) going to want to see your math. And check it. There's no WAY any of our characters know how to do that. FIGHTER: So we just evacuate everything north, and then collapse it that way. RANGER: Dude, I tried to do that with a tree once, in real life, with a chainsaw. It did not cooperate. FIGHTER: So we just evacuate everything within a 150-yard circle of the place, and then let it fall wherever. DM: I suspect the owners of the properties within that circle might object, if they know what you've got planned. FIGHTER: Well, we don't have to TELL them. Just say it's for their own safety, which is perfectly true. RANGER: And you don't think the Sultan might have a problem with us accidentally devastating the Street Of Cunning Jewelers, by chance? FIGHTER: Well, he wants to be rid of the crazy wizard. This would certainly do it. FAIRY: At a cost of millions in real estate, business, and perhaps a few lives. And leaving a lot of people homeless. That seems kind of worse than a loony man pitching a fireball into the sook twice a week, somehow. Tell me again how you're Lawful Good? FIGHTER: (exasperated) Well, the guy is EVIL! We are the GOOD GUYS! That MAKES this okay, right? ************************************************** The Fighter (who was not the same player as in the previous story) finally admitted that perhaps his plan was flawed, after some ... well, actually, a lot... of discussion. There was some argument about whether crimes against property were actually EVIL evil, if performed for a good cause, and he didn't like the idea that rendering hundreds homeless and financially ruined just to get rid of an evil wizard was in itself EVIL, at least until the Fairy pointed out that unless the Fighter personally searched every house in the blast zone to make sure there were no puppies, kitties, or goldfish left behind by people who thought they'd be back home by nightfall, then he could not in all righteousness drop a building there and still hold the moral high ground. Anyone else got any stories about players who were Unclear On The Concept?
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