GMing Mistakes 17 – Teaching Your Players to be Murder-Hobos

Ever notice how players don’t trust anyone and just kill everyone over anything and with any excuse? Well, it might be your fault.

Now, I would like to note that this might not be only you. If players have learned from through previous games and GMs that violence is often the answer, perhaps the only answer (I’ve played under GMs, who have actually forced combat encounters, when players were actively trying to find other solutions), these players will have learned certain modes of operation, and unlearning them might be difficult.

Obviously certain games encourage this with rules that emphasize combat. If that’s what your character is set up to do starting with character creation, that’s what you want to do. Therefore, if you are using a system which has combat in it’s core, you have to expect player characters to want to fight.

This isn’t the only reason. RPGs don’t often have very many casual encounters. This is often fine. If you look at stories, people only meet for a reason. Just going through the everyday life of a character is generally boring. For that reason you push the interesting moments to the fore.

Now, characters will have opportunities for other kinds of interactions. However, if they are generally either boring, hostile or (way too often) untrustworthy, the players will act accordingly. This is a difficult balance. You have to make interesting characters, but they can’t steal the scenes. The spotlight should still be on the player characters.

However, in order for the players to be interested in something other than simple goals of gathering loot and experience, the world needs to be rich, or at least have the potential for that. You should create opportunities for the characters to meet people, who are not going to backstab them at the first chance.

But those encounters need to be interesting. They need to stand out between the bloodshed. Or, if you try to avoid the bloodshed, they need to be interesting enough on their own.

One way to do this is actually making bloodshed be more part of the whole than separate. What often happens is that when the combat starts, the mindset of the players changes. Maybe you bring out maps and miniatures, or change the music, but the message is clear. You are not in the story anymore, this is something different.

This should never happen. Even in the best action movies the action is not separate from the rest of the movie. The story is just told differently. You should work to divert the expectations here. If a player decides to rough someone up, don’t let them break the immersion. Just let them rough up someone, if that’s what you think would happen in the situation.

You just shouldn’t let that become the norm or you should at least encourage different kinds of approaches. There should be actual consequences to behavior you want to mitigate. If the player wants combat and is rewarded for his behavior with more combat, they don’t actually have a reason to do anything else. So, if your character gets a reputation for lack of respect for others, just make sure they know they’ve lost certain lucrative opportunities because of that or something like that.

But I do think the key here is that they need positive interactions. Not every NPC has to be an asshole to the characters, as many unimaginative GMs like to do, nor do they have to be there just to wait for an opportunity to stab the PCs in the back, literally or metaphorically. This will hopefully teach them to trust others instead of only thinking about what they can gain from killing each person they meet.

Old School World: Our First Session of The Black Hack

It had been some time since I’d last got to be a GM. After resolving a few challenging IRL random encounters, I was ready to step into the ring again and return to gamemastering withThe Black Hack, that made such a great impression on me upon reading it. My guild brother Harri had kindly printed out and bound a copy for me.

I felt the game would lend itself well to a First Session in the vein of Apocalypse World and its ilk. All the four character classes have a small table for some colorful items, and the players create a single, one-or-so sentence Background for their character which lets them participate in the worldbuilding, as well. My idea was to let the players make their characters and ask some more or less provocative questions from them, and use those as my main springboard for the world.

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Visiting the Beyond

In our current season of Eldritch Sigils the investigators finally made a premeditated choice to breach the Veil and step to another dimension. We have been playing this campaign since 2011 (or 2010?) and this was the first time the players weren’t forced to do it. And that got me thinking about different dimensions and how to present them.

I have discussed travelling through time in an earlier post from 2015 and while time is a dimension itself and many of those same ideas could have been used I wanted something different.

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(Role)Play with Purpose

According to Jane McGonigal, who has plenty of research to back her claims, games are excellent learning tools, but the learning is enchanced, when you have an idea what you want to learn. What can we learn from games? Planning, problem-solving, resource management, most importantly self-efficacy and so-forth. Games can also train our memory, reaction times and many other skills.

This is something that’s being actively studied, but the problem is that these studies tend to focus on video games. This is understandable, because you don’t need to organize a game group to study these things and obviously, the market for them is much, much larger than other kinds of games (as evidenced recently by the success of Red Dead Redemption 2).

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Review: The Black Hack Second Edition

Old School Renaissance is a wonderful trend. I don’t know it too well myself, but every time I take a peek or venture a little deeper into the jungle, I find endless adventures, ideas, hacks, additions, and other stuff that all seems very cool. That, of course, means that it can be really difficult to spot the stuff that’s the best for you.

I’ve looked into a lot of games. Many of them promise room for imagination and a return to a rules-light approach, but to me, they don’t live up to the promise. Still, I have kept looking. To find a treasure. A real treasure: a game that would encapsulate OSR ideas and energy but whose design felt modern enough.

With David Black‘s The Black Hack, I may have found what I was looking for.

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A Newcomer’s Review: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition

As Lauri said in his review, I have never played or read any edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay or WFRP. My own experiences in RPGs are mostly horror and then American indie games during the last 10 years. My tastes have been drifting as of late, though, which is why I was eager to set my eyes upon a relaunch of a British classic.

Disclaimer: Cubicle 7 was kind enough to send us a pdf for review.

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Review: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th edition was published by Cubicle 7 quite recently. They were kind enough to send us a pdf to review and we will be reviewing this game in two parts. This first part is written by Lauri who has been there since (almost) the beginning. And the second part is the newcomers view written by Ville who has not played any edition of WFRP (published later).

Grognard’s Grumbles

Disclaimer: We haven’t actually played this fourth edition yet so all of my opinions are based on my earlier knowledge and reading the book so they must be taken with a hint of salt.

As said in the intro I have played WFRP a very long time. I started in the 90’s with the Enemy Within campaign (as player) and have GM’ed every edition since. My most active era of Warhammer was in 2002-2010 when I ran several campaign, wrote for Liber Fanatica and created the Daily Empire as a base for all fan material. So my approach for this game couldn’t be farther from Ville’s view which should create an interesting contrast to our views.

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Roleplaying an Idiot

There’s a great video on Cracked about Idiocracy with almost a million views (so, there’s a chance you’ve seen it before). Go ahead and watch it, but the main message, as I see it, is that actually those people in the future are in a pretty good situation, because they acknowledge that they are stupid and they are ready to listen to someone who is more intelligent then themselves. In that world it doesn’t even take much to better everyone’s lives, but they still need to come together and listen to that one rational voice, and that’s something we’re clearly unable to do.

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