Saturday, October 31, 2015


Last Saturday during D&D, I was introducing my players to the new rule about injuries, something I conceived of and intended to add to the game since the last time this group had played, way back in the beginning of July.

We discussed the rule and the possible problems in calculating out injury damage vs. hit point damage, but on the whole the players were open about giving it a try.  No one was actually injured the other night; in fact, in a four-hour running, no combat occurred at all.  The players made their way to Herat, in Aria (NW Afghanistan), spoke to the Cult of the Magi in that city, had a long discussion about the Zoroastrian medallion they need to return, ending at the lip of a mysterious religious well filled with milky water and the promise of a dungeon below that.  But I digress.

In discussing the injury rule, the player who manages the character Olie expressed his appreciation for my coming up with clear rules that dealt with this sort of conditional situations realistically.  I answered that it bothered me to have a character, player or non-player, fall from a fifty foot height without there being any chance of a believable, crippling injury.  "Otherwise," I said, "The character takes their damage and just gets up, ready for combat.  Without any explanation."

"Magic," muttered Olie flippantly, that being precisely the answer we would both expect from a game that just doesn't give a damn.

Which sent me off on a brief rant, talking about how 'magic' is firmly defined in the game - existing as spells that must be cast in a set amount of time by a present magic user who must be within range of the event to cause the magic to occur - and how it cannot, therefore, be used as a hand-waving gesture by the DM without greatly undermining the verisimilitude of the rules themselves.

I am sure, gentle reader, that you're quite ready to forego a repetition of that rant here.  Most of you have already heard it.

The whole 'magic' explanation - or any other similar handwave - is just too darn easy for the DM who doesn't want to dig in and do the job properly.  It is similar to the alignment solution, that sooo easily removes any necessity for real character development, just as the player's tactic of dead parents/need for revenge neatly sidesteps any need to be original.  Such lazy crap isn't limited to role-playing games, obviously . . . we see film after film released every season that begins with the same synopsis, asshole finds random member of family has been killed and goes after the killers in response.  Because concocting a believable plot-line that includes masturbatory violence is really, really hard.

Exposition is what we call it when the participants in a situation are informed as to that situation's important details.  Such as having a disrespectful sub-commander cough out several sentences of story detail to Darth Vader at the start of the picture to explain what the hell is happening for the viewer, who has only just arrived.  Exposition is considered to be acceptable whenever the viewer, reader or role-player fails to notice - due to the drama of the moment - that what they are hearing is exposition.  Exposition sucks enormously when it is painfully obvious that the writer needs to dump so much information that the story is put on hold for several minutes - such as the enormously shitty history lecture given at the start of Serenity.  Exposition is even worse when the characters are telling each other things that both ought to damn well be aware of by then, highlighting the fact that this conversation is only happening because there is an audience of some kind.  One expect the characters to then turn to the audience and say, "Did everyone get that?"  I believe Rick Moranis in Spaceballs does.

Dear reader, if you have run a campaign in the last year that includes any of the following, have your players bitch-slap you: 1) a lone character that approaches the party and starts outlining an adventure that has yet to happen in any way, shape or form to the party; 2) you have put exposition into the mouth of a king, noble, wizard or other person vastly more powerful than the party; 3) your players are told for the very first time of a MacGuffin's existence, followed by it's present location and the importance of getting it all in the same conversation.

Somewhere out there in the gaming universe there is a piece of shit work called the "The Lazy Dungeon Master."  I've read it, end to end.  I spent a lot of time reading everything I could find on how to DM before writing my own book.  I want the reader to consider the value of a book entitled, "The Lazy Playwright" or "The Lazy Film Director's Guide."  The reader should also consider the value of any book called "How To Phone In Your Campaign" and "How to Treat Your Players' Favorite Pasttime As A Fucking Burden."  If those titles don't bother you very much, try "How To Drag Your Ass Through A 3-Hour Running" or "Making 20 Minutes of Cheesy Detail Last Until Midnight."

Then ask yourself if you'd like to run in that campaign.  Or would you rather, possibly, running in a campaign where the DM took the time to think of serious answers to questions like, "Is my character injured from the 50 foot fall" or "Why is this Zoroastrian Medallion important."  Answers that would keep all the players fixed and dramatically involved.  Answers that don't offer easy, direct and obvious solutions, leaving the players to debate vigorously upon the best course of action.

Oh hell.  I was going to talk about magic and handwaving, and I've ended up talking about work.  Again.