Tuesday, September 23, 2008

You're Not a Fucking Hero

I must confess, some of this post was inspired by a post by JM, master of "Call of the Dungeon," which I shall get around to adding to my links when I am not quite as lazy as this.

His post is about NPCs as heroes and the player characters who are compelled to love them, among other pertinent issues. I would like to make a slightly different point.

None of my players is a "hero" in any sense of the word. Being in my campaign, and having really no requirements on their person to DO anything beyond what they have a mind to, most of their personal motivation tends to be towards A) wealth and B) gaining another level...A being somewhat helpful in acquiring B.

As a DM, I am supposed to be A) appalled and B) bored. I'm not, actually. There are so many interesting ways to frustrate a party's interest in either of their goals that I am rarely bored. As for being appalled, I have no idea why. Is not the goal in Monopoly to gain wealth and land and wipe out your competitors? Isn't that the goal in life? I don't see the problem.

I have been running campaigns since 1980, and I have had my basic philosophy about being a DM since pretty much day one...though it took years to hone it to a fine edge. I don't want to tell players what to do. I understood from the beginning that my role as DM was referee. A referee does not play the game. He or she does not tell players how to play the game. That is why there are different words to define the different roles involved.

I have never known a single player to express any desire whatsoever to forsake either wealth or experience in favor of making an NPC's life more rich and full...that is, to risk death to free a village. I have met a few players who were prepared to forsake wealth and experience in order to be an enormous jackass, mocking both the game and the other players, and they have been ejected from my campaigns as necessary. But really, I don't think it fills anyone's heart to know that somewhere, in someone's imagination, there are a bunch of make believe people living happier lives, although I had to sacrifice my sixteenth level paladin to make it so.

What a bunch of fucking HOOEY that mindset is.

There are those who play obstensibly towards such goals. Because they are FORCED to, by DMs who think in terms of story lines and who doggedly drive their players through campaign after campaign with carrots and sticks. And because it is well recognized that a player would be royally pissed off should his paladin die for some bullshit paper village, such DMs are absolutely required to ensure that when a player dies (if ever), it only happens outside the door of some enormous carrot...*cough, cough*...I mean treasure.

Such players in such campaigns are not heroes either. They are pawns, slaves, dupes, addicts (how else do you explain their willingness to continue in such campaigns?) and woefully uninformed. But they're not "heroes." They are not self-sacrificing themselves for anything.

This whole fucking hero perception of the game is a deep, sickening disease, one that has single-handedly created 4e and which distorts hopelessly the majority of the participants not just in D&D, but all RPGs. The rise of the mythology of the hero has kept step with the same social disease which says that none of us are allowed to live for ourselves except in terms of how we pretend to live for the sakes of other people. Oh, we can gather treasure and get powerful, but we have to do it on the sly, we can't just slaughter for pleasure...we must pay lip service to the greater good.

WHAT is this fucking social religion doing in my D&D game? And what is the greater good in a fantasy setting, except the myopically programmed vision of a DM who can't think for himself, but must follow the never ending deluge of shit texts poured out from the mind of corporate games designers?

No heroes, please. Let's all be pillagers, like the game intended.

17 comments:

KenHR said...

Awesome post.

This is the stuff swords & sorcery is made of!

noisms said...

So some human beings like pretending to be good guys. Bear shits in woods, Pope actually Catholic...

Who cares so long as people are enjoying themselves? I really don't understand the complaint, unless somebody is actually FORCING you into a certain style of play.

Red Moose Studios said...

""I have met a few players who were prepared to forsake wealth and experience in order to be an enormous jackass, mocking both the game and the other players, and they have been ejected from my campaigns as necessary.""
In short, you told them what to do. You forced a style of play on them, and because they didn't conform you threw them out.

""There are those who play obstensibly towards such goals. Because they are FORCED to, by DMs who think in terms of story lines and who doggedly drive their players through campaign after campaign with carrots and sticks.""
Carrots and stick are exactly what you're using. XP and gold as carrots, lack of XP and gold as sticks. Not for a second does it occur to you that some people might like playing for something else that those rewards.
I am not supposed to care about a "paper village"? Then why the fuck should I care about "paper money" or "paper experience" or even my "paper character". It's all make believe.

I have known and heard from many many players who had their characters die spectacularly while fighting the big guy or something like that, and they were damn proud of it. Don't generalize your group to all the gaming community, and don't imply that the desire for story beyond "loot&XP" is purely a DM's forced element.

Last but not least D&D was is mostly a pillager's game. So I don't know where you pulled that "heroism is what caused 4E!" bullshit. In 4E you can't make a paladin fall anymore because he "wasn't good enough". In 4E, most of the world is just dungeons and forests and monsters and villages are just tiny "points of light". Combat is more of a focus than ever.

Seriously, your "article" doesn't make any sense.

brokenmarrow said...

You seem to be saying that the players aren't heros.

That doesn't seem very controversial?? The players aren't heroes, the players are just players.

I'm presuming that an NPC in the game world could possibly think a PC is a hero, but at the player level your saying none of the players are heroes.

Umm, yeah, its a good reality check, but isn't it obvious? Or are you saying people are skipping this reality check?

Ron said...

Look, a strawman, let's get him!

Seriously, I have no idea where you get the idea of "4E forces heroism", but you almost entirely made it up in your head.

Turns out gamers are good at that!

KenHR said...

I find it very amusing that, in the rpg.net thread on this post, the snowflakes who want an emotionally safe environment are tearing you apart like starved pit bulls. I guess personal attacks are only out of bounds if you're one of their own.

Alexis said...

Ken,

I did ask them to be pillagers.

AndrewW said...

I guess personal attacks are only out of bounds if you're one of their own.
-----------------------------------
Not really, mocking this sort of insanity is pretty much ok.

Of course, nothing prevents the OP from reporting anything which he finds offensive if it really bothers him (which seems doubtful given the content of his other posts).

Stefan / 1of3 said...

<< None of my players is a "hero" in any sense of the word. >>

I saw (in a D&D game) a player who had his character Psionically Revivify five random NPCs without names. And the character had like no incentive to do it.

brokenmarrow said...

Andrew, if your certain you can't be wrong about your idea that its insanity, then you just express the zeal of a zealot yourself. As zealots never see themselves as capable of being wrong.

If you think there is some slim possibility that you could be wrong, you wouldn't be so comfortable with mocking it, lest you are actually wrong.

PhasmaFelis said...

But really, I don't think it fills anyone's heart to know that somewhere, in someone's imagination, there are a bunch of make believe people living happier lives, although I had to sacrifice my sixteenth level paladin to make it so.

You're dead wrong. I've sacrificed characters for goals that they (the characters) believed in, and so have many of the people I game with. Hell, I've seen characters sacrificed who could have survived, simply because the character (not the player) was too stubborn to live.

There's not a thing wrong with playing RPGs for imaginary wealth, money, and power, but if you think that's all anyone plays for, you're not paying attention.

Captain Rufus said...

Soo.. according to this blogger, D&D is ONLY about getting money and power?

Telling a cooperative heroic adventure story is BAD and no player ever would want to play for loftier goals?

So since 1988 me playing RPGs in the vein of my favorite cartoons and movies and books has all been a total lie?

Riight. Either this is a troll blogpost, or you have the WORST GAMING EVER.

And I think 4th edition is butt because its a super powered miniatures game pretending to be an RPG no less.

brokenmarrow said...

I think he's basically saying that D&D is designed for gaining wealth and power. Playing it otherwise is like playing monopoly in a kind, non greedy way.

While you might want to play it altruistically and have done, that doesn't mean you weren't working against the grain.

Here's an article about design, where the games supposed to be group co-op, but the reward system makes it greedy self interest - it shows that system matters: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_168/5273-Me-Myself-and-Multiplayer

Rob McKellip said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob McKellip said...

I've seen player characters die for NPC's because the person views it as something their character would do....with no hint of a monetary reward or chance of being brought back. I've been in many game sessions where the GM expects the characters to bolt, and then shakes his head when he realizes they aren't going to because their characters would rather die than let something bad happen to nameless NPC's. I've had characters choose where they die..to save someone else..sometimes not even a player. I had a level 10 ranger attack a Devil Lord who broke an arm off a NPC friend who had been turned to stone because it offended her that much (The DM thought I was nuts, but its what she would have done...so thats what I had her do).

Maybe the problem is the players you play with....not any game system persay. I've played some pretty crappy DND 3.5/3.0 games that were all hack and slash (I.E. the current system-different game- I play in)...and some pretty good DND 1.0/2.0 games that had a lot going for them (and vice versa). Most of the games turned out that way because of the players themselves. Blaming it on a system (I don't and won't be playing 4.0 btw because I just can't see buying a system I don't see as an improvement over what I play now), seems foolhardy at best. No heroes? Thats the fault of the players...not a system.

lovesmasher said...

This is rediculous. Of COURSE people want to be heroes. What -I- can't understand are the people who want to play evil. That's just stupid rape-fantasy indulgence. Do it alone in your room.

Milez0 said...

The game did not intend for anyone to be a pillager. Nor a hero. The game is intended to give a system to people's imaginations. You can play however you want, and you can always feed off the track of any railroading GM. If anyone decides because of what you wrote to be a pillager, then they are just as bad as the one who chooses to be a hero because society tells them to. The game does not intend to force any action of any character.