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Thread: Their is no "Sanity Clause": DM
07-20-1999, 02:20 AM #1
Their is no "Sanity Clause": DM
James Ruhland wrote:
> > Role-playing encompasses all activities of human interaction, including
> warfare, but if
> > you emphasize warfare why bother with AD&D rules?
> By the same tolken, why have Birthright rules if you're just playing AD&D
> where the characters are nobles and all the players are expected to "play
> nice" the same way they would if they were members of the same adventuring
Well, from a casual glance at the published materials, I'd say because that's
how the game was intended to be played.... You know how the domain descriptions
have "Recommended" or "Not available for PCs" written on them in the top part of
the description? Well, that's because those realms are supposed to be NPC and
run by the DM. They are supposed to be the opponents that the DM uses to give
the PCs something to do rather than fight one another. The biggest mistake (I
guess it's not a real a mistake because they do it on purpose--apparently for
esoteric sociological experimentation reasons) is that guys DMing PBeMs allow
players to take on the "Not available" realms and essentially turn over their
DMing duties to PCs.
Honestly, this has always confused the hell out of me about the PBeMs I've been
in. As a DM you've got this amazingly cool world, with this rich cast of
villains and intrigues all set up for you ready to exploit. But I've yet to see
a PBeM actually take advantage of them all. I've seen DMs actually throw in
their own, completely extraneous villains (some of them were really kind of
silly) rather than use the ones that already exist and are so well fleshed out.
Disclaimer: I've only been in about a half dozen PBeMs, so your experience may
be quite different from mine. I also don't mean to piss off any PBeM DMs out
there who are even now saying, "Hey, I used the published villains! My game was
really cool!" so please don't flame me regarding that aspect of this message.
Any other aspect, of course, be my guest.... ;-)
> > Well, I guess this is where you and I differ on the role of the DM. I
> personally think
> > the DM should provide the adventure hook, outline and motivation and
> then guide the
> > players through it.
> Oh, just *lovely*. We have here one of our "Storyteller" DMs, who tells the
> story to the players who function as his audience, and to some degree as
> "method actors" under his (firm) direction. "Follow the script, boys and
> girls. Tut tut, no improvising there, Brian." AUTOSTART=true>). Sorry about that, but that's my current bane, the thing I
> hate most of all about how RPGs are played in this decade.
Well, I'll gladly plead guilty to being a "storyteller" DM, if by that you mean
I actually have some idea what I'm going to be doing before a gaming
session.... However, I think you grossly misrepresent what goes on in a well
run adventure, especially when it comes to improvising. Improvising is what
players are for. To me, the DM is more like a combination writer/director. He
sets the stage, the players run around in it. To continue the metaphor,
however, if the players decided they wanted to light the stage on fire and then
slaughter all the stagehands, I think I might put a stop to that. They might
have a good time hacking and slashing that once, but it's going to get old real
fast and why would they keep coming back to play in a game that was so
infantile? I certainly would get tired of DMing a game that was so limited in
> > > Well, I guess this is where you and I differ on the role of the DM.
> > > I personally think the DM should provide the adventure hook,
> > > outline and motivation and then guide the players through it.
> Hook, line, and sinker.
> Setting asside the degree to which that is appropriate in a "normal"
> (party/adventure based) AD&D campaign, IMO DMing in a Birthright game
> should be far different.
I guess this is, again, just where you and I differ. I don't think DMing a BR
game should be substantially different from any other AD&D game except, perhaps,
in the scale of events portrayed. The DM has the pretty much the same role.
> IMO, players should be given far more latitude to come up with their own
> motivations, their own "hooks" (in the form of goals for their realm(s)),
> and their own "outlines" (policies/timetables for how to achieve those
> goals). The game should be more free-flowing, based upon that and not the
> DM's "Grand Vision".
Hmmm. This makes me think that you and I may not really be disagreeing with
each other very much.... Just butting heads over a matter of perspective. I
give my players a lot of latitude in my BR campaign as much as in my other
campaigns. (Actually I don't "give" them anything. They are friends of mine,
you know? They do as they like.) My "grand visions" are usually a free flowing
background motivation for the campaign. My adventures are usually based on
giving the PCs a strong motivation for accomplishing the adventure goals, but
how they go about that is up to the players. In my BR campaign, the players
more often than not provide their own motivations, because I make them role-play
all of their domain actions and their success on those actions determines the
result of the action.
In all honesty, it's been very successful for the past several years, so I just
don't see a real big need to endorse a new "style" of play, especially when I
don't see that style as being particularly new and different.
> 3. War: OK, there were a lot of wars in the medieval period, but describing
> as being one of constant warfare is not very accurate, and is based on the
> version of history rather than the truth. A more accurate description would
> more like a period of recurrent and intermittent warfare. Example: The
> Okay, but we don't get even that in BR. You yourself said that you don't
> want warfare in your games, and would punish any player who tried it.
> Same in many BR PBEMs, people who try to fight a war are immediately
> slapped down.
First off, I don't think I said I didn't want warfare in my games AT ALL. I
just don't think it should be the main part of the game. Just for once, I'd
like to see a PBeM where I could actually build up my realm before some guy with
a Napoleon complex came running around.
Second, I think we get plenty of recurrent and intermittent warfare.... Just
how much war do you want in an average game? Say a game went on for ten years
of game time, 120 rounds. How much of that time do you think should be spent in
> > Alliance blocs sound very similar to what went on in Europe in the medieval
> period to me.
> Oh? Would you care to cite an alliance which included England, France,
> Germany, Spain, Italy, and Austria all at once, all in total agreement
> with each other and nobody ever leaving or betraying the alliance?
I think this is the error of perspective that I was trying to get at in an
earlier post. There are relatively few power blocs between nations like
England, France, Germany, etc. in the medieval period. But that isn't an
accurate comparison to the alliances that occur in PBeMs because the scale is
much smaller. The power blocs that you see in an Anuirean PBeM, for example,
are all smaller in scale than all the nations you listed above. Anuire as a
whole is like one of those nations, while the provinces within it are like the
provinces that made up Spain, Italy, Austria, etc. If you pick up some detailed
histories of those nations, you find that during periods of civil war. Take the
War of the Roses, for example.
(God, I hate using specific RL examples. Inevitably someone is going to make a
big deal out of the different interpretations of that historical event and turn
this into an even deeper digression than it already is. Aside from the fact
that it is off-off-topic, it also seems to be a perfect example of how you can't
really quantify things in the RW the way you can in an RPG, which backs up my
premise that this isn't really an historical game. Yet, when I point out this
fact it somehow gets ignored and I have to hear about realism and accuracy and
historical blah, blah, blah again....)
Anyway, Wars of the Roses. Civil war in England. Two big houses; Lancasters
and Yorks fight for power. The outcome of this war is usually described as
"Edward York seized the throne from Henry VI" or something like that. What they
aren't telling you, however, is that Eddie had behind him a coalition of noble
houses. Otherwise, he just couldn't have gotten the troops together to pull off
his coup. The "nations" of Anuire are much more like those individual barons,
counts, etc. who backed Edward rather than whole nations like Spain, Germany,
etc. Compare the sizes of the realms. Roesone is roughly 100x100 miles.
That's a dukedom, not a nation. It's population is 75,000. If you banded a
dozen such nations together, it really isn't much of a huge power bloc. It'd
still probably be smaller than just one of the nations you described.
> James, you remember that "hive mind" comment you made earlier? Well, I must
> say, this is the longest screed where I have actually agreed with you.
> Personally, It is my pet peeve to play in a "Storyline" type DM game...
> Especially those who actively stifle innovative thinkers... Those that plot
> and plan their fellow neighbors demise or plot a way for them to destroy
> themselves. At least after about 3 years of gaming PBEMs, I know who to
Guys, I feel compelled to mention that the "innovative thinkers" here are
arguing that attacking their neighbors and justifying it with racial or
religious intolerance is basically just a better (they've called it more
"realistic" or more accurately medieval) method of play. Frankly, I don't see
how that is all that innovative. It's the very OLD fashioned style of play
where players would enter a dungeon and kill everything, or even the kind of
game that preceded RPGs when the hobby was basically a large scale board game.
Somehow this has turned into a tirade against "storyteller" DMs, which is rather
a bizarre turn if you ask me. You know how in an adventure they have an
introduction, a plot and then a conclusion? That's basically in all the
published adventures I've ever read in the last ten years or so, at least.
That's the game that was developed FROM the "style of play" that you guys are
Now, there is nothing wrong with a good, old fashioned, hack 'n slash
adventure. I enjoy playing in them from time to time, and I like DMing them
once in a while too. But describing that as a "style of play" that is somehow
innovative or imaginative is really... well, a little overstated, shall we
say. That's how we played way back when the books were tan pamphlets and Gary
Gygax was harumphing his way around the TSR offices. I certainly wouldn't want
to base an entire campaign on that "style", and if I was going to run a PBeM I
wouldn't want to dedicate so much time and energy to officiated something that
was really just a multi-player wargame. There already are computerized versions
of that sort of thing that you can play on the web that are much better than the
stuff in the BR materials.
I really don't see how the "style" you guys are describing is anything more
sophisticated than the hack 'n slash philosophy brought into the BR domain
rules. Where is the innovation? Where is the style? OK, so it's a good tool
for venting your frustrations but... you know, I don't have much motivation to
help you vent your frustrations. I'm not a shrink, counselor, relative or
bartender. I'm just a guy who wants to play some D&D. I've put a lot of work
into PBeMs before as a player just to have the game fall apart because somebody
decided to attack other players apparently because he had a lousy day at work.
Buy a punching bag and play the game for pleasure rather than to vent your
frustrations electronically on people who are trying to have a pleasant
evening's diversion. Trust me. In the long run it's healthier.
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