Katie seems to have a less… adversarial approach to DMing.

News: Posted January 30th, 2020 by Alina

^ 30 Comments to “Old-school”

  1. SeriousBiz Says:

    Everything has a time and a place. I like the Tomb of Horrors style, unforgiving gameplay as much as the next player (if it’s agreed upon beforehand), but as a GM, I don’t really like making my players paranoid for no reason. Entering the hideout of a band of evil gnomes? Sure, you should probably approach cautiously and check for traps every now and then. Entering an inn in a busy town? Now, I’m not going to tell you how to do your job, but setting traps your patrons may accidentally step in is probably bad for business. Even possible burglars would likely not take the time to set up traps in case someone walks in while they’re robbing the place clean. If anything, they’d have a guard or two watching their backs (then again, this is Dungeons and Dragons: who knows what shenanigans might be going on behind closed doors). Point is, don’t make your players too afraid to act without planning for every contingency, unless you want your game to slow down considerably.

    Btw, are the tails of the speech balloons in the last panel accidentally flipped? I mean, I do find the idea of Joel calling Katie an ‘old-timer’ hilarious for some reason…

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 1:38 am
  2. Prosnit Says:

    Yay Katie ! But I have to admit, I’m not a D&D nor an OSR player. If the GNS theory is still a thing, I guess I’m more a NS kind of guy. I find playing with more enjoyable than playing against. In my opinion, it helps everyone (players and storytellers alike) make better and richer stories.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 3:09 am
  3. Spiritbw Says:

    Eh, I’ve had both types of GM.

    The one GM we had that had policy of activity trying to kill our characters did have pros and cons.

    The Con being we had gone through about three parties worth of characters by the sixth session.
    The Pro being we had some incredible stories in our desperate attempts to stay alive. Like getting a Elder Blue Dragon effectively stoned and wandering off rather than trying to eat us.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 3:17 am
  4. I’m with Joel here. The entire function of traps is to trick people into hurting themselves.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 3:53 am
  5. Robin Bobcat Says:

    Oof… Yeah… The whole ‘Players Vs The DM’ thing gets REALLY nasty sometimes, and will leave scars.

    I remember gaming with someone who would proclaim every. single. thing. his character was doing, searching above and below and behind him and blah blah because he *knew* that if he didn’t, the DM would say “Aha! You didn’t check the nightstand! A monster eats you while you sleep, no save.”

    To say it got tedious is an understatement.

    A good DM is not a villain, but a window into which the world may be viewed. Sure, there is conflict and monsters and tricks and traps, but they exist for the greater story, not as a means for the DM to prove superiority and power over the players

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 4:35 am
  6. Shinjischneider Says:

    Yeah. NEVER railroad players into extra damage or an ambush.

    It just makes them not trust you anymore.

    Definitely been there on the player-side.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 4:41 am
  7. Krixous Says:

    I still remember the one time my party opened a wicker basket the dm would not let us use mage hand cuz the wicker basket lid weighed 15 pounds and when we did bam dc 25 dex saving throw for 10d8 of slashing damage as swords flew out of the basket at level 2 if the barbarian did not rage cuz he got pissed off and cuz the dm was very obvious he would have instantly died. Please note 5e highest dex save in the party was my fighter at +4.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 5:56 am
  8. Drraagh Says:

    This is why I like Roguelikes so much, the idea that at any moment something could go horribly wrong and you’ll need to begin all over again if you’re not careful of the moves you make.

    Also, while I never played it, I loved the concept of Fourthcore from D&D 4E, at least in the principles that Adventures should be difficult and deadly. I adore story and I could RP my characters for hours doing mundane things, but the reason I love those elements specifically is I like the idea that the game has some actual teeth and you can die if you weren’t as smart and cunning as you could be. Things like the books Play Dirty 1 and 2 by game designer John Wick are some great examples of this, see http://johnwickpresents.com/product/play-dirty/ for the first book.

    I feel that some games, the GM will pull back and play conservative if the party is wounded and needs a break whereas the actual world wouldn’t. There’s nothing wrong with walking away from a dungeon and coming back later (maybe it’s been looted while you were gone, maybe more monsters came in this time), but it seems a lot of groups I’ve played with have not considered that tactic and GMs don’t want the fun to end so they come up with ways to not kill or otherwise take PCs out of the game. Chrono Trigger shows us you can have a trial and even arrest of a PC and make it a dramatic series of events. Have the players escape prison, have them have to be on the run from town guards who want them arrested or dead, have them be hunted by bounty hunters who don’t care if they’re innocent or not like in The Fugitive. You could even turn an RPG into a new storyline as now they’re surviving in prison like the TV show OZ, summary at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cNNm7VwmHw

    So, I play that way, and try to GM that way too. If you wanted safe, you could stay in the city and live that way. Here, you’re challenging yourself.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 6:24 am
  9. Mark Says:

    I love the facial expressions in the third panel!

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 7:55 am
  10. Velgar Says:

    “Well, I’m out of ideas how to get out of this room.”
    “*sigh* You could… I don’t know, look for a door?”
    “… You just said we can’t just ‘look for a way out’.”
    “Yeah, but I didn’t say you couldn’t look a door specifically.”
    “So… Do I see one?”
    “Are you looking for one?”
    “There’s a huge door right in front of you.”
    “And we didn’t see it when you described the room because?”
    “*another sigh* It’s not the GM’s job to just give you everything just because. You have to do some deducing and exploring yourself, you know?”
    “… Why are we even playing with you…?”
    “Because all of you are too lazy to read the rules and run the games?”
    “… Yeah. Sounds about right. So I open the door.”
    “You find out it’s not a door.”
    “… F… U…”

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 9:17 am
  11. argentlupus Says:

    Wow, even Sarah’s S.O. had a game with Joel. That or Joel’s exploits are legendary.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 9:42 am
  12. Thulcandran Says:

    @smoutwortel Yeah, that’s definitely the case with traps – but Joel clearly does take it a little bit too far if his characters are afraid to open the door of an Inn without checking. There’s a healthy middle ground!

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 2:15 pm
  13. N0083rP00F Says:

    For the life of me I do not know when it started but I know toxic GMs at GenCon were an issue for the open.
    I think there was a lul during the days of the early living campaigns.
    Things got antagonistic against the players during Greyhawk and it was openly celebrated and called “fun”.
    For home and club games there is always that one guy who is a me against you and is only wining when they get a party kill.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 2:23 pm
  14. zmortis Says:

    I’ve always figured that as a game master the idea is to make both an interesting and challenging experience for both the players and myself. Part of that is giving the players some of what they want. Part of that is surprising players with something they didn’t plan or expect. None of it should be done with malice toward the players though.

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 5:45 pm
  15. Weatherheight Says:

    As a GM of over 30 years, I’ve found that I don’t have to trick players – I just ask them, “So, what are you doing?”

    They get sloppy all on their own.
    I also generally avoid “instant death” traps – slow agonizing death is way more for fun everyone involved. 😀

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 8:59 pm
  16. MarcoSkoll Says:

    Yeah, I’m really not a fan of “exploding doors” GMing. I prefer roleplay and plot progression to having to spending half the session slowly disarming traps that aren’t actually important to the story.

    In my experience, trap-detection/disarming only makes for a particularly memorable story experience when a) you get it spectacularly wrong (but that’s exactly what the players are spending their time trying to avoid) or b) you’re under time pressure (e.g. trying to open the door while your comrades are holding off an insurmountable force)

    I’ve adopted a GMing style where traps are scarce and I test for the characters in secret, with the automatic assumption that they’re showing diligence appropriate to the situation and their skill level.
    If a player is going to do the same thing at every door anyway, we might as well just assume they’re doing that each time and get on with the actual story instead.

    (I also adopt a very frank narration style. It’s a difficult habit to break, but I try to avoid saying “You don’t find any traps” and instead say “There are no traps”. If the characters believe it to be true, I tell it to them as if it is.
    GMs *are* allowed to lie to their players, and players can get just as paranoid, if not more, when they realise that you will lie to them.)

    Posted February 4th, 2020 at 9:59 pm
  17. TB Says:

    I think the general rule should be transparency. Knowing the DM’s routine is best, but maybe a new DM could mention some kind of “difficulty level” so you know what’s up.

    That said, if you don’t check a door while playing something called “Pit of the Thousand Dooms,” whatever happens is probably your own fault.

    Posted February 5th, 2020 at 12:06 am
  18. MrWhisper Says:

    I think I would leave a Joel game pretty sharpish. Everyone has their fun, but mine is derived from a DM who knows there’s a time and place for hazards, and doesn’t foster a culture where everyone runs through a checklist of perception tests at every door.

    It’s called passive perception for a reason in 5e!

    Posted February 5th, 2020 at 3:22 am
  19. q'Tzal Says:

    The first situational/environmental clue (that the GM should offer freely) is scavenger scattered remains of previous adventurers that were all killed in some not immediately obvious way.
    This doesn’t explicitly say that the passageway into a crawl is trapped but should set an expectation of some need to be on the look out.

    Posted February 5th, 2020 at 3:39 am
  20. Kaunisenkeli Says:

    Making your players paranoid to open the door of an INN without checking for traps isn’t adversarial. That’s downright dickish. Joel should have his screen taken away.

    Posted February 5th, 2020 at 5:51 am
  21. Orange Lantern Says:

    Huh. I guess I’m Katie. 🙂
    I always view myself as an ally to the players, helping to create a memorable story, not an adversary to overcome. Playing with paranoid players who won’t risk anything anymore is not a recipe for good adventures.

    Posted February 5th, 2020 at 7:19 am
  22. Wanderer Says:

    Yeah, fun is fun, but there should almost never be a reason for trap checks at the door to the inn. (The exception is if they’re breaking in, and even then the trap should be non-lethal in case a customer is trying to leave without paying. Remember, traps work in both directions.)

    Now, walking into the middle of a fight in the common room, that’s much more reasonable, and a lot more fun to play. 🙂

    Posted February 5th, 2020 at 4:35 pm
  23. Atlante Fou Says:

    There’s a way around it if the GM is not too sadistic. When I play a rogue, or an infiltrator, or any kind of character that is good at opening doors and checking traps, I tell the GM beforehand that when I say “I do a full combo on the door” , it means I check for traps in it and around it, then I listen at the door, then I grease the lock (and the hinges if they are accessible) then I unlock it (if need be) then I slowly open it.

    Posted February 5th, 2020 at 5:47 pm
  24. Leon Says:

    I think the paranoia is definitely just a response to being at a table with a different DMing style, and it seems to me like just playful ribbing. I think old school obstacle-survival-based games can be just as fun and new school character-dynamics based ones. I know different styles aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but that doesn’t mean Joel isn’t a good DM. Remember the D&D game we saw him run with the snake people and Abbie’s rogue dying?

    He runs a tough game and plays the role of the adversary to be overcome, but he knows how to make sure his players are having a good time even when things don’t go their way. I’ve had many of my own games end like that, the party pushed to the brink and somehow winning against all odds, and it felt like a real victory because I knew I could have lost if my choices or the dice had gone a bit differently.

    Posted February 6th, 2020 at 1:23 am
  25. Arthur Says:

    I think there’s a happy medium between daycare GMs and villainous GMs. I, personaly, have no fun in hyjinx games. I feel like there’s no stakes and I can’t get invested.

    Posted February 6th, 2020 at 1:49 am
  26. Lord V Says:

    For someone claiming to be Old School, Joel is quite fond of his railroading. 😉

    Posted February 6th, 2020 at 5:31 am
  27. ozzi Says:

    I’m not Joel but I play by the rule this is a fully fleshed ecosystem and the monsters don’t avoid you because you are level 1. Traps on inns only in evil society, however. This does lead to more deaths but only until you learn to run or be inventive. I also reward inventive play. Also learn to listen to me because I do give clues but normally when I think you are not listening. This is the briefing I give my players on the first season, but as others have said they get sloppy on their own.

    Posted February 7th, 2020 at 3:12 am
  28. Louis Kolkman Says:

    As this is supposed to be a door to an Inn, in a fairly well traveled place, that would presumably welcome guests, I do not see the need, or even the convience of placing traps on it. That way your inn will be out of business in no time! Other doors, in other places, no problem with traps, But having to check for them every time on every door is both tedious and counter-productive, and most of all, NOT SMART.
    And in the GM-v-PC debate, I’m at that table, both as a GM and as a player, to have fun. If we’re playing/gm-ing a campaing (or system) in which traps on doors would be acceptableéxpected, then they would be there. Otherwise, we’re there to have fun, and beeing paranoid, and having to look for them every third step is not fun in my book.

    Posted February 7th, 2020 at 5:29 am
  29. anonymousethatscurriesinthedarkness Says:

    The only game system I know of where it is expected that your character dies in some unfortunate or hilarious way is Paranoia.

    Mind you other systems do lend themselves to such twisted play styles more than others as long as everyone at the table is on the same page so to say. For one of my old game groups it was The Morrow Project or as it was known to us, The Moron Project. Lets just say we all stuck to the rules and knew that someone at the table would do something stupid that would get their character killed. Most times it was a player though sometimes it was the GM, mind you timing is everything.

    Two examples
    Riding shotgun with a flamethrower & the windows down
    HAFLA fired down the barrel of a T55

    Posted February 7th, 2020 at 11:51 am
  30. ShuxTehUber Says:

    When you’re breaking into someone’s home, there’s probably some level of security to prevent you from doing so.
    Dungeons are usually some sort of home, prison or vault that are built to keep people out, in or stuff safe. That needs security.

    A tavern is a business. They (businesses) have a public space in which security is minimal and a private space in which security prevents theft and other crime.
    Dustin’s paranoid.

    Posted February 9th, 2020 at 12:43 pm