Just received a comment on yesterday's post literally minutes after listening to part of Ric Burn's history of New York City, released between 1999 and 2003. It's a massive, 17 and a half hour chronological study. I'm just completing part 7. Anyway, first the comment:
"I wonder how much of this is a result of players who don't bother fleshing out their characters. Giving a character a place to call home is an invitation to a DM to mess with that home. Sort of the reason why so many characters seem to be orphans so the DM can't kidnap a dear sibling."
The passage in the documentary above that I've finished was the demise of Robert Moses, after devastating much of New York in the interests of traffic flow and housing despite the destruction of lives and long-standing communities. In effect, Moses was a real-life DM - urban planner, planning authoritarian, all-around self-righteous asshole on the grandest scale possible - whose greatest happiness in life was the destruction of things that people held dear for the sake of 'the good' as defined by Robert Moses.
And having listened to this and learned a great deal, along comes Doug to write about messing with the home.
It is very easy for DMs - and television script writers - to leap to the easiest, repulsively overused plot device in the history of serial writing, the destruction of anything the player appreciates.
The player has built a castle? Immediately - and here I mean in the very next running after the castle is built! - set forces in motion that will destroy, or at least seriously threaten to destroy the castle. Nevermind that there have never been any forces in the region or that the land has stood unoccupied for millennia, as soon as a castle appears, the DM must wreck it.
The player has an object of power? Immediately set about having something steal it, dis-empower it, produce something of equal power and go head-to-head with the player, whatever works. DON'T let the player enjoy it!
The player has managed to establish a rapport with an ally, local authority or guild? That's a death sentence. The ally or local authority must die immediately, the guild's management must change immediately, and to someone who obviously must now HATE the player, there must not be any sense of gain or status that the player can enjoy!
We must maintain the player character's inconsequentiality, we must ensure that the player NEVER has a chance to expand from a foothold that they have established, we must always see to it that there's always a higher power or entity that despises the player's success and makes moves towards eradicating it.
Player characters must not be allowed to obtain power. Even if the DM does allow the player to enjoy it temporarily, the decision will be made immediately about how long the player will be allowed to enjoy it and when the door will be shut. There's no question about that.
Why? Because power is an annoyance. It requires, first of all, that the DM must adapt to new circumstances. A party that has acquired a host of magic items and followers is now difficult to kill, meaning that all the old patterns of humanoid squads and a few giant beasts aren't enough to threaten the party anymore. It will take companies of humanoids and a great host of beasts to really challenge the party! Hell, that's a lot of fighting, a lot of planning, a lot of rolling up hit dice. Fuck all that. We'll just destabilize that follower base, deprive the party of all the magic, leave them naked on the street again and then MY adventure, Caves of the Cave-loving Cave-dwellers of Cave Cavernous will be relevant again! Hooray for good DMing!
Having to allow the player who's obtained a minor nobility to attend meetings organized by the Duke or King is just too much trouble. Damn, that means the world would need to make some sort of sense, it would mean that I'd have to portray a campaign that demands a knowledge of how governing works. I'd have to read a book! The king would have to speak respectfully to a party member! There'd have to be armies and mass battles and - holy shit - what if the party actually tries to get married and have children? Jeebus, that's pretty freaking squicky! I just can't deal with that.
Ah, I know what to do! Okay, first the king dies, then his evil brother marries the queen and together they set out to clean out the kingdom, and of course first they'd start with the newest lords . . .
Listen. I know why a lot of you run worlds. Some of you have done the above without knowing any better. Some of you damn well do know better.
I can't figure out how the people who know better still have players. But then, I suppose a lot of your players don't know any better.
This 'immediately' shit is really most annoying. The decision that's made not even to give the alternative role-playing campaign a try, but to immediately destroy the first steps towards that with undermining the player's efforts . . . this really bothers me. We should really understand that the immediate destruction of things that people have fought for and risked for and invested their time and mental faculties for is a really, really, really shitty thing to do. It's a poisonous DM's strategy, a self-aggrandizing, miserable thing to do.
It ought to bother your players.
I hope some of them have gotten furious and shouted at you. They ought to do more. They ought to break your jaw.