Monday, January 18, 2016

Dungeons and Dragons, "Rocks or Boiling Oil"

            I am putting off doing movie reviews this year, since few movies really inspired or surprised me in 2015 I am kind of not-all-that-motivated to write about them.  I may get around to it, but I just have more pressing matters for the moment.  However I still want to write and have been kicking around stuff, here is a little of that.

            I play Dungeons and Dragons.  For those who do not know Dungeons and Dragons (henceforth DnD) is a table top game, a group of players use some loose rules for characters, events, monsters, and magic to collectively write a story together.  One person is the main writer, called the Dungeon Master (henceforth DM) who creates the world and adventures, and the rest are the players who each control one (and in rare cases a few) characters that go thru the adventures.
            A good DM makes efforts to encourage creativity in the players by giving them obstacles and a variety of resources with which to combat them.  Rather than just a straight up sword fight, you must sword fight while balancing on rafters, swinging on chandlers, and dodging arrows fired from other enemies.  Instead of just attacking the enemy army you can cast spells to make the terrain slippery or muddy, you can poison their rations, sneak in at night and kill the leaders, or cause a stampede of wild beasts thru their camp.  A DM wants the players to be participants in the story and make the adventure their own.
            Bad DM’s do not suffer the creativity of their players and instead push their players to play the game the way it SHOULD be played.  Rather than fostering creativity they instead take the track of, “I’d really like to discourage this behavior.”
            There is a lot of online material focused on DnD, it is a cultural institution in many ways and served to inspire countless video games, novels, and movies (for good and ill).  One of these websites is “Table Titans” which is primarily a comic strip about a group of friends playing the game, and the epic fantasy adventure that their characters get up to.  However the website also has a section called “Tales from the Table” in which various stories are told about funny or strange stories that can come up in a game of DnD.

This is the start of the comic's 3rd season and introduces an interesting fantasy world to explore.
Most of these stories told in “Tales from the Table” are caused by DM’s who are complete assholes.  Either taking things literally, shutting down creative ideas, or not playing the game the way the players are interested in playing (or vice versa, players not showing respect for their friend who often times puts lots of work into stories and adventures that the players in turn ignore or complain about).  The website has no comment section or boards on which to discuss these stories and as such I can never level any criticism on the situation, and since one recently came up that I thought was especially bad I decided to respond to it here.

Rocks or Boiling Oil?” is an example of a DM being both lazy and vindictive and putting the blame on the player.  If you ever feel a creative bug encouraging you to DM a group of friends (not just in DnD, but other games like Gamma World or D20 Future) please do not be like this guy.  Try to find a FUN way to resolve the situation, getting pelted with rocks for a few minutes before inevitable failure finally arrives is not fun.